Cast & Crew
Paper box factory worker Marian Martin wants more out of life than marriage to her small town boyfriend, Al Manning. As she looks through the windows of a stopped railroad car carrying wealthy passengers, she meets Wally Stuart, a New Yorker who gives her champagne and tells her to look him up. After Al angrily accuses her of impropriety, Marian leaves and goes to New York. Wally gives her some advice on meeting and keeping wealthy men, which Marian uses to begin a relationship with his friend Mark Whitney, a divorced attorney. Three years pass and Marian has acquired sophistication, culture and a lot of money from Mark. Despite her original intentions, though, she loves him. He loves her as well but will not marry her because he is afraid that she will hurt him the way his ex-wife did. To cover their relationship, she has changed her name to Mrs. Moreland and poses as a wealthy divorcee. When Al, now running a prosperous cement business, comes to town hoping to land a big contract, he asks her to marry him, but she refuses. When she overhears Mark talking with some politicians, she realizes that he now plans to marry her, even though their past relationship might cause a scandal that would ruin his proposed gubernatorial campaign. She pretends not to love him and says that she is going to marry Al. He then runs for governor, but when Marian discovers that Al will only forgive her past if she will help him get the contract from Mark, she sends him away and disappears. As the election approaches, the rival candidate tries to interrupt a rally for Mark by having hecklers distribute flyers saying "Who is Mrs. Moreland?" As the crowd rumbles, Marian steps up from the audience and tells them that Mark has always been an honorable man, who once belonged to her, but now belongs to them. The crowd cheers as she leaves, sobbing. Outside, Mark catches up to her and tells her that from now on they will be together no matter what.
Oliver T. Marsh
They clicked off-screen as well, beginning a torrid love affair that became common knowledge on the MGM lot, despite the disapproval of studio mogul Louis B. Mayer. In a way, Clarence Brown, the director of Possessed was partly to blame, according to Joan Crawford (in the biography, Clark Gable by Warren G. Harris): "He sensed the volcanic attraction between his stars and used that for all it was worth...In the picture Clark and I were supposed to be madly in love. When the scenes ended, the emotion didn't."
At the time Crawford and Gable were trapped in unhappy marriages. Joan and her husband Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. were constantly being depicted by the press as "Hollywood's most idyllic couple." In reality their relationship was tense and competitive due to career jealousies and Joan's feelings of not being worthy whenever she was in the presence of her in-laws, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. Gable, on the other hand, was married to Ria Langham, a wealthy Texas socialite who was 17 years his senior with little in common with him. Though Crawford and Gable were more perfectly matched, sharing similar backgrounds where poverty and unstable home lives were a constant for most of their adolescence, they both knew they were too much alike to seriously consider marriage.
During the filming of Possessed, Crawford recalled (in Long Live the King: A Biography of Clark Gable by Lyn Tornabene): "Occasionally we'd break away early, go for a quiet ride along the sea. And all day long we'd seek each other's eyes. It was glorious and hopeless. There seemed nothing we would do about it. There was no chance for us..We talked of marriage, of course. But I dared not ruin the dream. I'd rather live with them unfulfilled than have them broken."
Mayer wanted to make certain that the Gable-Crawford affair didn't become public knowledge and called Clark into his office, demanding that he end the affair. The actor complied, not wanting to incur Mayer's wrath. Despite this, Crawford still requested Gable as her leading man in her next film, Letty Lynton (1932), but was told "absolutely not" by Mayer himself. Eventually, the affair ran its course but Gable and Crawford went on to become one of MGM's most popular screen pairings, appearing in such hits as Dancing Lady (1933), Forsaking All Others (1934), Chained (1934), and Love on the Run (1936).
. But their magnetic appeal as a screen couple first became apparent in Possessed with its potent blend of politics and sex. Not that the film was perfect - an unrealistic happy ending and Crawford's rendition of "How Long Can It Last" delivered in three languages were low points - but Possessed also "proved to be an important film in the progress of Joan's professional life. It ended forever her period in movies as an empty-headed hedonist with a passion for dance. Now she moved to portrayals of girls on the rise from the lower classes, an apt metaphor with Americans submerged in the Depression." (from the biography Joan Crawford by Bob Thomas).
. Producer: Clarence Brown, Harry Rapf, Irving Thalberg
Director: Clarence Brown
Screenplay: Lenore J. Coffee, Edgar Selwyn (play)
Cinematography: Oliver T. Marsh
Film Editing: William LeVanway
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: William Axt, Charles Maxwell, Joseph Meyer
Cast: Joan Crawford (Marian Martin), Clark Gable (Mark Whitney), Wallace Ford (Al Manning), Richard `Skeets¿ Gallagher (Wallace Stuart), Frank Conroy (Horace Travers), Marjorie White (Vernice LaVerne).
by Jeff Stafford
Edgar Selwyn's play, "The Mirage," opened in New York on 30 September 1920.
The working titles of this film were Mirage and The Mirage. According to a July 7, 1931 news items in Hollywood Reporter, Charlotte Greenwood was signed to play a role in the film, however, she did not appear in the picture and was not mentioned in any source after the start of production. Actors mentioned in news items during production whose participation in the released film has not been confirmed are: Ruth Renick, Marjorie White, Florence Lake, Virginia Sale, Florence Enright, Barbara Tennant, Wilfred Noy, William von Brincken, Francis Ford, Phyllis Crane, Janet Curie, Fred Malatesta, Joan Standing and Wade Boteler. A Hollywood Reporter news item at the start of production noted that Clarence Brown had to begin direction without Clark Gable, who was still working on retakes for another M-G-M picture, Susan Lenox, Her Fall and Rise (see below). According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Colonel Jason Joy and Joseph I. Breen of the Hays Office were upset when the picture was released because they had not seen a copy of the completed script prior to production. In a December 15, 1931 letter from Joy to Breen, Joy stated: "The philosophy of this one is wrong. For some reason we did not have the script and did not get in a crack before the picture was finished. This cannot happen again, and was the chief reason the Code was amended making submission of scripts mandatory rather than optional in the past." Although most territories accepted the picture without eliminations, some did require the elimination of various lines of dialogue deemed objectionable. A June 1932 letter in the MPAA/PCA file from Jack Warner complained that M-G-M was "getting away" with things in their films, such as Possessed which other studios could not. According to a modern source, producer Harry Rapf's son Maurice, then a college student, came up with the title for this film and was paid fifty dollars by the studio. Modern sources also note that Possessed was the last film approved by the Hays Office without a complete script submitted prior to production. A Film Daily news item on August 16, 1932 reported that actress Lita Friede had appeared in an M-G-M produced German-language version of Possessed, however, no additional information on such a version has been located. Another film based on the Edgar Selwyn play, called The Mirage was made by Regal Pictures in 1924. It was directed by George Archainbaud and starred Florence Vidor and Clive Brook (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2. 3641).