User Reviews (39)

  • RanchoTuVu29 March 2017
    bizarre Joan Crawford pic
    Joan Crawford plays a high-strung Broadway star who makes life miserable for all of her co-stars, directors, and musicians who work with her. Though Crawford isn't much of a dancer and all the songs are dubbed, she succeeds well at portraying demanding neurotic characters like the one she plays in this movie. Since a lot of this film takes place on the stage, it is bizarre watching Joan Crawford play at being a star dancer and singer when she can't really do either of them well. That is a part of what gives this film its appeal for Crawford fans. Her wardrobe is at times spectacular and she does one number in black face that has to be seen to be believed. Other than that, which is substantial to watch, the romance with the blind pianist played by Michael Wilding seems meant to balance out the high-end camp taking place on the stage.
  • jacobs-greenwood10 December 2016
    Joan Crawford sings ... in Technicolor!!!
    This is an unusual romance drama with musical numbers that features Joan Crawford (in Technicolor!) in a role that couldn't have been too hard for her to play – a difficult to work with, abrasive, headstrong star that alienates everyone around her on a personal and professional level … at least until she meets someone who reads her all too well and won't put up with her antics.

    The 'twist' in this one is that the man who 'sees' her for what she is – a frightened stage musical starlet who lashes out at others because of her loneliness – is a blind man who was formerly an art critic played by Michael Wilding.

    Directed by Charles Walters, who received his only recognition from the Academy (a Best Director nomination) that same year for Lili (1953), it's a story that was written by I.A.R. Wylie and adapted by John Michael Hayes and Jan Lustig. Marjorie Rambeau (Primrose Path (1940)), who plays Crawford's devoted yet financially dependent mother received her second Best Supporting Actress nomination.

    Gig Young plays Jenny Stewart's (Crawford) attractive boy toy; he drinks to salve his situation. Harry Morgan plays her long suffering stage director, and Paul Guilfoyle is Jenny's frequently abused agent.

    Crawford's singing voice was dubbed by India Adams and the most memorable musical numbers include a dance sequence "Two-Faced Woman" (with all the performers in blackface) that was originally intended for Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon (1953) and a rendition of "Tenderly". Maidie Norman plays Jenny's assistant, the only one who seems to have a tolerable relationship with Jenny until pianist Tye Graham (Wilding) cracks her tough exterior.
  • Ric-710 March 2016
    True, it's all true . . .
    Everything in the prior comments on this film-- It's all true, and then some. Rating this film is difficult. It's so bad it is fun. High camp at its extreme. Joan has more poses than a bodybuilder and more faces than a totem pole. The signing is dubbed, the dialog is from outer space, and the plot developments beggar description: The Blind Rehearsal Pianist, Joan in Black Face, . . .

    As you sit there, watching in amused disbelief, random thoughts occur, such as wondering how this film would have been with Bette Davis. Or imagining Joan in "Hello Dolly!" My rating is based on my enjoyment of the film--it is a hoot. But also an overripe mess. I love it.
  • Edgar Allan Pooh16 December 2014
    Joan Crawford singing in BLACKFACE?!
    Warning: Spoilers
    Normally, I'd go a mile out of my way to avoid including ANY kind of a spoiler in my summary. However, in the case of TORCH SONG, my thinking runs thusly: 1)This flick came out 61 years ago in 1953, so its contemporary audience is about 90% deceased, and probably 90% of the survivors no longer watch movies. 2)Anyone still game to view 61-year-old films for the first time is running a serious risk of a fatal heart attack if they're given no warning that 62 minutes, 55 seconds into this lackluster musical Ms. Crawford is suddenly going to traipse down the on-stage grand staircase belting out the lyrics of "Two-faced Woman" wearing full-body Blackface and a wig! It doesn't matter that the title's TORCH SONG--"their song" for the characters "Jenny" and "Tye" (Ms. Crawford and Michael Wilding, with whom Joan had NO chemistry!)--is a much better tune, "Tenderly." And it doesn't matter that this film constituted Ms. Crawford's triumphant post-MILDRED PIERCE return to MGM. What matters is that IF you view TORCH SONG, it will be impossible to "Un-see" Ms. Crawford in Blackface!
  • Michael_Elliott1 February 2014
    Weird Is Just the Start of Things
    Torch Song (1953)

    ** (out of 4)

    Notorious musical about Broadway star Jenny Stewart (Joan Crawford) who is pretty much evil to anyone she meets. She's very demanding and doesn't really care about another human's feelings but she gets a taste of her own medicine when blind pianist Tye Graham (Michael Wilding) stands up to her. TORCH SONG isn't very well-known to the majority of people out there but over the past decades it has built up a rather strong cult following and after seeing the film it's very easy to see why. This here is certainly one of the strangest films that you're ever going to see and it's weirdness is something that's usually used for horror and exploitation movies. You certainly don't expect to see this type of camp in a musical and certainly not with someone like Crawford. It's worth noting that this was Crawford's return to MGM after a ten-year period and it was also her first Technicolor film since the awful 1939 film THE ICE FOLLIES OF 1939. With that said, it looks like the studio would have came up with something better as I really don't know what anyone was thinking with this picture. On a technical side the entire thing looks rather cheap and ugly at times. This is especially true during the "Two-Faced Woman" sequence. The most notorious aspect is seeing Crawford in blackface but just look at how poorly shot this sequence is. When the camera moves in on Crawford coming out it appears as if the camera is moving on an incredibly bumpy road. Another problem is that the over-the-top performance of the actress certainly isn't among her best. Crawford was a genius at playing women who needed to be put in their place but she's just too wild here and quite often we're given some rather unintentionally funny scenes. I thought Wilding was the best thing about the picture as he was very believable in the role but what happens at the end was just too much. Gig Young and Harry Morgan are also on hand. TORCH SONG is going to appeal to those who enjoy bad movies as there's enough strange moments here to really make it stand out.
  • adamshl25 January 2014
    Forgotten Film
    This may not be the greatest romantic drama with music ever made, but it does have its assets. The main one is that this is almost a one-woman show starring Joan Crawford.

    The Technicolor is gorgeous, the music tuneful, choreography pleasant and as for the costumes--all that can be said is "wow!" Helen Rose outdid herself in designing Crawford's wardrobe--some two dozen costume changes that are simply stunning. Likewise, the cinematography and set decoration are lush and richly presented.

    As for the script, it's all Crawford's. Never has she been as irritable, insulting, moody and yet strangely vulnerable. She lip syncs to some pleasant numbers, and does a dance with the director of this movie, Charles Walters. (When did a star ever do a number with her director?) Joan looks very attractive throughout, obviously delighted to be back at MGM after a ten-year hiatus.

    It's a very campy treat for Crawford fans, to see Joan strut her stuff. Michael Wilding plays his part gracefully and Gig Young is among those on the sidelines. Generally a forgotten film, it's worth a look on a rainy afternoon.
  • utgard1425 January 2014
    "You won't forget me...though you may try"
    Joan Crawford, nearly 50 and sporting red hair, in a Technicolor MGM musical. Oh brother! Joan plays an acerbic Broadway diva who bosses everybody around and cuts them down with her acid tongue. She's thrown for a loop when she's forced to work with a blind piano player who gets under her skin. To her credit (and our amusement) Joan plays the part with the utmost seriousness. There isn't the slightest hint of self-deprecation here. Our diva doesn't seem to get that, intended or not, this is all one big garish joke. Joan gets lots of costume changes and there's an overdose of color throughout the film. What I was reminded of while watching was "The Barkleys of Broadway." In that film, Ginger Rogers was given the Technicolor treatment and also lots of wardrobe changes. The difference between the two films is that the costumes and color of "Barkleys" made an already beautiful Ginger even more ravishing. Whereas this film comes across like one big practical joke on Joan Crawford by MGM. They do nothing to make her look good. As for the acting and dancing, that's all on Joan. She stomps her way through the film, as graceful as a hippopotamus. Her diet during the making of this movie consisted entirely of scenery. She chews every inch of it. The singing is dubbed by India Adams and it's so obvious that it takes you out of the scenes to laugh at Joan's lip-syncing. Again, MGM did nothing to help hide any of Joan's weaknesses. If anything, they embraced and exaggerated them.

    Michael Wilding plays the blind piano player that Joan falls in love with. He comes across as mentally deficient at times with that irritating smirk on his face. His deliberately mannered way of speaking got on my nerves so much. His ludicrous performance is never worse than when he's doing emotional scenes. The scene where he gives a blonde beauty the brush-off because he's fixed on Joan is so overwrought you will be doubled over in laughter. Also, Wilding's character is the only blind man I've ever seen whose seeing-eye dog walks BEHIND him! The final scene between he and Joan has to be seen to be believed. Marjorie Rambeau plays Joan's mother and was actually pretty fun. Her reaction to Joan's being in love with a blind man is priceless. But she's only in a few brief scenes. She received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for this film.

    It's a movie full of unintentionally funny moments. An early scene that will no doubt draw laughter from the audience sees Joan leaving rehearsal to be swamped by adoring teenage fans. I guess before rock & roll the kids all hung around back alleys waiting to get autographs from their favorite middle-aged Broadway stars! Another funny scene is where Joan throws a party and only invites men. It's a total sausage fest! The "Two Faced Woman" musical number is one of the worst MGM ever produced. It's the infamous number where Joan wears blackface, bright red lipstick, and a shiny blue sequin dress while writhing around on stage with male backup dancers. It was included in the MGM retrospective film "That's Entertainment III." It was only included to show a side-by-side comparison of Joan and Cyd Charisse separately performing the same song, seemingly to embarrass Joan. It's a terrible movie but also a camp classic. It's so bad you have to see it. Joan Crawford fans will love it.
  • nomoons1127 September 2011
    Art imitating Life...Welcome to your life Ms. Crawford
    I'm willing to bet this was Joan Crawford's life/personality to a "T".

    Aside from Mommy Dearest, this was a thinly disguised and much tamer version of a "fictional" portrait of a demanding Broadway stars life (or Ms. Crawford's life if you will). If this film would have changed from a Broadway star to Hollywood star then we would have certainly known that this was her real life.

    This lady had attitude with a capital "A". I don't know any man on earth who would have taken the abuse she spills out to people. I would have taken it once before I took a walk. Of course reading about her life you come to understand why she was...the way she was. She certainly was an entertaining personality whether it was good or bad.

    For me this film was OK. The odd part to look for is the final rehearsal for the show when she appears in black face. What a bizarre scene to say the least.

    Give this one a go if you are so inclined...and remember to watch Mommy Dearest after it and you'll see...her daughter wasn't too far off.
  • Fred_Rap20 July 2011
    Mind-boggling, eye-searing, jaw-dropping Joan!
    Seminal Joan Crawford campfest. Returning to her home studio after a ten-year exile at Warners, she celebrates her triumph with all the pomp and circumstance of a battle-hardened legion entering Rome after a decade in the field. Single-handedly, she turns this moth-eaten meller into an audacious display of venom-spewing bitchery and vainglorious posturing.

    In a story tailor-made for the occasion, La Crawford plays a hard-as-nails Broadway diva with a ruthless tongue and a flaming orange helmet of hair. We are asked to believe that beating beneath her tyrannical front is the love-starved heart of a lonely woman. And we are supposed to root for her to tumble for the blind and gentle pianist (Michael Wilding) who won't take her guff. This is impossible, of course, since we are too busy either laughing derisively or gawking in slack-jawed disbelief at Crawford's gargantuan ego run amok.

    The opening scene, in which Torch Song director Charles Walters performs a cameo as Crawford's cowering dance partner, seems to reflect the truth behind the making of the movie. We get the creepy feeling that Walters, fearful of Joan's wrath, just stepped back and let his aging star run this sideshow. How else to explain the unchecked excess of Crawford's costumes (especially her garish yellow nightgown-cum-muumuu), her eye-popping penthouse digs (where the bedroom windows come with three, count 'em, three sets of drapes), or the song and dance numbers in which she flaunts her legs like a ten-dollar hooker and even lip-syncs a tune in blackface? It's a treasure trove of Crawfordisms for drag queens and freak show enthusiasts alike: See Joan clean lint from the floor, dismiss gigolos with the wave of a cigarette, nitpick over line readings with her devoted secretary, offer apologies to her victims that seem crueler than her insults.

    Scarier than "Strait-Jacket" and twice as much ghoulish fun.

    With Marjorie Rambeau, hilariously salty as Joan's crude stage mother, and Gig Young as her affable paid lover.
  • evanston_dad13 September 2010
    Joan Crawford in Black Face?
    After she reached a certain age, Joan Crawford was always at least a little bit scary in the best of circumstances. But never have I seen her scarier than in a scene late in "Torch Song" immediately after she's performed a song in black face(!), tears off her wig to reveal a shock of bright orange hair, and snarls at the camera.

    And so we have "Torch Song," the kind of movie the term "guilty pleasure" was coined to describe, in which Crawford plays Jenny Stewart, stage diva who wakes up to the fact that she's destined for bitterness and loneliness because of her difficult, controlling ways. Crawford is terrific, as always, and makes the film riveting even though hardly anything of note happens.

    Michael Wilding plays the blind pianist who takes over as Crawford's accompanist when her other one quits and who makes Crawford aware of her selfish, petulant attitude. Marjorie Rambeau won an Oscar nomination for her brief performance as Crawford's salty mother.

    Grade: A-
  • bkoganbing8 October 2009
    "You Took My Lips, You Took My Love, So Tenderly"
    After a ten year absence in which Joan Crawford proved she was not by any means through as an actress when she won an Oscar for Mildred Pierce, she came back to MGM for what became her second musical role in Torch Song. She plays a Broadway star, a temperamental one at that which I think was modeled on Ethel Merman who's tired of everyone including her family of using her.

    It takes a blind musician played by Michael Wilding to set her straight about herself. But Wilding's got his reasons, he remembers her as a promising young singer whom he saw before he went off to war and lost his vision.

    Crawford also probably drew on her own experiences as a film star with the number of hangers-on folks like her inevitably develop. That would also include her husbands, thespians though they all were as well. And she had blood relatives as well who lived off her celebrity.

    Joan's vocals were dubbed by India Adams and having heard Joan actually sing, she sounds nothing like Ms. Adams. In the beginning she dances with Charles Walters and I wish Torch Song had included more of that. A lot of people forget that it was as a dancer that Joan Crawford got her start at MGM way back in silent films.

    One of the songs interpolated in the score was Tenderly, one of the great romantic ballads of the Fifties. Right about this time Rosemary Clooney was enjoying a big megahit from her recording for Columbia Records. No doubt that helped the box office of Torch Song.

    Marjorie Rambeau got an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress as Joan's mother. She lost to Donna Reed for From Here To Eternity. Harry Morgan as the director of the revue Joan is rehearsing for also scores well in this film.

    One of her numbers as Joan in a black wig looking very much like Lena Horne. I don't think that anything disrespectful was meant in this, in fact I think it was an homage to Lena Horne. MGM had signed Lena Horne a decade earlier and then didn't quite know what to do with her. Maybe they were making some amends.

    Torch Song is not one of Joan Crawford's better films, but her legion of fans will approve and she's good in the part. I just wish she'd danced some more.
  • sol121822 September 2009
    Gypsy Madonna
    Warning: Spoilers
    **SPOILERS** Unbelievably corny yet fascinating movie that has Joan Crawford pay more or less herself as the bossy and arrogant Broadway superstar Jenny Stewart.

    Jenny in her rehearsals for her new Broadway play "Two Faced Woman" is so overbearing in her demands that her top musician pianist Charlie Maylor walked off the set and was never seen or heard from again. With Charlie being replaced by the blind and dignified pianist Tye Graham, Michael Wilding, Jenny finally meets her match in someone who's about as unyielding and non compromising as herself. This sets off a number of wild confrontations between Jenny and Tye in how the music is to be conducted with Tye getting the best of her by getting things done his way not hers. As much as Jenny dislikes Tye she in fact becomes secretly found of Tye by him treating her like any other "broad" and not giving into her demands even if it means him getting fired from his job as the plays musical director.

    As he slowly turns the screws on Jenny Tye get her to open up and reveal the miserable life that she's been leading all these years that made her the horror that she eventually became. It's lonely to be on top and Jenny being there for years had become detached from the very people who were responsible for her getting there. Acting aloof and not giving a heck about Jenny's feelings about him Tye treats her as shabbily has she's been treating those who work with her on the set: With complete contempt! It's later when Jenny learns through her beer drinking mom Mrs. Stewart, Marjorie Rambeau, the truth about Tye from and old scrapbook that she had about her daughters road to success that the truth finally came out to what was behind Tye's conduct towards her! This was the opening that Jenny was looking for and with that explosive information went for his jugular vain like a bat straight out of hell!

    Michael Wilding-as Tye-does hold his own against the hard driving and take no prisoners Joan Crawford-as Jenny-who finds it very difficult to get the guy in line and in his place for almost the entire length of the movie. The super cool Tye does in fact have Jenny's number and knows how to play it as good has he plays his piano but it's Jenny, with the help of her beer swelling mom, who discovers Tye's weak point which has the calm cool and completely in charge of things Tye fall apart like the cheap, from a crack a jack box, camera that he really is!

    ***SPOILERS*** In the end with both Jenny and Tye realizing what imperfect persons they really are they in fact come together and fall in love with each other. Fully knowing that somehow they were both really meant for each other for better or for worse with of course Tye's cute and dedicated seeing-eye Duchess being thrown in for good luck.

    P.S After staring in some 100 movies "Torch Song" was Joan Crawford's fist Technicolor film that she stared in and as expected she made the very best of it!
  • mukava99123 May 2008
    colorful Crawford melodrama
    What makes this tepidly received 1953 romantic melodrama with music watchable in the 21st century is primarily Joan Crawford who, by this time, was at the zenith of her screen acting powers. In the 1950s she played a succession of formidable middle-aged dames who had maintained their good looks despite years of character-building hard knocks. But at the core of all of these creatures was a tender and easily broken heart and the plots of most of Joan's 1950s films explore the way this tender heart is exposed through love.

    Second in appeal is the color scheme. It was not unusual for 1950s Hollywood commercial fare to feature brilliant, even garish, colors in order to entice viewers away from the little boxes of black-and-white in their living rooms. Seen through the lens of more than half a century, these schemes look bizarre, even ridiculous, but create their own fascination. This is one of those super-saturated works that can hold the attention just to see which crazy color combination will appear in the next scene.
  • MARIO GAUCI12 May 2008
    TORCH SONG (Charles Walters, 1953) **1/2
    Sometimes the release on DVD of a particular film in which, ostensibly, I have very little interest makes me watch it regardless when it happens to get shown on TV – and this is just one such example. Actually, it forms part of a Box Set which does contain at least two enticing titles: Frank Borzage’s STRANGE CARGO (1940) and George Cukor’s A WOMAN’S FACE (1941).

    Although hardly one of my personal favorites, Joan Crawford was one of Hollywood’s foremost leading ladies: starting out in the late Silent era, she epitomized the “woman’s pictures” in the 1930s and 1940, eventually winning an Oscar for Michael Curtiz’s superb noir-ish melodrama, MILDRED PIERCE (1945). By the time Crawford did TORCH SONG, she had been a freelancer for ten years and this marked a return to the studio which had discovered her, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

    Stories of entertainment divas alienating their loved ones through their constant tantrums were already clichéd by this time, I suppose, but this is nevertheless a watchable and, given that there are a few musical numbers, surprisingly painless diversion which has, somewhat unaccountably, earned a reputation of late as a camp classic. This may be down mostly to the fact that Crawford (whose singing voice is dubbed) does one of her routines, “Two-Faced Woman”, in blackface; incidentally, this song was originally meant for Vincente Minnelli’s THE BAND WAGON (1953) as a duet of sorts between Cyd Charisse and Oscar Levant! This is not to say that watching Crawford (in her late forties and her first full-length feature in Technicolor) showing off her legs at every available opportunity does not give rise to some amusement.

    Crawford’s leading man here is Britain’s Michael Wilding as a blind pianist(!) and her no-nonsense mother is played by Marjorie Rambeau (who was, surprisingly enough, even nominated for an Oscar); the supporting cast is further filled out by rather thankless turns from Gig Young (as Crawford’s playboy companion) and Harry Morgan (as the theatrical impresario). Director/choreographer Charles Walters rounded out a good year for him with this movie – which had also included the Oscar-nominated LILI and Esther Williams’ most popular vehicle, DANGEROUS WHEN WET.
  • whpratt14 May 2008
    Joan Crawford was Outstanding
    Enjoyed this 1953 Classic Musical with Joan Crawford playing the role as Jenny Stewart, a New York City actress who could dance, sing and give great dramatic roles and many Broadway Hits. Jenny had a mind of her own and hated anyone to criticize her on her singing and dance performances. One day Jenny meets up with a piano player named Tye Graham, (Michael Wilding) who is a blind veteran and is a sort of substitute piano player when the original piano player quit and walked off the Broadway Production. Tye becomes very critical of Jenny's performance numbers and the two of them become very angry with each other. This is a great romantic story because when Tye was able to see, he viewed Jenny Stewart in a show where Jenny sung the song, "Tenderly" and he never forgot her great performance. This is one of Joan Crawford's great films along with a great supporting role by Michael Wilding, who was in real life married to Liz Taylor. Enjoy.
  • nycruise-14 May 2008
    Someone was being awfully mean to Joan...
    Second time I've seen it.

    So many don't things add up I can't imagine this movie wasn't concocted as some sort of payback by some former-flunky-turned-Hollywood-producer out to "get back" at Joan.

    The color styling is offputting - garish in way unlike any other movie of its time.

    Joan ends up cast as a variant of her "Harriet Craig" character: controlling, bitchy, chewing every one and everything (like cigarettes) up, then spitting them out. (I guess they should have named the character "JENNY Craig"???)

    She just comes off looking completely ridiculous.

    Oh - that blackface number - "Two-Faced Women" - very curious. Referred to as "The Finale" by the show's stage manager, it bears the marks of some awful editing/re-shooting.

    When they are first scrambling to take places, the chorus looks like they're decked out in coal-black face makeup (the burnt-cork of the old minstrel performers). Then Joan starts the number and looks similar.

    Strangely, after she makes her way down to the male members of the chorus, she lightens up (on her makeup - NOT her hammy-acting), while they seem to have lost theirs. For the rest of the number, the blackface seems to have disappeared on the guys, lightened up considerably on the girls (I think one female may even be a real African-American), then at the close of the number suddenly everyone darkens down.

    Finally, when Joan tears off her wig in frustration at Ty's departing despite her "wonderful" rendition of "Two-Faced Woman", she sports not only dark makeup but rhinestones on her eyebrows. The orange hair that sprouts out from under her black wig - disheveled as it is - makes her look like a troll doll from the 1970s (Joan was ahead of her time?). Oddly enough, her "look" seems a color complement to the getup Faye Dunaway put together for "Mommie Dearest":black- vs. white-face, orange vs. dark hair. It is in no way complimentary - it looks absurd, not dramatic, and I'm sure she was completely unhappy when she saw the result on screen (I think even audiences in the 1950s during the first-run of this trainwreck must have laughed at her bizarre appearance.)

    Someone has also mentioned the "all-male" plus one party thrown by Jenny. Jeez - it's filled with gay entendres - but the strangest aspect of all is the fact that a genuine African- American actor is at the piano, apparently singing but in reality dubbed by professional dub artist Bill Lee.

    From what I can tell, very little original music was written for this piece - a very curious decision considering MGM had all the song-writing talent they needed.

    One dance rehearsal uses a Fred Astaire song from "Royal Wedding", in another instance a dropped number intended for Cyd Charisse in "The Bandwagon" (the aforementioned "Two- Faced Woman" blackface) gets a second attempt at life here via Joan (it dies an ignoble death unfortunately).

    I just can't believe anyone was serious regarding this production - except the actors, in particular poor Joan who was desperate to regain her former crown at her old studio.
  • LOVEfords4 May 2008
    Severe, absurd, and just plain scary.
    Warning: Spoilers
    After Joan finished Mildred Pierce, she entered her absurd period. Enhancing that, she became severe, and with Torch Song she has added just plain scary to her film presence.

    I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I watched Torch Song. Joan's close-ups look like some kind of art deco over-colorized presentation that is guaranteed to make the viewer wonder if this was intended as a joke or as a surreal escape. Check out the eyebrows that look like they belong on Queen Kong, the fruit-like color of her hair, the blood red lips, and in fact the she-devil enhanced shape of her lips themselves.

    So many embarrassingly obvious ways to get her legs in the picture...nauseatingly odd as she tried to portray Marjorie Rambeau's daughter - they looked more like a couple of old hag sisters who belonged in a smoky cocktail bar, not doing "girl talk" in mom's apartment.

    And furthermore, Joan is not pretty, she was always an overly made-up actress full of spite, nastiness, and intolerance for human frailty. I don't really think this film is a portrayal of character Jenny Stewart as much as it is a realistic view of Joan Crawford.
  • marcslope26 March 2008
    Sweetness! Heatness!
    That's a couplet from a production number in which Miss Joan Crawford declares, in Technicolor blackface, "I can't help being a two-faced woman." She overestimates herself: In this peerlessly ripe '50s melodrama she has one face, glaring, glaring. She's a harder-than-nails Broadway singer-dancer (dubbed, and clearly no Terpsichorean natural) who shouts down anyone opposed to her in the tiniest way, and then smokes countless cigarettes, glowers, and downs alcohol to betray her neuroses. She's inexplicably adored by her blind rehearsal accompanist (Michael Wilding, who got some terrible parts at MGM), who at least doesn't have to witness her terrifying eyebrows or orange hair, and who's in turn pursued by a nice blonde musician who's obviously a much better match for him. What's surprising and endlessly entertaining about this not-quite-musical is how willing, and even eager, La Crawford is to play up to her public's worst estimation of her. She'll play unsympathetic up to the armpits, as long as they sense that underneath is the heart of a real woman who merely needs to be dominated by a devoted male. None of the characters makes much sense--Marjorie Rambeau, Oscar-nominated as her mother, is either cold and grasping or warm and sympathetic depending on the moment in the plot--but the dialog has some sarcastic snap to it, and it's fun to watch Crawford go through her purification-through-humiliation paces. There's a brilliant Carol Burnett parody of this called "Torchy Song," but the original is even more giggle-inducing.
  • MarieGabrielle26 March 2008
    Remember the song "Tenderly" and watching this with my Mom...
    who loved Joan Crawford. Such an amazing era. The Technicolor oranges and aquas, Joan is a bit over the top but if you are an avid fan this will cease to matter.

    She is the strong Jennie Stuart, chanteuse and Broadway star who minces no words. She meets her match with Michael Wilding, a blind war veteran who plays piano. He is a sympathetic gentle character who also has Dutchess, a boxer seeing-eye-dog to keep him company. At first she is resistant to his music and dislikes him because he is not intimidated by her. He seems to know her character very well. Strong, but scared of getting close to people.

    The music is haunting and reminiscent of a gentler, romantic era. Joan is herself and then some, and eventually discovers the reason she cannot make an impression on the pianist. There is a nice twist to the end. Overall a do not miss for Crawford. 9/10.
  • wes-connors26 March 2008
    Joan Crawford is Colored
    Joan Crawford (as Jenny Stewart) is an iron-willed Broadway musical star; she knows how to stomp out a cigarette, and soak up the cocktail hour. In her "Torch Song" opening, Ms. Crawford chews out her dancing partner (actually director Charles Walters, who is paid to get around Crawford's right leg). Alone, at night, Crawford weeps - she is really a very lonely woman, unsatisfied by her younger boyfriends, and adoring teenage fans. When her beleaguered pianist is replaced by blind Michael Wilding (as Tye Graham), the domineering diva may find love, at last.

    As a Broadway musical star, Crawford is wasted. "Torch Song" is, however, fun to watch… as an example of the "trashy" Joan Crawford film. The wretched excess is highlighted by the legendary star's dubbed "Two-Faced Woman" production number; keep watching for the moment, shortly after the song, when "black-faced" Crawford pulls off her "wig", in ghastly fashion.

    Mr. Wilding (then Mr. Elizabeth Taylor) and Gig Young do their best, as Crawford co-stars. Marjorie Rambeau has a nice supporting role, as Crawford's mother; their pivotal "Gypsy Madonna" scene is very nicely played, with Crawford singing "Tenderly" (her real voice) in a "duet" with the woman who dubbed her material (India Adams), while mother Rambeau guzzles a beer. Down the hatch!

    *** Torch Song (10/1/53) Charles Walters ~ Joan Crawford, Michael Wilding, Marjorie Rambeau, Gig Young
  • preppy-325 March 2008
    Total camp--a true guilty favorite.
    Warning: Spoilers
    **PLOT SPOILERS** Just hilarious. Joan Crawford plays hard-boiled bitchy singer/actress Jenny Stewart. She treats everybody like dirt--but that's cause she's (sigh) lonely. Only piano player Tye Graham (Michael Wilding) sees right through her. And--oh yes--he's BLIND!!!! Oh the irony! Naturally she hates him then falls in love with him. It leads up to a totally predictable twist at the end that leads to a happy ending that will have you screaming for insulin!

    Crawford made plenty of bad films in her career--but none was as much fun as this one! She overacts even more than usual (believe it or not) and bulldozes her way through the film. It's a terrible film with a truly rotten script but Crawford is so over the top it's hard to not enjoy. Her "singing" numbers are unbelievable. When she "sang" her first number "Follow Me" I broke out laughing! It is SO obviously not her voice and Crawford's overdone acting during it is just incredible. Still she DOES lip sync well. The high point (so to speak) is the song and dance of "Two Face Woman" with Joan AND the entire chorus in black face! It's just too jaw-droppingly silly to take seriously. And when Joan tears off the black wig at the end to show that blazing red hair it hits new heights of camp! The rest of the cast falls by the wayside of Crawford's histrionics. Poor Gig Young barely registers. Wilding is actually pretty good--his nice underacting actually compliments Joan's overacting very well. Marjorie Rambeau (playing Joan's mother) is very good also and was actually nominated for a Best Supporting Actress for this. Also Joan's "clumsy" dance partner is director Charles Walters.

    This is most definitely not a good picture but it's in blazing Technicolor, has a hilariously stupid story and has Joan going full blast! A must see for camp followers. I can only seriously give it a 7 though. Yeah it's fun but it's SO stupid!
  • Ed Uyeshima25 March 2008
    Crawford in Full Diva Mode in a Silly MGM Musical Melodrama
    Surely, the Joan Crawford in this laughably over-the-top 1953 melodrama must have been Faye Dunaway's direct inspiration for her lacerating impersonation of the screen legend in "Mommie Dearest". The garishly Technicolor film marked Crawford's highly trumpeted return to MGM after she was unceremoniously pushed out in the early 1940's only to make a comeback at Warner Brothers in a series of meaty roles in classic films like "Mildred Pierce" and "Humoresque" and prove she had the chops to handle older roles. It's too bad this is such a silly vehicle because Crawford, hovering around fifty at that point in her career, seems determined to make something substantial out of it. With her hair a flaming orange and her face severely tightened, she plays a disagreeably vainglorious Broadway diva named Jenny Stewart, a musical comedy star that seems to have all of Margo Channing's insecurity but little of her scathing wit. Instead, Crawford is made to snarl the lines in John Michael Hayes and Jan Lustig's limp screenplay without any noticeable irony.

    Everyone kowtows to Jenny and cowers when she has her frequent outbursts, everyone except Tye Graham, a blind pianist hired to be her accompanist. Of course, they will inevitably fall in love, but this absurdity occurs almost in a vacuum since director Charles Walters seems more interested in showing Jenny as a raging harpy when she isn't acting pitiable in the privacy of her bedroom. For an MGM production, the movie looks surprisingly budget conscious and contains only one fully-costumed production number, the amazingly offensive and badly choreographed "Two-Faced Woman" which Crawford and a chorus of dancers perform in blackface (!). It has to be seen to be believed. Crawford's singing voice is dubbed by an emphatic singer named India Adams, not the worst offense at the time since such lip-syncing was pervasive. As a dancer, Crawford likes to show off her still-impressive gams, but her moves are so slow and deliberately minimized that Carol Burnett's years-later parody looks all the more accomplished by comparison.

    Michael Wilding simply looks embarrassed as Tye, especially in the final wrap-up scene that requires him to have an excessive tantrum, and an extremely disengaged Gig Young is wasted (and looks wasted) as a sycophantic drunk leeching off Jenny. The one scene that works is between Jenny and her beer-guzzling mother, played with unapologetic relish by Marjorie Rambeau. They actually seem related. The 2008 DVD contains several extras - a 14-minute retrospective featurette called "Tough Baby: Torch Song", a PSA for the Jimmy Fund featuring Crawford at home with her subservient children, an audio clip of her recording session (apparently done before the decision was made to dub her voice), a vintage MGM cartoon and short, and the original theatrical trailer. It's just not good enough to be considered a camp classic, but there are moments that truly defy logic.
  • Neil Doyle24 March 2008
    Joan hits the bottom in garishly Technicolored saga only her fans could love...
    JOAN CRAWFORD returned to MGM for TORCH SONG after a decade of other films at other studios, in a role that paints her character as tough-as-nails--in fact, so tough that you expect her to take out a gun at any moment and shoot anyone who disagrees with her bossy persona. Not only is she tough, but the script is trite from beginning to end and the whole film is garishly lit in bright Technicolor to show off Joan's wardrobe and a neat pair of legs. It all seems like a warm-up for JOHNNY GUITAR in lush settings rather than a saloon.

    That she can't sing is obvious because it's immediately apparent that a professional singer is doing the songs (India Adams). And despite her early days as a hoofer doing the Charleston and other dances during her flaming youth, it's also easy to see that dancing is not her strong point. So she seizes the bitchy role of a dame who treats a blind pianist with such scorn that even his dog growls every time she comes near him.

    An appalling blackface number is enough to gag on (using a leftover track from a Cyd Charisse film that never made the final cut), and her confrontations with MICHAEL WILDING (the blind pianist), GIG YOUNG (a drunken playboy, what else?), HARRY MORGAN (a stage manager/agent) and MARJORIE RAMBEAU as her plain speaking mother, are all strictly theatrical, harsh and unconvincing.

    One thing I'll say--she does "haughty" and "overbearing" so well, that it's hard to remember that in real life she was so afraid of further humiliation by the cast and crew of HUSH...HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE, that she left the film and feigned illness to get out of playing the role of Cousin Miriam. She also pleaded illness when she was afraid to attend the Academy Awards--afraid she might lose--but put her make-up on for the cameras when the radio announcement came that she won.

    Nobody looks good in this one--but speaking of Academy Awards, MARJORIE RAMBEAU got nominated for her mother role here. She's not bad, but it must have been a dreary year for Best Supporting Actresses.

    This one belongs near the bottom of Joan's career and surely any sane person would want to miss it--leaving it entirely to Crawford's ardent die-hard fans who think this is high camp.

    Particularly unbelievable and jarring is the ending, which has Crawford and Wilding realizing that they love each other after all the harsh words and deeds are over!! Total rubbish.
  • moonspinner5523 March 2008
    "Art to you is the fruit in the slot machines!"
    Fruity semi-musical in Technicolor starring Joan Crawford--returning to her old stomping grounds, MGM. Crawford didn't make many pictures in color, and she looks great in this, particularly in dark make-up for the Cotton Club-styled number "Two-Faced Woman" (for the capper, Crawford rips off her black wig, her flaming red hair wild underneath). The plot, taken from I.A.R. Wylie's short story "Why Should I Cry?", is pure hokum: tough-as-nails Broadway star drives everyone to the breaking point, but she meets her match in the new rehearsal pianist, a blind war veteran who has harbored a crush on the performer for many years. The scenes of Crawford's tyrannical Jenny Stewart bossing everyone around are a hoot (it resembles a song-and-dance variation on "Harriet Craig"!). Charles Walters ably directed (and also plays a dancer who, perhaps ironically, is brow-beaten by Joan), although he gets serious acting out of Crawford only once, in the film's final scene. She looks every inch the star, smoking furiously and showing lots o' leg, but her dancing barely passes muster and her vocals were dubbed. Still, not bad, with the compensation being some unintentional comedy (noticing the clock in her bedroom is an hour slow, Crawford angrily corrects the time, and then, as if ready to chew the timepiece out, she gives the clock a smirking once-over). Michael Wilding holds his own as the new man in her life, Gig Young has an obtuse role as Crawford's party pal, and Marjorie Rambeau plays Joan's mother of humble means (and received an Oscar nomination!). Some well-handled scenes, and one has to give points to the star for her courage: what other screen icon (besides Bette Davis, of course) would be so brave as to intentionally come across so steely cold? **1/2 from ****
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