2 March 2009 | blanche-2
The definition of a control freak
Rosalind Russell gives an excellent, haunting portrayal of "Craig's Wife" in this 1936 version of a play by George Kelly. Later on, it was remade as "Harriet Craig" and starred Joan Crawford and Wendell Corey.
Harriet Craig is a manipulative, cold woman married to a man (John Boles) who adores her and therefore can't see her for what she is - a controlling woman obsessed with possessions and status.
This is a difficult role because in order to pull it off, Harriet would have to be a lot more subtle than she is in this movie. Even with an accomplished actress like Russell, that's hard to do because Harriet's actions are so obvious. In the film, Walter is clueless while she drives everyone else away. I happen to know a Harriet Craig in real life, and in that case, her husband knows but doesn't do anything about it to keep peace. That would have been a more believable choice here.
The film "Harriet Craig" is more drawn out and it takes people a little longer to catch on to what Harriet is really about. This version, probably truer to the play, is directed by Dorothy Arzner and moves quickly. The ending is very striking, and there Russell is most effective.
This was a breakout role for the attractive Russell, and it also proved an excellent part for Joan Crawford. Russell is able to show the tiniest bit of vulnerability in Harriet's nature. I think the Russell version is the stronger film, though both are well worth seeing.