19 December 2005 | bkoganbing
Joan of the Slums
In doing Mannequin, Joan Crawford was kind of poaching on the roles that Sylvia Sidney did, the girl from the slums who's looking to break out. She isn't half bad in it.
When you think about it her part her is a kinder gentler version of the role she did in The Women. A girl looking to step up in class. But in this she's not looking to steal someone's husband to do it. She's more used than the user in Mannequin.
She's from Hester Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, living at home with parents and a kid brother. She's got a good looking boyfriend though in Alan Curtis who's got less than meets the eye in character. They get married.
Soon she catches the eye of millionaire Spencer Tracy who comes from the same area, but who worked his way up to owning a fleet of freighters. Spence is smitten with her.
In a reverse of Indecent Proposal, Curtis is quite willing to play on Tracy's obvious interest in Joan, but she now recognizes Curtis for what he is.
This is definitely a Crawford picture. Tracy underplays it in his usual style and has some moments, but he's clearly in support of Crawford.
Alan Curtis's part is unusual. He still loves Crawford no matter what, but he's shallow and his own interests come first. If this were done at 20th Century Fox, Tyrone Power could easily have done this role. He did a kind of variation on it in Rose of Washington Square. Curtis is never shown as violent in any way and that in fact makes him all the more smarmy in his charm.
One of the best roles in the film comes from Leo Gorcey as Crawford's younger brother. He's a tough slum kid with a big mouth and you don't like him. But he actually is very shrewd in sizing up the shortcomings of those around him, like his father Oscar O'Shea and Curtis.
The title Mannequin comes from the fact that at one point Crawford works as model in a fashion show. Of course this put into the context of the story, giving Crawford the Adrian fashions to wear that she was known for.
Fans of Joan Crawford will be pleased with this.