User Reviews (39)

  • TJBNYC27 July 2001
    "And spoil that line?"
    Sadly out of print, this camp classic is a textbook example of the very worst of 1950's cinema. There's the incredibly saturated Technicolor; the absurd art direction (Joan's oh-so-modern, electronic bedroom, for instance); the sublimely exaggerated wardrobe; and, above all, late-mid-period Joan Crawford, acting, acting, ACTING. By this time, Crawford was already a Hollywood legend; she'd made her debut in 1924, was a top box office draw throughout the 1930's, was considered a has been by the 1940's, and then made a phoenix-like comeback with her Oscar-winning turn in "Mildred Pierce." Since then, her screen persona had hardened into that of the glamorous, ballsy dame--increasingly mannish and emasculating. Where the young Crawford had once been romanced by the likes of Clark Gable, Robert Taylor and Spencer Tracy, this atomic-era Crawford chewed up and spat out her increasingly colorless male foils. In "Torch Song," her unfortunate co-star is the veddy British Michael Wilding (then Mr. Elizabeth Taylor), who plays a blind pianist. (No, really.) Crawford is Jenny Stewart, a huge musical comedy star, who "has the mouth of angel, but the words that come out are pure tramp!" Needless to say, Ms. Stewart makes Helen Lawson look like Mother Teresa. Flashing her huge eyes, shoving cigarettes between her blood-red lips, sashaying about in various glamorous creations, Crawford is the undisputed star of the show. Wilding doesn't stand a chance (poor Gig Young fares even worse--his dissipated, parasitic character is written out halfway through). Crawford and Wilding "meet nasty"--that is to say, she berates him with such gems as "Why don't you get yourself a seeing eye girl!" I won't ruin the ending for you, but suffice to say, it's pure Hollywood soap. Joan even has a poor-folks, plain-speakin' Ma, played by Marjorie Rambeau! Along the way, Joan does several song-and-dance routines designed to show that the 45-year-old star still had a formidable figure. The two most famous are, of course, the notorious "Two Faced Woman," performed, inexplicably, outrageously, appallingly, hysterically, in blackface; and the rehearsal hall scene where Jenny Stewart practically castrates a chorus boy who trips over her leg. "He's paid a very handsome salary to dance AROUND that leg!" she growls. "Torch Song" really exists as an offering on the shrine of Joan Crawford--a big, fat, juicy Technicolor love letter to her glamour and legend. As such, it doesn't get much better than this.
  • Poseidon-35 October 2005
    "Cuz I'm FIFTY......and I can KICK!"
    It's hard to believe that, except for a couple of very brief sequences in earlier films, audiences had to wait until 1953 to see Miss Crawford in Technicolor. She gave them enough here to last a lifetime! With inferno red hair, scarlet lips and an assortment of garish costume pieces, she served up a retina-scorching musical that is as fascinating as it is preposterous. Crawford plays the most hard-nosed, ball-busting theatre diva imaginable. (Things veer into science-fiction rather early when it's shown that Crawford has a loyal following of devoted TEEN fans.) During rehearsals for her latest revue, she berates everyone in sight as she strives to have everything her way. She trips her dance partner with her ever-extended right leg, rewrites the dialogue, redesigns the costumes (hilariously swooping the design board in the air to see how the swatch of chiffon will behave once it's attached to her!) and just generally steamrolls over everyone. She meets her match, however, when meek pianist Wilding shows up and softly, but firmly challenges her taste when it comes to her interpretations of the show's songs. To top it off, he's blind, though this detail only slightly curbs Miss Crawford's vicious tongue. Eventually, the two begin to work together, tenuously, but Wilding's effect on her starts to become a romantic one. Despite her slight softening, he remains strangely reticent. Crawford, used to getting what she wants, strives to make him her own. In the midst of all this romantic tension are several musical numbers (with a throaty India Adams providing the highly melodramatic vocals) which range from pitiful to screamingly ridiculous. One has Crawford emerging hilariously from behind a wall and rolling in circles across the stage where she finally disappears behind another wall. In the most famous scene, she descends a cheap-looking staircase dressed in a scary turquoise chiffon and beaded gown with a slit up to her loin while wearing black-face!!! Exceedingly uncoordinated female dancers stiffly turn about as Crawford wanders through the male chorus (with all of them in black-face as well!) Afterwards, in a fit of fury, she rips off her black wig and the viewer is faced with her chocolate skin, crimson lips, ice blue eyes and a tangled mess of tangerine orange hair sprouting heavenward! The film is bent on displaying the most putrescent colors imaginable. Her bedroom walls are a nauseating sea foam green and she wears a hysterical electric lemon yellow robe that is about 10 sizes too big. (In a symbolic touch, she shuts out the world from her bedroom with THREE layers of draperies at the window.) Oddly, though Joan isn't the blind one, her home is virtually devoid of any pictures or artwork. Only one small painting can be seen in the place. The film is chock full of deliciously rotten dialogue and snippy comments and is a must see for any fan of the star. It's also brimming over with unintentional humor as Joan overdoes every line, look and gesture. Clocking in with some intentional humor is the splendorous Rambeau as Crawford's money-grubbing mother. Her reaction (both verbal and non-verbal) to Crawford's announcement that she's fallen for a blind man is one of the all-time uproarious bits of acting and dialogue. For her trouble, she was granted an Oscar nomination, which couldn't have thrilled Crawford, who was busily gnawing on all of the scenery in an attempt to gain another one herself! As for Wilding, he plays blindness as if the loss of one's sight equals the complete and utter loss of one's facial expression. Still, it's nice to see his underacting hold up against Crawford's fire-breathing. Norman appears as Crawford's trusted assistant and indentured servant. She would turn up years later as Crawford's maid in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" receiving even worse treatment from Bette Davis. Check out Joan's cocktail party at which no other female is present! The one lady that rivals her for Wilding's affections is dealt with out of frame, but one can imagine the showdown that was had. The persona Joan presented here (and in "Queen Bee") would come back to haunt her. It was apparently what the producers of "Mommie Dearest" used as a launching pad when concocting that film and it was the subject of one of Carol Burnett's most cutting parodies during her long-running variety series. Crawford, who adored Burnett, was usually open to a joke on herself, but in this instance was quite hurt. Crawford followed this gem with the even more lurid, garish and bizarre "Johnny Guitar". Incidentally, the music used in Joan's first dance rehearsal number is "Minstrel Man" (!), which ties in bizarrely with the fact that she's later seen in blackface (or as Debbie Reynolds put it in "That's Entertainment III", "tropical makeup"!)
  • Davalon-Davalon17 February 2008
    1/10
    Mind-boggling disaster
    Warning: Spoilers
    "Torch Song" has to be seen to be believed. Joan, as Jenny Stewart, apparently a "top" Broadway star, stomps her way through the entire film with as much grace as Godzilla, destroying anything that irritates her - - and EVERYTHING irritates her.

    As we watch Jen/Joan careen down this warpath, one gets the odd feeling that Faye Dunaway based her entire "Mommie Dearest" role on Joan's "tour-de-force" performance in "Torched Song" (oh, I'm sorry, "Torch Song").

    There are several scenes in this agonizing film where Joan seems bored out of her skull and time just passes as she plays with her pull-down lamp, pushes buttons on some kind of intercom/radio, flops down on the bed and stares at the ceiling -- you know, the sort of riveting moments that keep an audience glued to their seats.

    It is a wonder why someone didn't off this character early on in the film, she is so hateful and cruel and obnoxious. And yet, based on information I heard directly from the writer of a once top-rated TV show, there are actresses (and actors) who really are as horrid as the vicious fang-baring demon that Joan portrays in this hideous laughfest.

    One of the fun things about this movie is every time you see Joan she's in a new outfit. Some of them are horrifying, like her hangover-halting canary yellow robe. Others clearly show off her girlish waist and great gams. But no matter what she's wearing, her face looks like it could scare the Russian Army straight to Siberia, non-stop, running through the snow in their bare feet if it would help get them there faster.

    The big "reveal" at the end is so absolutely pathetic as to be laughable. We're asked to believe that because Mike Wilding as Tye Graham can't "see" his hot blonde fellow musician (because he lost his sight in WWII), that he could never love her (even though she's younger, prettier, sweeter and a BILLION times better for him than "Jenny"). We're asked to believe that because Tye saw Jenny in a musical right before he left for the war (which even she admits she wasn't that good in) and reviewed it for a newspaper, that, somehow, seven years later, she will find it in her big charcoal black heart to "love" him. Why would she? Why would he want to love her? It's all fabricated and insane. And to add an extra cherry on top of the sundae, we're asked to believe that even though he was a journalist, went to war, then came back blind, now he is suddenly a brilliant pianist who knows every note of every song Jenny is going to (lip-synch) sing, even though it's a new show with new songs that the public hasn't heard yet -- songs that he already has memorized (because Jenny's former MD, who could not STAND her, "teaches" Mike the songs).

    Right.

    Then we have Gig Young. Why is he in this movie? He's a drunken sod and Jenny seems to keep him around just so she can insult him. He serves absolutely no other purpose. Then, as another reviewer points out, he vanishes mid-way through the film, never to be seen again. No great loss.

    Probably the most exciting scene is when Jenny decides to throw a party on a Sunday night after a week of grueling rehearsals because she has her eye on Tye and wants to get to "know" him better. All the other "guests" at the party are men. Pay attention: It is so unbelievably and shockingly gay it is hard to believe it got past the censors. Jenny specifically asks for Tye to "entertain" that night--but Tye is "busy" (this INFURIATES her), so instead some gorgeous hot young black man with a honeyed-voice shows up and sings instead. He's cute for sure, and one of the male guests leans on the piano, mesmerized by his voice (and probably what's under his tuxedo).

    Then, when Jenny learns that Tye isn't going to come to the party, she tells her agent (in the privacy of her bedroom--which looks like it was lifted off the set of "Twilight Zone") to get everyone "out" of her apartment "now." He walks out and five seconds later you can hear the party stop instantly as she sits in cold stone silence on her bed. It is so sad and stupid.

    Then the ending, when, after "discovering" the review that Tye wrote about her, Jenny "realizes" that all this time he had been trying to tell her that he loved her, she rushes to his absolutely fabulous gorgeous perfectly appointed apartment and (apparently) tells his blonde sycophant wannabe-girlfriend to get lost (all very subtly actually). Then Mike and Joan have their absolutely unbelievable moment of "human warmth," make asinine jokes about his seeing-eye dog, and then kiss each other with all the excitement of two mannequins on Prozac.

    The entire film is washed in jarring Technicolor "colors" that resemble "reality" as much as I resemble Brad Pitt (and honey, trust me, I DON'T), and unfortunately Joan comes off as some kind of monstrous drag queen.

    The last thing that drove me insane through this must-see disaster is Joan's "hair." I don't know who determined that this "cut" was going to "work" for Joan, but she looks like someone rooted around Mamie Eisenhower's hamper and dug out a used wig with ghastly tight curls and bangs and swirls, giving her the look of either a former lobotomy patient or a 50's overpriced dominatrix.

    I really don't know what anyone was trying to "say" with this film, but trust me, whatever it is, it can't possibly compare to when Joan orders "Lobster Newburg and coffee" -- now THAT is saying something (even if it's pathetic)!
  • jbarnes-1030 October 2007
    8/10
    DVD release 2/12/2008
    At last this gem of gem's will be on DVD with the debut of the Joan Crawford Collection Vol 2. One can only hope that this is released in its original widescreen format and has been remastered. The VHS print is a little worn and I can hardly wait to the see the extras.

    This movie is so bad its a must see, this movie is Joan in color and on steroids as she bulldozes her way through the film. This is camp at camps best. Who else can order "Lobster Newberg and Coffee" for lunch at the studio cafeteria with a straight face other than Crawford... For die hard fans of Joan's more camp later years this one will keep you in stitches.
  • moonspinner5523 March 2008
    6/10
    "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 ****
  • bell-927 April 2000
    The best movie musical of all time
    Ok, I'm only kidding but it has to be, at least, one of the funniest! Joan stars as Jennie Stewart and out of control ego maniacal Broadway star attempting a comeback (hmmm, life imitating art much?) Actually, it is too easy to dismiss this as Crawford playing herself here...I choose to believe that she is not and is playing a very specific Broadway type actress (think Helen Lawson from Valley of the Dolls). Anyway, this movie is chock full of garish colors (raven haired Joan, with blood red lips and a canary colored full length dressing gown that matches her curtains is a stupendous sight), wicked, campy dialogue and the infamous blackface "musical" number, "Two Faced Woman" add up to an hilarious and entertaining movie watching experience.
  • Holdjerhorses22 August 2005
    1/10
    The "Reefer Madness" of Musicals
    Possibly the worst picture Crawford ever made, it begs to be seen to be disbelieved.

    Despite "winning" Charleston contests at the Cocoanut Grove in her twenties, even vintage early films prove Crawford was no dancer. Nor could she sing particularly well.

    So, naturally, she's cast in "Torch Song" as a huge Broadway singing and dancing star. (Crawford was 49 at the time.)

    In her opening "rehearsal" number with "Ellis" (actually, "Torch Song's" Director, Chuck Walters), one can practically hear her count, "One, two, three, four" as she studiously moves from one carefully choreographed pose to another. Even Shirley Temple, with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, did better than this in "The Little Colonel" (1935) in their still-startling and delightful tap dance sequence.

    There's nothing "delightful" about any of Crawford's dancing-singing sequences in "Torch Song." But she's consistently "startling." Her songs ("Follow Me," "Two-Faced Woman") are mediocre at best: never to be heard again, or embraced by the music-buying public. Worse, they're actually sung by India Adams, whose voice doesn't remotely resemble Crawford's.

    The show-stopper (and not in a good way) is "Two-Faced Woman." Crawford, in blackface, descends the staircase (still silently counting her simplistic dance steps and "posing" rather than dancing). Blackface? Never explained. Perhaps blackface was chosen for the "shocking" moment when she angrily rips off her wig and glares into the auditorium with her enormous eyes and red slash of a mouth -- topped with disheveled hair dyed a remarkable Technicolor "red" that even Lucille Ball wouldn't have dared attempt.

    No one, of course, not even a would-be lounge singer like India Adams (whatever happened to . . . oh, never mind), can destroy a chestnut like "Tenderly," whose haunting music and lyric support even the talentless.

    Marjorie Rambeau inexplicably won an Academy Award nomination for her three brief scenes as Crawford's mother. (She and Crawford were longstanding friends.) Adolph Deutsch (Composer) presumably arranged and played the impressive "mad" piano arrangement of "Tenderly" for blind pianist Ty Graham (Micheal Wilding) in the final scene. It's the single most emotionally honest moment in the entire film, musically capturing Ty's love and anguish and frustration with Crawford's "gypsy madonna." Until it's completely undercut by one of the most rapid character reversals (and bad dialogue) ever conceived for a major film.

    "I finally did it," asserts Crawford's character, attempting to convince Ty (and the audience) that she's been trying to break through Ty's defensive shell all along (she hasn't: she's just been spouting hackneyed bitchy dialogue, lip-synching to hackneyed "original" songs and silently counting out her game but amateurish dance steps -- all in Helen Rose's gloriously improbable Technicolor costumes).

    "Torch Song's" final line, meant to show Crawford's "tender," warmly humorous side, references Ty's seeing eye dog, Duchess. Say what? THIS is "Torch Song's" payoff?

    Is "Torch Song" watchable? Yes. Like a train wreck.

    Is it "so bad it's good?" No. It's just bad.

    The "Reefer Madness" of musicals.
  • MarieGabrielle26 March 2008
    9/10
    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.
  • beyondtheforest14 February 2008
    6/10
    Mixed feelings
    I am sentimental about Torch Song because I can remember being an adolescent who absolutely idolized Joan in this movie. This movie presents her as a goddess for the audience to worship. Truth is, Joan was as beautiful as ever, and her gowns and jewelry are achingly glamorous. Her closeups, even at this late stage, could still rival Garbo. Crawford possessed one of the best faces in cinema history.

    The best thing about Torch Song is the use of color. It is a character in itself. Soft blue is the dominant hue.

    If you watch Torch Song in the right frame of mind, and prepared to appreciate instead of criticize or laugh, it is possible to come away from it as deliriously enraptured as I was the first time I saw it-- at the age of thirteen (in the '90s). Joan herself loved this movie. It represents complete escapism, but requires that essential suspension of thought. This is territory of glamour and romance, not film analysis.

    From a film critic's perspective, and not necessarily a fan's perspective, it is possible to come away from this film viewing it as a dreary, poorly-produced and performed relic. It is not exceptional, technically, in any aspect. Yet, if allowed, the film will hold a spell over the viewer. But it requires a young, indiscriminate mind, able to see freshness in some things which upon closer examination are not original.

    The Warner Bros. DVD, unfortunately, does not capitalize on the film's strongest asset -- color. Therefore, it is recommended that you adjust the color and tint level of your television to the highest level before viewing TORCH SONG. This will compensate for the washed out colors of the print, and return Joan's hair color to the appropriate shade of bright apricot, and her lipstick to bright red.
  • preppy-325 March 2008
    7/10
    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!
  • bkoganbing8 October 2009
    6/10
    "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.
  • mukava99123 May 2008
    5/10
    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
    5/10
    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.
  • wes-connors26 March 2008
    3/10
    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
  • RanchoTuVu29 March 2017
    8/10
    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
    5/10
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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
    5/10
    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.
  • Ed Uyeshima25 March 2008
    3/10
    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.
  • MartinHafer8 August 2005
    7/10
    despite all its silliness, I liked this film!
    Warning: Spoilers
    Okay, this is NOT a great film and the plot is quite silly at times (plus, the version of this film performed on the Carol Burnett Show is possibly better), BUT I liked it. Yes, Joan Crawford belting out the songs and dancing with her football player shoulder pads underneath her leotards are both silly, but there was a certain goofy charm to the film. It definitely was a last gasp film--a 1950s film that looked amazingly like a 1930s or early 40s musical except for the film being in color.

    Joan is the scheming woman bent on success as a singer/dancer. Despite having only marginal talent (my opinion, not that of the people in the film), she makes it to the big time only to discover she is all alone. Then, she discovers her blind pianist has secretly loved her all these years and the movie ends in a romantic clinch.

    Contrived? Yep. A bit over-the-top? You betcha. But, despite all this it is all good fun.
  • whpratt14 May 2008
    7/10
    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.
  • sadie_thompson23 August 2005
    4/10
    "I can't help being...a snarky reviewer..."
    Okay, so that's not how Joan's big song goes, but nevertheless. I am going to do some snarking because this movie deserves it. I am guessing Joan Crawford made this movie because she missed MGM and wanted to take a last look. Or maybe she thought it was actually decent. I'm hoping for the former and praying it's not the latter.

    See, this movie is terrible. Really, honest to God terrible. The plot--bitch goddess Jenny Stewart crushes people beneath her feet on a regular basis, but she is actually quite vulnerable ON THE INSIDE. (Yeah, one of those.) However, one day she comes across Tye Graham (played by Michael Wilding, who pronounces "Graham" as "Grimm"--rather appropriate) when he is hired to replace her burned-out rehearsal pianist. He's blind due to an accident, and she is unable to believe that a blind man can read music and play the piano. They clash immediately, as is to be expected, until the relationship sort of blossoms into something else. Okay, I can live with that. But, damn, the things that happen along with the way are intolerable!!! I am not even going to get started on the blackface number, which is obscenely awful. I will, however, elaborate on some of the little things.

    First--why is Gig Young in this movie? He's Jenny's boyfriend-kinda-sorta, but he cheats on her on a regular basis, and she's incapable of feeling anyhow. I guess the filmmakers realized his utter lack of importance, because he disappears halfway through. Gee, darn. He apparently attached himself to her so he could steal money from her. ("Next time you go out without Jenny, don't sign her name to the checks," Joan says testily. I must confess I get a kick of out her lines like that, because my name happens to be Jenny. I wish I could boss people around like that!) So basically Gig Young is there, and then he isn't. Fine. Whatever. If my memory serves me, Gig Young is most famous for committing suicide rather than any movies he made, but that's beside the point. This movie didn't help his outlook on life, it would seem. Didn't mine, either.

    Second--Joan, who could be quite attractive, has somehow ended up with orange hair. Maybe it looked good in black and white, but it don't here, that's for sure. I can only hope it wasn't her decision, or that she was in some alcohol-induced stupor when she had it done. Or maybe the hairdresser was incompetent, because I ended up with orange hair for that exact reason one time. Whatever the reason, she looks ghastly. Especially during the blackface number I've vowed not to think about again.

    Third--the color of everything else is a little too garish for my liking as well. I am thinking, as some of you have probably guessed, of the chartreuse bathrobe Joan wears midway through the movie. What the heck is that thing? Underneath she's wearing some stylish white pajamas, why not show them off? Joan's makeup (not the blackface, the regular stuff) also struck me as a little off--in the scene where she tries to adjust the clock with her eyes closed her face is a full three shades lighter than her chest. That's not really a big deal, since that happens in real life more often that not, but it's still jarring to see it on screen.

    I've totally trashed this movie, and that isn't entirely fair. You'll notice, perhaps, that I've given it a four. Those four stars come from two scenes in the movie in which Joan actually rises above the material and does a good job. The first of the two scenes comes when Jenny attempts some everyday tasks as a blind person--she tries to set the clock, as I mentioned earlier, and she also tries to make a phone call. She fails miserably at both tasks, and realizes she's taken sight for granted. I think she does very well with the scene mainly because of how she reacts to her failure--she's appalled. I get the feeling that Joan herself would have been appalled at such a failure as well. (Incidentally, I thought she was quite convincing in her "Night Gallery" segment.) The second scene is when she goes to see her mother, the only friend she's got. "Friend" is a word to be used loosely there--her mother's a leech just like Gig Young was. However, I think Marjorie Rambeau, a well-known stage actress in the 'teens, is quite likable and even sympathetic. In this scene Jenny comes to her mother asking for romantic advice about Tye. She's bothered because she's in love with a man who doesn't know what she looks like, but her mother recalls a connection that Jenny and Tye had before the injury that left him blind. That leads to the cranking up of the old Victrola for a listen to one of Jenny's records. Jenny listens and sings along. I love that scene because it's strange. As everyone mentioned, Joan's singing is dubbed by India Adams. (I actually think Joan mentioned that in "Conversations with Joan Crawford." Wherever it was mentioned, Joan was quite peeved about not getting to sing her songs.) What's strange is this--the record is India Adams singing in a higher-to-be-interpreted-as-younger voice, but Joan Crawford is singing along in her own voice. They're obviously two different people. Did MGM think no one would notice? I did.

    At any rate, those two scenes don't redeem the movie, so I'm afraid I can't heartily recommend it. Better stay away unless you're inebriated and need a good laugh.
  • sol121822 September 2009
    7/10
    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!
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