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on May 27, 2002
A dozen years after her M-G-M contemporaries had settled into their involuntary and disgruntled retirements, Joan Crawford was still in the game. Her "Queen Bee" is not the world's greatest movie, but it's not the worst either, not by a long shot.
Crawford plays Eva Phillips, doyenne of an Atlanta mansion and married to a facially scarred husband she's nicknamed Beauty, which gives a glimmer of how twisted Eva is. Eva gets her kicks out of manipulating hubby, her old lover, her old lover's fiancee (who is Beauty's sister- this is a very close family, if you know what I mean, and I'm sure you do), and dear cousin Jennifer. Crawford also has two pre-adolescent kids, a biological coup for a fiftyish woman in 1955, when this movie was made.
Much has been said and written about Crawford's scenery-chewing in this one, but it's interestingly done. La Suprema Joan uses the movie as a showcase for all the acting tricks she had so painfully acquired over thirty years in front of the camera. So polished had she become, she's able to convey menace simply by entering a room with a smile on her face. And when she gets mean, no one is meaner, as the rest of the cast finds out by slow degrees. Crawford causes one character to commit suicide, and she has a little tour-de-force moment when Eva learns what has happened. She's seated in front of her dressing table, creaming her face, and suddenly, chillingly, loses it when she hears the news. Both the script and the actress have the intelligence to refrain from explaining the reaction. Is she horrified by what she's done? Is she terrified that she has the capacity to do it? Is she just putting on an act expected of her? We don't know, and it's to Crawford's credit that she is able to communicate the ambiguity in the middle of a bit of Grand Guignol.
Most other actors in the cast take their cues from Crawford, acting more floridly than they ever had before or ever would again. Barry Sullivan and John Ireland do well by the husband and the lover, respectively. Betsy Palmer attempts to stand up to Crawford's acting and to assume a Southern accent: both efforts were doomed to failure. The great and underutilised Fay Wray plays a Southern belle whom Eva bested in the race to see who could get Beauty to the altar first; she's lost her mind over it, and Wray's portrayal is touching, if overdrawn. The one cast member who comes out smelling like a rose is Lucy Marlow, whose arrival as a guest sets the movie's plot spinning; Marlow is the one natural and unaffected thing in the cast, and in the movie.
The camp aspects of the film are many, not least of which is Crawford's appearance -- wigged, sporting Kabuki-like makeup, and corseted so sternly Playtex should have gotten screen credit. Her wardrobe's a delight, with one knockout Jean Louis strapless in black velvet with a white satin fishtail, and more jewellery than you could shake a stick at, much of it Crawford's own. The Southern mansion in which all the action takes place is more lavish than anything really found in 1955 Atlanta (I'm from there, and the Coca-Cola heirs don't live this well), but it's properly grand and creepy.
Watch this for what it is- a camp classic. Appreciate it for something else, as well. Crawford was the one star of her generation to have the studio system figured out so well, she was able to survive and prosper during its demise. "Queen Bee" may just look like fun to us today, but it's also a document of how hard one actress fought to keep working in the years when the lights were going out on soundstage after soundstage, all over Hollywood. Crawford may be the most villainous villainess ever on-camera, but her performance also reminds us of how ruthlessly she kicked aside the wreckage that was 1950's Tinseltown, and rose above it to get the one thing she wanted above all else: to stay a star.
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on October 19, 2003
Joan Crawford was many things. Underrated actress, major star, shrewd businesswoman and questionable mother, and it's in this 1955 homage to all things overstated, that we see her play each of these parts in turn.
As the arch-manipulator Eva Philips, Joan excels for a number of reasons: She's clearly the only capable actor in this otherwise awful movie (although John Ireland's performance is very good), and looks absolutely spellbinding in all of her glorious costumes (custom-made by designer Jean-Louis). In fact, if it wasn't for the indomitable Miss Crawford's formulaic scenery-chewing this film would probably never have been converted to VHS, much less DVD.
Anyway, trapped in a loveless marriage to a bitter alcoholic, Joan sets about destroying all happiness around her, craving power and attention as her only means of comfort. Her cousin Jennifer Stewart (played in the most woeful manner by the consummately irritating Lucy Marlow)comes to stay and all hell breaks loose as Joan tries her damndest to break up her sister-in-law's engagement to her ex-lover Judson Prentiss (Ireland).
Memorable scenes are when Joan learns of their engagement ('Isn't it REVOLTING??!!?'), Joan getting out of a dinner party engagement (nobody does phone like Joan!), and Joan viciously slapping her idiot cousin Jennifer (clearly a real slap, and clearly in response to Marlow's woeful 'acting').
This is not a film for film-lovers. It's strictly for lovers of camp, Joan Crawford and gorgeous divadom. For comedy value it can't be beat.
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on February 2, 2006
Being an unapologetic Joan Crawford fan, I could enjoy just about any cinematic drivel she has appeared in (and I'm sure I have). While Queen Bee isn't drivel, it's no Mildred Pierce either - - but I loved it all the same!

Joan plays Eva Phillips and although she is probably a good 10-15 years older than the scriptwriter envisioned, she still looks remarkable. She is married (unhappily as we will find out) to the alcoholic Avery, whom she stole away from the sweet Sue (played too briefly by Fay Wray).

The movie revolves around Eva and Avery's unhappy union, her chasing of Judson, who is enamored of her sister-in-law Carol and with whom she had an affair some years back, and Eva's annoyingly meek cousin Jennifer who has just arrived at their southern mansion. Soon, the fur is flying, Joan is wearing some fabulous Jean Louis designs and the witty barbs are everywhere.

The only weak part of the movie is Jennifer, who is so cowardly and timid, it's a hard sell to think that she's even remotely related to Eva. Seeing her cowering and tearing up over Eva raising her voice just makes me want to cheer when Eva finally slaps the daylights out of the girl.

But one weak character aside, the movie is a fun and exciting 1950s soap opera -- and seeing Eva take out her frustrations with a riding crop is worth the price of the movie itself!

Definitely a 5 star movie!!
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VINE VOICEon November 30, 2006
This was one of Joan Crawford's last Glamour Queen movie roles, before she started doing horror films and TV, and this part itself is transitional, as she plays a legendary beauty, pathological in her manipulations of the people around her. Despite the huge 1950s eyebrows that could be seen on Joan, Audrey Hepburn, Kim Novak, and others during this period, and the weird heart shaped hairdo, Joan remains both a beauty and a really compelling and totally invested actress. This was after Joan did POSSESSED and proved she could both underplay and play full tilt. Here she plays a woman so deeply dishonest that she is unconvincing in every emotion - we don't even know if she believes any of this herself.

The real stand out performance of this film is Barry Sullivan as Joan's physically and emotionally scarred husband. He is completely believable in a roller coaster role. The prototype of the sexy damaged man.

The film itself is average, the script is soap opera predictable, and the biggest mystery (how he got scar) is never revealed, only hinted at. Despite Joan's title character and her entrance-making Jean Louis wardrobe, this really is an ensemble piece, and everyone does a good solid job in this Southern gothic potboiler. The "town and country" set of this film feels both ostentatiously grand and a little too cramped and small, and that is a good way of describing the whole thing.
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This is a stagey drama in which Joan Crawford is cast as the villainess. She plays the role of Eva Phillips, a manipulative, rich witch, who thrives on making those around her as miserable as is possible. She is married to Avery, well played by a brooding and dour Barry Sullivan. Avery is a wealthy mill owner who is bitterly unhappy in his marriage and drowns his sorrows with alcohol. Eva is the queen bee and autocratically rules over her hive, and, boy, has she got some sting! Whatever Eva wants, Eva gets, and the hell with anybody else. She is the character that the viewer loves to hate.
Betsy Palmer winsomely plays the role of Carol Lee, Avery's sister. She is engaged to marry her brother's right hand man, Judson Prentiss, played with appropriate melancholic angst by John Ireland. What Betsy is about to find out from Eva about Judson is calculated to hurt her. What Eva does not count on is the fallout that will ultimately encompass her own precious self with tragic results.
Lucy Marlow plays the role of the ingenue, Eva's cousin who has come to stay with her. At first, she is fooled by Eva, but quickly realizes just what a piece of work Eva is. Avery and Eva's cousin fall in love, however, and end up having the last laugh on Eva.
This is a well acted drama that will delight all Joan Crawford fans, as well as those who love classic films.
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on February 1, 2006
Joan's performance is flawless. When Betsy Palmer and Joan are on the screen together, you've got heaven. This film is well written and acted. It is also directed without missing a beat. The scenery is impeccable. This film is what film making is about. So many speak of "Citizen Kane" as the do-all film, IMO, "Queen Bee" is the template. This film is viewable at least twice a week. Study this film. You'll study, you'll learn and you'll have a hell of a time doing it.
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on October 14, 2007
Joan rules the roost and this movie as Eva Phillips, whose sharp tongue tears her family apart one by one. She's married to Avery (Barry Sullivan)--or Beauty as they call him (despite the ugly scar on his face)--he's turned to drink because of his bitch of a wife. Avery's sister Carol Lee (played by a perky blonde Betsy Palmer, preparing herself for her later stardom as Jason's mother in 1980's "Friday the 13th"--"Queen Bee" is a horror flick of a different kind)--anyway, Carol Lee is in love with Jud (John Ireland), who used to be involved with--yup, you guessed it--Eva! But poor Carol Ann doesn't know this secret. And when she and Jud announce their engagement, Hurricane Eva doesn't take the news very well. You'll have to watch the film to find out what happens next to this dysfunctional clan--but four stars of my review belong soley to Joan (the remaining one is for the wonderful black and white cinematography), who is the reason to watch this melodrama. Her outfits are divine, her face is always lit perfectly in her every scene and her smooth delivery of outrageous lines that slap her "loved ones" across the face (and she even delivers an actual slap to one unfortunate soul) is a delight to watch. If you love Ms. Crawford, then you gotta see "Queen Bee"--it's one of my favorites of her flicks. And the DVD also includes the campy theatrical trailer, which is a hoot. You can't take "Queen Bee" too seriously or you'll be horrified by Joan's horrible behavior. Instead, you just need to sit back and enjoy a delicious dark comedy--that's the way I view this over-the-top classic--and laugh and hiss at Joan's evil ways. You'll have a great time!
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on July 5, 1999
It is said roles like this one were what Joan loved best! It is evident, from her performance, this is true. There is only one way to stop her manipulative and destructive path. A film well worth watching again and again. Crawford at her best!!
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on February 6, 2003
This is a must-have for every Joan Crawford fan. Her star was beginning to fall by this time but she does a bang-up acting job as the evil Eva Phillips. (One wonders if the character was given that name purposely - Eva, evil, get it?) Everyone else in the film, with the exception of John Ireland as the tormented Judson, pales in comparison with Joan.
Certainly, the plot is pure soap opera (but if you know that at the outset and just take it for what it is, you'll find it enjoyable and a nice escape from reality).
Joan is in fine form as the Queen Bee in her little Southern mansion hive, ruling her unhappy family with an iron stinger. Particularly, the targets of Joan's ire are the other women of the mansion, whose men Joan is always determined to steal, as summed up in her classic line, "Any man's my man if I want it that way." And Joan usually succeeds in what she sets out to do. Plus, Joanie excels at emasculating the men of the mansion (such as her long-suffering husband Avery, who withdraws into an ocean of alchohol to escape his misery).
Of course, she eventually gets her comeuppance as punishment for all the unhappiness she's caused (a nice coda that doesn't happen nearly often enough to rotten people in real life).
Long story short, this DVD's very worthwhile. Joan fans get to see her in a superbly over-the-top performance, and it's a feel-good type story because Eva at long last gets exactly what she deserves, and the last laugh is on her. I won't give away the ending, but suffice it to say that if you like to see good triumph over evil, you'll be very pleased at how things turn out.
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on May 12, 2007
You don't have to be a Joan Crawford fan to love this movie. Her acting, the concept, but most of all, the "dialog" is mind bogling!! What a great, great film. A fun film for a party Friday night!! A must have for any collection!!
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