The Gorgeous Hussy
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The sassy daughter of a local innkeeper, Peggy O'Neill (Joan Crawford) uses her smarts and good looks - not to mention her close personal friendship with President Andrew Jackson (Lionel Barrymore) - to make a scandalous impression on Washington's power elite in this lavish adaptation of Samuel Hopkins Adams' bestselling novel. Co-starring a legendary leading man lineup (Robert Taylor, Franchot Tone, Melvyn Douglas and James Stewart), The Gorgeous Hussy earned two 1936 Oscar(r) nominations (Best Cinematography and Supporting Actress Beulah Bondi as the First Lady) and marked Crawford's sole sound-era appearance in a costume period piece.
Barrymore would reprise his Jackson role in 1952's Lone Star, a Clark Gable Western that was also the veteran actor's final screen performance.
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Other reviewers here have gone into great detail about the plot. Having come to this film based on the piece in TAL, I expected to see more of the gossipy old biddies who made Peg's life so miserable. Peg only has one line about calling on women whom she knew were at home, and not being received by them. That would have been the unkindest cut. The bullying of Rachel Jackson was much more brazen and more graphically depicted in the film.
Joan Crawford is radiant in this role. I do agree with other reviewers that it was maybe not in her wheelhouse, but she is mesmerizing to watch. I do think she played the spunky youthful magnetic Peg more convincingly than the mature tortured Peg. She never seems to suffer much, in spite of the bad things that happen to her. Maybe Crawford's interpretation was meant to show that she could rise above anything, and that's what made her such a compelling figure.
Beulah Bondi steals the show as Rachel. Her performance alone is reason to dedicate the 100+ minutes to watching the movie. Personally, I can't watch Lionel Barrymore's Andrew Jackson (or Lionel Barrymore in anything else, really) without thinking of Henry Potter in It's a Wonderful Life - his voice is too distinctive.
The costumes are gorgeous. I can't help wondering what they looked like in color. Not that I would ever want this movie to be colorized.
It's not a perfect movie. The story plods a bit. The script is a weak link - the final line of the movie is cringeworthy. However, this is a visually attractive depiction of a fascinating point in history, with some very fine performances. Recommended.
First of all I have to say that Joan looks amazing in this picture. We finally get to see her with long hair. And I love those petticoats and long dresses that she wore because Joan wore them very well. Her classical and timeless beauty was a perfect compliment to these period ensembles.
Besides Joan's performance as Peggy, I especially enjoyed the performance of Robert Taylor (as Bow.) He was one good-looking man and so charming and gallant. The movie also includes a large supporting cast with some of the biggest stars of their time, including: Mr. Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas and the one and only Jimmy Stewart.
There are also some funny and comical scenes throughout the picture that I enjoyed as well. I strongly suspect that Joan was able to borrow heavily on her talents as a silent actress in this film by using her body language to convey a million different emotions.
"The Gorgeous Hussy" is somewhat flat and dry in some scenes. The political dialog and the scenes in the senate come to mind. The movie is over 100 minutes long which for its time was considred very long, so that may have something to do with the fact that it did drag on slightly.
Nevertheless, this is an interesting movie that any film fan of the Golden Era should watch.
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