Susan And God
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Wealthy, impulsive Susan Trexel undergoes a religious conversion, one undoubtedly destined to last as long as this season's hemline length. But in the meantime, Susan insists everyone around her - including her neglected husband and child - alter their lives (and loves) to conform to her latest whim. A sterling cast highlights this witty comedy-drama: Joan Crawford, Fredric March, Ruth Hussey, Nigel Bruce, John Carroll and a pre-stardom Rita Hayworth. For Crawford, Susan and God (headlined on Broadway by the formidable Gertrude Lawrence) was her chance to play a more nuanced part than her typical shopgirl-makes-good characters. As she famously declared to studio brass in her campaign to win the role of Susan, "I'd play Wally Beery's grandmother if it's a good part." It is!
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The premise of this one is pretty simple. Susan (Crawford) and Barry(Fredrick March) aren't even trying to maintain the external appearance that their marriage is good. Still circumstance reunites them with their only child teen daughter Blossom(Rita Quigley) while Susan is just itching to rid herself of Barry and move on to her latest passion religion. In what I can only describe as an over-the-top performance, self absorbed Susan immerses herself in evangelical fervor much to the consternation of her high society friends while she pushes her husband away as he tries to make amends for his own pathetic drunken behavior of the past and tries to provide Blossom with a sense of family. Susan is full of love of God and the larger scheme of things as she nervously goes through the process of eternal salvation, but remarkably disconnects from the fact that her husband and daughter need her to step up and notice them and become a wife and mother first.
The thing that seemingly hurts this movie the most is the obvious fact that it drags on interminably to get to a point of resolution. Strange because George Cukor is normally a great director who does wonders with stage adaptations. While the cast is populated with good actors, the pace really starts to slow down by the time it is halfway over. Crawford mugs it up and is a hyperactive mess through most of it as she goes through her spiritual evolution. Her performance is awkward and strange and very campy. March is good as Barry, a randy guy who has seen the error of his ways and is making a serious attempt to turn things around. Quigley is very good as an awkward teen who just wants to fit in and desperately needs maternal guidance from Susan.
I find this movie interesting, but I suspect a lot of viewers would probably be bored by the machinations of Susan. It's the banter of her doubting and skeptical friends that add an extra layer of interest to the whole premise of this movie and provide the laughs.
While Susan is the center of the story and the most influential person in the lives of the people around her, we don't get to meet her until after we've been introduced to just about everybody else, including her long-suffering alcoholic husband Barrie (Fredric March) and her neglected daughter, Blossom (Rita Quigley), and they're the ones we really get to care about, as we realize their happiness depends on whether Susan will undergo some real (as opposed to her present self-righteous) personal transformation or not. Everybody in the cast do a great job. Crawford is a bit theatrical in the way we (or at least I) like about her, and March and Quigley are very likable. The story is interesting but a bit too slow paced, with too many minor characters; some of them could have been eliminated without losing much depth in the story and the pace would have been better.
"Susan and God" is not a great film, but worth watching for fans of the cast.
The film deals with a woman whose life is falling to pieces as she is estranged from her husband and has a teenaged daughter that she is finding difficult to get along with. Upon her return from Europe Susan discovers God and is determined to change her life for the better.
At first Joan couldn't understand the part and how a woman who had everything would give it all up for the sake of religion. On the movie's very first day of filming director George Cukor took Crawford aside and described the part and how she should play it. It did become one of Joan's favorite films and was proud she starred in it.
Rita Hayworth also has a supporting role.