Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Joan Crawford Musicals

Stephen Sondheim based the lyrics to the song I'm Still Here around the career of Joan Crawford

First you're another
Sloe-eyed vamp,
Then someone's mother,
Then you're camp.

The FX show Feud reminds us that Hollywood treats many of their actresses the same way. While she played dancing flappers in the 1920's I'm going to focus on two works from the 1950's.

Johnny Guitar
Music by Martin Silvestri. Lyrics and Music by Joel Higgins. Book by Nicholas van Hoogstraten. 2004 Off Broadway.

The 1954 film is campy because it took itself so seriously. It wants to be a feminist Western about McCarthyism. It's better remembered for Joan Crawford's outfits, Mercedes McCambridge's scenery munching and the barely repressed lesbian subtext. The 2004 musical flopped because it tried to be a zany Forbidden Broadway style spoof. The subtext became text which misses the point.

Torch Song
Screenplay by John Michael Hayes and 
Jan Lustig (de). 
Music by Adolph Deutsch. 1953 film.

Here's another film that didn't need a parody. (Though Carol Burnett made a go of it). Joan Crawford dancing in blackface while lip synching to India Adams is camp enough. 

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