Possessed (1947) is a Warner Bros. feature film starring Joan Crawford, Van Heflin, and Raymond Massey in a tale about an unstable woman's obsession with her ex-lover. The screenplay by Ranald MacDougall and Silvia Richards was based upon a story by Rita Weiman. The film was directed by Curtis Bernhardt and produced by Jerry Wald. Possessed received one Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (Crawford).
Plot and cast
Louise Howell (Crawford) is an emotionally unstable woman working as a nurse to the invalid wife of Dean Graham (Massey) in the Graham home. Louise is in love with neighbor David Sutton (Heflin), an engineer, who loathes her smothering obsession with him; he ends the relationship and leaves the area to Louise's great hurt. Shortly after, Graham's wife drowns; Louise remains in the Graham home to care for the two Graham children: young Wynn (Gerald Perreau
) and college-age Carol (Geraldine Brooks
Time passes and David re-enters the scene, having taken an engineering job with Graham; he is surprised to find Louise with the family. Louise - still obsessed with David - makes a pass and is rebuffed. Moments later, Graham proposes to Louise and she accepts to salvage her pride. Graham's daughter, Carol takes a fancy to David, much to the consternation of Louise who tries to dissuade Carol from establishing a relationship with him. Louise's mind begins to decline with her obsession over David; she hears voices, has hallucinations, and believes her husband's first wife is still alive.
When David and Carol consider marriage, Louise tries to end their relationship. Graham is concerned about Louise's mental state and tries to persuade her to see a doctor. Believing her husband, David, and Carol are all against her and trying to put her away, Louise bursts into David's apartment and kills him in a fit of madness. Cast includes Moroni Olsen and John Ridgely.
Crawford spent time visiting mental wards and talking to psychiatrists to prepare for her role, and said the part was the most difficult she ever played.
Possessed had been tailor-made for Bette Davis and would have been her next project after Deception (1946). However, she was with child and took maternity leave.
wrote, "Most of it is filmed with unusual imaginativeness and force. The film is uncommonly well acted. Miss Crawford is generally excellent", and Howard Barnes
in the New York Herald Tribune
stated, "[Crawford] has obviously studied the aspects of insanity to recreate a rather terrifying portrait of a woman possessed by devils."
Awards and nominations
nomination (1947) for Best Actress
: Joan Crawford.
notes, "By developing the plot from the point-of-view of a neurotic and skillfully using flashback and fantasy scenes in a straightforward manner, the distinction between reality and Louise's imagination is blurred. That makes Possessed
a prime example of oneirism
, the dreamlike tone that is a seminal characteristic of film noir