CROSSFIRE: GLORIOUSLY GLORIA

GLORIA GRAHAME ( Crossfire )

[ November 28th, 1923 ~ October 5th, 1981 ]

CROSSFIRE (1947) Robert Young, Robert Ryan and Robert Mitchum, directed by Edward Dmytryk.

The testosterone level is high in this rough and tumble drama. You see those leads? But there’s another piece ot this movie; the girls they left behind.

Vulnerability. Regret. Pathos. This describes the very good performance of Gloria Grahame in “Crossfire.” The blare of a trumpet and a soft focused shot comes into focus announcing the appearance of Gloria Grahame as Ginny. Her Ginny reminds me of a young Joan Blondell. Grahame plays a dance hall girl ( to put it politely ) and the young soldier the police is searching for for murder ends up there. Mitchell is having a hard time adjusting, he’s missing his wife. Grahame could be that pretty girl-next-door, with delicate features and shoulder-length hair softly cascading onto her shoulders he could cry on.

But she’s not.

She doesn’t readily have a sympathetic ear. It’s all about the ca$h. It usually is with the men she meets in this place. He hooks up with her. They talk. She sarcastically tells him she knows she reminds him of the “girl he left behind.” He tells her, in fact, she does, This upsets her. She leaves him at the bar and goes out back to the garden patio.

Gloria’s angry and hurt. Hurt because she is no one’s wife; hurt because being a dance hall girl probably ruins her chances of ever becoming anyone’s wife. As she says: “I’ve been working for a long time.”

GLORIA GRAHAME ( IV )

She finds him corny but dances with him…close. Very close. Her arms are around him; she looks him squarely in the eyes when they dance. Slowly, softly, tentatively she puts her cheek next to his; her body is pressed up against his. We can see her let her guard down…like a street cat who learns to trust. The hard, cynical edge she’s hidden behind to protect her, is slowly melting. She finds him corny but it’s probably because she misses what she never had…one guy, one steady guy to love her. She’s letting him in. There’s something about this soldier.

She invites the soldier to her place. She wants to cook for him. She gets to play house but in a different way. She gives the soldier a key to her apartment. Director Dmytryk chooses to use a very long dissolve from her face to her apartment building. We linger on the close-up image of her face.

GLORIA GRAHAME ( II )

The next time we see Gloria she’s changed into a robe. And she’s cold and hard as the soldier’s wife and detective Robert Young are at her door. They want to see if she can serve as an alibi to the soldier’s whereabouts, but she is unwilling to help. Why? The soldier was sweet and gentle and didn’t want to use her. What’s turned Gloria against him to not want to help?

Well, she could be sore that he wasn’t there when she came back to her apartment. She could be sore that the soldier’s wife is now at her door. She could be sad and hurt at the realization that she’ll never get a decent break with a guy. She could be sore at just being used for information she could provide with no thought to her own feelings. She is all those things. No one could play sad, hurt & defiant in one fell swoop like Gloria Grahame. We see her catch a glimpse of what she could have had: welcoming home her soldier with dancing, dinner and a sweet homecoming. But alas that was not to be.

GLORIA GRAHAME ( VI )   PAUL KELLY ( %22Crossfire%22 )

And who DOES she have? She has a crazy old coot of a lover/husband, played sympa-thetically by character actor Paul Kelly; probably a shell-shocked vet from the Great War, or an officer from this war. We’re not really sure who he is. A delusional man who loves her. It’s very telling she hasn’t sent him away permanently. THAT’s who she has. Grahame does a wonderful job in this mystery, the girl-left-behind in so many ways.

Grahame does a lot with this small but pivotal role. In fact, I can’t think of another actress who could show pain and hurt and vulnerability and hardness and sexiness simultaneously besides Gloria Grahame. “Crossfire” was a good post-war noir film. All three Bobs (Young, Ryan & Mitchum ) were well-cast, ( Ryan – psychotically chilling ) and George Cooper was wonderful as the soldier.

But Gloria Grahame…she just adds that lovely edge of cold sarcasm softened by her vul-nerability. She’s a wonderful addition to this classic motion picture.

jacqueline-white-1 jacqueline-white

And let me give a brief shout out to Jacqueline White, who plays the Soldier’s wife. I saw her interviewed by Eddie Muller at the TCM Film Festival in 2013 before the screening of her last movie, The Narrow Margin.”  Check out the trailer for  “Crossfire.”

 

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18 thoughts on “CROSSFIRE: GLORIOUSLY GLORIA

  1. Wonderful description, as always. I’ll appreciate Gloria even more when I have my regular fix of this great film, I love Paul Stewart in his brief scenes. Terrific screenwriting.

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  2. This is another top-drawer piece, Theresa. Your feeling for a character who is usually a footnote is very moving. Grahame is so good here that it should have put her right up on top, but I think she was a born character player. Although she was an excellent leading woman in In a Lonely Place, most of her films doomed her to play the second woman. Thanks to the Noir fad that we’re going through these days, she’s getting the attention she deserves.

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  3. A nice tribute to this fine sharp edged performance, a lovely gift for Gloria on what would have been her 93rd birthday. Her work fits right in to the dark journey the film takes the audience on. It didn’t make her a star over night but the Oscar nomination she received for it broke her out of the pack and sent her on her way towards her brief time at the top. A unique actress who put her indelible stamp on roles and makes it hard to envision anyone else in them. Too bad that messy private life of hers got so in the way and stalled her career.

    Did you know there is a film version afoot of the biography of her final days “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” with Annette Bening playing her. Hopefully it will turn out well.

    She’s another actress on my list but unlike Eve Arden I’m one film away from completing her filmography. The seemingly completely unavailable “The Todd Killings”. Frankly that’s more frustrating than the 15 of Eve’s I still have to find…so close and apparently so far!

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    • Ahh, you’re a completist I see. A noble and I bet frustrating venture to find and see every film an actor ever made. Count me a big fan of Gloria Grahame. She certainly has her place in classic films. ( No I didn’t know about the Annette Bening film. ) She left a positive mark on films.

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      • Ah,Cinemaven, I was hoping you checked my blog sometimes. I wrote about the proposed Gloria Grahame film in Sept (www.dancinglady39.wordpress.com/classic-news-3)

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      • The completist goal can be and IS frustrating especially when you get close to finishing an actress/actor’s filmography. I’m one film away from 16 different performers and it’s maddening, though thanks to TCM I’ll be able make a big dent in Myrna Loy’s work and finish up Priscilla Lane and Rosalind Russell this month!

        When I set about the project I thought that the ones with many films to track down would be the most vexing but not so because every now and then you stumble across the odd one. The closer I get the more I think “Where can I find these two or even more this ONE film and it could be crazy making if I let it.

        But it’s very gratifying when I do manage to finish someone up, right now I’ve managed that 42 times and that keeps me going.

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      • Keep it goin’ then, Joel. TCM can be a great resource in watching ALL the films of our favorite stars. ( P.S. I’m a big Priscilla Lane fan too. ) When you go on this mission…is it for every movie star or only the ones you like?

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  4. It is all too easy to take Gloria Grahame for granted. However, her many characterizations live on in our memories long after other aspects of a movie start to fade. I think as an actress it would have touched her to have someone write so eloquently of her skill and craftsmanship. The Academy Award was probably nice, but I don’t think they always understand what they are really praising by their trophy.

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    • Oh Paddy, your comment got me a little teary~eyed for Gloria Grahame, you wrote this so wonderfully.

      There were no doubt, self~esteem issues for even one as as Glo-loria. And as the 50’s wound up in the 60’s she didn’t get those roles. The one who sort of picked up the mantle and I’ll know this’ll be a big streeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetch, but for me, it’s TUESDAY WELD. A sex kitten galore, somewhat damaged. Maybe a little smarter ( psychotic…neurotic ) than some of Gloria’s characters. It’s great to get an Oscar. I guess each actor has to decide for themselves what they’re best work is.

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  5. Hey T. An excellent article as always. Gloria indeed added an extra dimension to this movie that would have left this an excellent mystery/ thriller/noir but would not have had the depth it has without her character and her wonderful performance.

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    • Hey there Tenor. I agree with you as to what Gloria brings to “CROSSFIRE.” It’s always great when someone brings an indefinable ( or totally definable ) something to a project. Gloria…she wasn’t just good to look at. Thanks for reading / commenting. 🙂

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