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In 1953 Joan Crawford returned to her old studio MGM after a 10 year absence. When "Sudden Fear", Joan's 1952 independent film, was a huge box office and commercial success (the movie garnered Crawford her third and final Oscar nomination as Best Actress) MGM offered her a two-picture deal. The first movie was "Torch Song", a film about a hard-as-nails Broadway star who falls in love with her new pianist who is blind. The pianist was played by Michael Wilding who at the time was dating Elizabeth Taylor with whom Crawford was having a real-life feud with. Joan, at one point, even banned Liz from the MGM sound stages during filming! Rumor had it that Joan was envious and jealous of Taylor's success as an up and coming movie actress and wanted nothing to do with her.
"Torch Song", however, bombed at the box office, and immediately MGM, again, parted ways with Joan and her second feature was scrapped.
The film is not terrible, but it is not Oscar worthy either although Marjorie Rambeau, who played Joan's mother in the film, received a Best Supporting Actress nom . The script is pretty decent and the performances are good, but the thing just didn't jell. I always felt Joan was too tough in the role, an attribute she would bring to most of her 1950's films. Perhaps if Crawford had softened her character's portrayal audiences would have responded more nicely.
Joan actually loved doing "Torch Song". She stated, "It was absolutely a field day for an actress, especially one that had reached a certain age. I was able to act, dance, and pretend to sing (her voice was overdubbed).
The most distubing part of the movie for me is the fact that during filming in the summer of 1953, according to Joan's adopted daughter Christina, Joan had tried to kill her during a violent argument at Joan's Brentwood home. When you watch "Torch Song" you can see, not only the toughness Joan possessed, but the anger and bitterness she had from real life. Perhaps she was tired of fighting to keep her career alive at this point in her life and perhaps her alcoholism was getting out of hand. Whatever the reason for her convincing portrayal as Jenny Stewart one gets the impression it wasn't at all acting.
"Torch Song" was finally released on DVD a few years back in widescreen on the "Joan Crawford Box Set: Part 2", but never released as an individual stand-alone disc.