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The First Failure of Joan Crawford: "Mannequin" (1937)

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

In the 1930s, actress Joan Crawford was one of Hollywood's most well-known actors during the Golden Age of Hollywood. In this case, Mannequin from 1937 had its plot around the working class, and stories like this 1937 film were written with Joan Crawford’s dark past blended into the character development. As a result, this gave viewers a glimpse of how impactful character development can be created within Crawford’s past life, and this film seemed to execute that technique effectively to keep viewers on their feet from beginning to end. 


From 1925 to 1943, Joan Crawford was under contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). She starred in many silent films and was well-known from 1928 to the mid-1930s, especially during the sound transitional period and the height of the great depression. Many of these successful films include Montana Moon (1930), Possessed (1931), Grand Hotel (1932), and The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1937). However, the next film, The Bride Wore Red (also 1937), was the beginning of her failure, and Mannequin (also 1937) was intended to fix Crawford’s career but began a steady decline.


Before the scandal and this film, Joan Crawford was well-known for being a lead actress in several notable films, especially many of the films before the 1934 censorship code. Even after this code, a sex scene occurred, but the camera was faced away from the action, and viewers only heard the sound effects of them making out. The plot was also centered around women's dominance, which was not typical in the mid to late 1930s, and this gave viewers a precursor to the fact that human life was changing at the time of the film’s release. At the same time, the great depression was winding down, and on the other side of the Atlantic, Hitler was in power for several years in Germany, and not many people were aware of how severe and scary life was over there. There were several instances of those precursors. There was one scene when there was a meeting with unemployed men and another where Joan Crawford and the lead male actress went on a trip to Paris in the story, which likely gave viewers at the time the opportunity to enjoy themselves before Hitler took over Europe.


In the film industry, melodrama, musical, horror, and monster films were the top genres of the transitional period from 1927 to 1944, with Westerns slowly fading around 1939 with Stagecoach. In 1937, filmmakers were getting bored making stories with so many censorship and content restrictions, so they decided to create rocky plots like this film, and they still managed to create a more joyful ending like most other Hollywood films during this era. Only in the winding down of World War II (1944) did Hollywood films take a different direction that influenced the world, starting with Double Indemnity.


As a result of Mannequin, viewers in Hollywood were dissatisfied compared to other films Crawford starred in because her long contract with MGM started going downhill. As a result, she remained in contract with them for a few years until her contract was cut in 1943. Before her termination, her performance in movies declined. As a result, instead of Mannequin being a second try and rebuilding the film for Crawford, it led to a six-year decline that led to the termination of her MGM contract.

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4 Kommentare

Michael Atkinson
Michael Atkinson
09. Dez. 2023

Text missing?

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Jason Harris2
Jason Harris2
10. Dez. 2023
Antwort an

So sorry. All fixed. Please enjoy the read. Look out for the last blog next week... Could be a scifi or another film noir....

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