JOAN CRAWFORD VERSUS SYDNEY GREENSTREET IN FLAMINGO ROAD ( 1949 ) THE GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON

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“He gives me the creeps. We had better looking people than that in our side-shows.” ( Joan Crawford as Lane Bellamy on Sheriff Titus Semple. )

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Villains are people who possess evil instincts. They are also the antagonists of corruption, and the ones who find pleasure in the miseries of life, death and the hungry desire to murder.

These malicious creatures can be seen dominating a plethora of motion pictures with their tendency to deceive, their appetite to murder or their strong aspirations to attack and ruin the innocent prey who are determined to build a career for themselves.

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Sometimes the most deadly villains are the ones whose motives are to destroy instead of kill. The best example of this can be witnessed in Flamingo Road ( 1949 ), a film that takes viewers on a journey to the thriving community of Boldon where you’ll be introduced to the evilest of all criminals, Sheriff Titus Semple, the corrupt political boss who holds a prominent reign around town.

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Flamingo Road is a political drama that represents the many facets of immorality. Masterfully directed by Michael Curtiz and based on a play by Robert Wilder, who also wrote the screenplay, the film stars Joan Crawford, Sydney Greenstreet and Zachary Scott.

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After succumbing to the troubles of her two older children which, were coupled by a bout of financial despair, Joan Crawford returned to work in the Autumn of 1948. On her arrival, Warner Bros. had greeted her to the completed script of Flamingo Road, a project that all producers rejected except for Jerry Wald, who envisioned nothing but potential success if it was going to reunite Crawford with her fellow Mildred Pierce cast and crew members, Zachary Scott and Michael Curtiz. With fierce determination, Jerry Wald swung right into action and began mapping out plans for this highly anticipated assignment.

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Although Flamingo Road had all the ingredients to be eulogized, the film was largely panned at the box office. This was a major disappointment to Joan Crawford who commended the production in every way possible. During filming Joan had stated that she thought the picture would be highly received by audiences and critics alike and vowed not to miss a days work, even when she was braving a cold that would affect her throughout the project. Once the final results were revealed however, Crawford commented, “There was Curtiz working on it, and Wilder scripting his book. It seemed like it was a charmed project. Honestly, I don’t think it’s one of my better ones. I just thought it would turn out so much better than it did. I think a lot of good stuff that might have saved it was left on the cutting room floor. There’s a lot of difference between the movie that emerges and the movie that might have been.”

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THE PLOT

The film revolves around the story of Lane Bellamy ( Joan Crawford ) a showgirl who encounters a series of formidable events when she finds herself stranded in the thriving town of Boldon after her circus is dispersed by officials. Determined to secure a fulfilling position and to achieve her dream of living on Flamingo Road, Lane decides to stay in the community, but once she meets Sheriff Titus Semple ( Sydney Greenstreet ) the corrupt political boss, who senses she’s romantically involved with Deputy Fielding Carlisle ( Zachary Scott ) and tries to drive her out of town, Lane realizes that she must try to vanquish Titus Semple in order to save herself from destruction.

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Sydney Greenstreet as Sheriff Titus Semple is as despicable as you can get. In a town that thrives on success and people of stature, Titus is sinister when it comes to stray wanderers or people who don’t work for a living.

As the ruler of the town, Titus Semple aims to keep Boldon a community of opulence. Lane Bellamy who hails from the wrong side of the tracks certainly lacks the wealth to requisite residence in Boldon. When Titus witnesses her associating with Deputy Fielding Carlisle, whose life and career he controls, Lane finds herself entangled in a web of betrayal and deceit as the sheriff plots to drive her out of town.

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Sheriff Titus Semple tries his hardest to sabotage Lane, but what he does not know comes as a surprise to him when he discovers that Lane is a tough package. No matter how many times he tries to exterminate her from Boldon, Lane continues to bounce back. First he has her fired from the Eagle Cafe and mounts a plan to make her unemployable around town, but when that attempt fails, Lane confronts him and he automatically has her put in prison for false prostitution charges. This strategy however does not work out for Titus who thinks that he has succeeded until he finds out that Lane who is now working at a roadhouse owned by Lute Mae has a repertoire that includes marrying Dan Reynolds, the man behind the states political machine and moving to Flamingo Road.

Lane Bellamy’s move to Flamingo Road is to get revenge on Sheriff Titus Semple. But even if it is a ploy to elude Semple away from her and Dan, the fierce storm still continues to brew as Titus Semple is determined to cause harm to anybody who crosses paths with Lane. His latest scheme is to frame Dan Reynolds and have him stand down as governor.

As time progresses more corrupt actions evolve when Deputy Fielding Carlisle who Semple was trying to make governor gets swept into a severe state of dipsomania. Unable to elude the bottle and in fear of Semple, Fielding commits suicide in Lane’s new Flamingo Road mansion. This latest scandal only exacerbates the situation when Semple starts circulating rumors regarding Lane and Fielding.

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Without rehashing too much of the plot, the pivotal question is will Lane Bellamy be able to survive the cyclone known as Sheriff Titus Semple, and will she be able to save her husband from scandalous activities?

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TRIVIA

Ann Sheridan was originally suggested for the role of Lane Bellamy, but in the long run it went to Joan Crawford.

Flamingo Road was adapted into a television series in 1980.

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CAST

Joan Crawford: Born Lucille Fay LeSueur on March 23rd, 1904, 1905, 1906 or 1908 in San Antonio, Texas. Died: May 10th, 1977 in New York. Cause of death: Pancreatic Cancer/ Heart attack. To this day Joan’s birth year remains a mystery.

Sydney Greenstreet: Born Sydney Hughes Greenstreet on December 27th, 1879 in Sandwich, Kent, England. Died: January 18th, 1954 in Hollywood, California. Aged 74. Cause of death: Bright’s Disease and Diabetes.

Zachary Scott: Born February 21st, 1914 in Austin, Texas. Died: October 3rd, 1965 in Austin, Texas. Aged 51. Cause of death: Brain tumor.

David Brian: Born August 5th, 1914 in New York. Died: July 15th, 1993 in Sherman Oaks, California. Aged 78.

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The following article was written for the Great Villain Blogathon. For the purpose of this blogathon, the article contained a few plot spoilers. I also want to apologize for my writing not being up to par. I’ve been suffering from a writer’s block for the past week.

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13 thoughts on “JOAN CRAWFORD VERSUS SYDNEY GREENSTREET IN FLAMINGO ROAD ( 1949 ) THE GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON

  1. says:

    Joan Crawford AND Sidney Greenstret in the same movie? How come Flamingo Road has escaped my radar until today? You convinced me: I’ll add it to my watchlist!
    Thanks for the kind comment!
    Kisses!
    Le

    Like

  2. christinawehner says:

    This was one of the first Joan Crawford films I ever saw, actually, but it has been so many years, you remind me that I need to revisit this one. Sydney Greenstreet is seriously frightening in this one. Really enjoyed your review!

    Like

  3. Silver Screenings says:

    I’m another one who has never seen this film. It looks intriguing, even though it was panned by critics at the time. I’m dying to see Sidney Greenstreet and Joan Crawford duke it out on screen! 😉

    Thanks for providing some background to the film, e.g. the turmoil Joan C. was experiencing at the time this film was made. What a disappointment it must have been, especially when there were such high hopes.

    Thanks also for joining the blogathon, and for bringing Flamingo Road with you!

    Like

  4. Tim Leggoe says:

    How have I not heard of this film til now? It has such a great pedigree and most of what I’m looking for in a classic film! Really enjoyed the post and can’t wait to track this film down.

    Like

  5. Barbara Bryant says:

    CRYSTAL another great review. I definitely want to see this movie. You have a way with words. You definitely should write a book my friend. Thank you for sharing this with me.

    Like

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