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Sudden Fear

Sudden Fear
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Miller
Produced by Joseph Kaufman
Screenplay by Lenore J. Coffee
Robert Smith
Based on the novel Sudden Fear 
by Edna Sherry
Starring Joan Crawford
Jack Palance
Gloria Grahame
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Charles Lang
Edited by Leon Barsha
Joseph Kaufmann Productions
Distributed by RKO Pictures
Release dates
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.65 million
(USA rentals)[1]

Sudden Fear Is a 1952 American thriller film noir directed by David Miller, and starring Joan Crawford and Jack Palance in a tale about a successful woman who marries a murderous man. The screenplay by Lenore J. Coffee and Robert Smith was based upon the novel of the same name by Edna Sherry.[2]


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Reception 3
    • Critical response 3.1
    • Noir analysis 3.2
    • Accolades 3.3
  • Home media 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Myra Hudson (Crawford) is a successful Broadway playwright who rejects Lester Blaine (Palance) as the lead in her new play. Later, she meets Lester on a train bound for San Francisco, is swept off her feet, and, after a brief courtship, marries him.

Lester learns that Myra is writing her will and plans to leave the bulk of her fortune to a foundation. He plots her murder in cahoots with Irene Neves (Gloria Grahame), an old girlfriend hiding in the wings.

Myra discovers their plans and concocts a diabolical scheme to kill Lester and place the blame on Irene, but cannot bring herself to go through with it. Lester learns of Myra's intention and chases her through the streets of San Francisco. Myra is able to avoid him, she realizes that he has mistaken Irene for her and tries to stop him but he accidentally runs Irene down and crashes the car killing himself. Myra overhears the two pronounced dead and breathes a sigh of relief as she walks off safely into the night.



Critical response

When the film was released, the film critic for The New York Times, A. H. Weiler, reviewed the film favorably, writing, "Joan Crawford should be credited with a truly professional performance in Sudden Fear ... The entire production has been mounted in excellent taste and, it must be pointed out, that San Francisco, in which most of the action takes place, is an excitingly photogenic area. David Miller, the director, has taken full advantage of the city's steep streets and panoramic views. And, in his climactic scenes in a darkened apartment and a chase through its precipitous dark alleys and backyards he has managed to project an authentically doom-filled atmosphere."[3]

Otis L. Guernsey, Jr., also wrote a positive review in the New York Herald Tribune. He wrote, "The designed to allow Miss Crawford a wide range of quivering reactions to vicious events, as she passes through the stage of starry-eyed love, terrible disillusionment, fear, hatred, and finally hysteria. With her wide eyes and forceful bearing, she is the woman for the job."[4]

More recently, film critic Dennis Schwartz liked the film, but questioned some of the film's plot points. He wrote, "David Miller stylishly directs this disturbing psychological gargoyle thriller ... [Yet] ... the suspense is marred by plot devices that don't hold up to further scrutiny. Joan Crawford has a chance to act out on her hysteria after her happy marriage is unmasked as a charade, and does a fine job of trying to remain calm while knowing her hubby and girlfriend are planning to kill her ... The film is grandly topped off by Charles B. Lang Jr. and his remarkably glossy black-and-white photography."[5]

Crawford received her third and final Oscar nomination for this film, the one and only time she competed against archrival Bette Davis for Best Actress, who was nominated (for the ninth time) for The Star. Neither actress won: Shirley Booth took home the prize for "Come Back, Little Sheba".

Noir analysis

In 1984, film noir historian Spencer Selby noted, "Undoubtedly one of the most stylish and refined woman-in-distress noirs."[6]


Laurel Awards win

  • Golden Laurel: Best Dramatic Performance, Female: Joan Crawford

Academy Awards nominations

Golden Globes nomination

  • Best Motion Picture Drama Actress: Joan Crawford

Home media

Sudden Fear was first released on VHS by Kino Video. Kino also released the film on Region 1 DVD in 2003. In 2006, the film was also released as part of Film Noir - The Dark Side of Hollywood DVD box set by Kino Video.


  1. ^ "Top Box-Office Hits of 1952", Variety, January 7, 1953.
  2. ^ Sudden Fear at the TCM Movie Database.
  3. ^ Wiler, A.H. The New York Times, film review, "Sudden Fear, Cleverly Turned Melodrama, Is New Bill at Loew's State", August 8, 1952. Accessed: July 14, 2013.
  4. ^ Quirk, Lawrence J.. The Films of Joan Crawford. The Citadel Press, 1968.
  5. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, February 12, 2005. Accessed: July 14, 2013.
  6. ^ Spencer Selby (1984). Dark City: The Film Noir. McFarland Classic.  

External links

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