Taking a Shot: Possessed (Clarence Brown, 1931)

Clarence Brown’s Possessed may not be a great film –it isn’t even the best movie called Possessed that stars Joan Crawford– but it does have one great moment. Crawford plays Marion, a box factory worker who’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve a better life for herself. While walking home one night, a train slows to a halt in front of her, the windows rolling by like a strip of film. The people she sees all seem happier than her, even if we do begin on the lower rungs of the social ladder:

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Marion doesn’t want to be the hired help, of course. She wants to be more like these people:pos6pos3pos4

We don’t need to see Marion’s face to understand how she’s affected by these glimpses of wealthier, more romantic lives.

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When the train finally comes to a halt, Marion encounters her ticket into New York high society. He’s no Clark Gable, but that’s who she’ll wind up meeting, through brazen ingenuity of her own. After that, well, as we watch Marion dealing with her not-entirely comfortable life as a kept woman, we could ourselves be the ones outside a window, looking in.

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