(Viewed 9/4/2015, available on Netflix)
Maybe the moral of this story is that ambitious women shouldn’t get married. Maybe the moral of this story is that ambitious women are unstable and will come to unsavory ends. Maybe the moral of this story is that forcing social roles onto people creates monsters.
Barbara Stanwyck’s Kathy goes from an ambitious journalist to a stifled housewife to a conniving and manipulative antihero. One of the reasons that I love and return to Film Noir is the presentation of flawed, but still very human characters. Viewers can identify with Kathy up until her last couple of turns. Who hasn’t been so caught up in the excitement of love that they make bad decisions? Who hasn’t been so bored by a mediocre party that they wanted to run screaming? We start losing her when she begins to manipulate the people around her, first out of “love” for her husband, and then out of the pleasure of fulfilling her own ambition, and we get to follow her dark journey towards violence and desperation.
I think that, maybe,at the time of its release, Crime of Passion was meant to convey a moral tale about learning to be happy in your station in life. Crime of Passion was made during the Hays Code era, and therefore bad behavior must be balanced with punishment. Not that Kathy should get away with her transgressions . . .
Despite the emphasis on punishing characters for behaving outside of carefully stipulated norms, I see a feminist subtext that makes the movie work for a modern viewer. I watched Crime of Passion like a tragedy about a woman trapped into a stifling life without any outlets for her own needs and wants, slowly descending into darkness.
I can recommend this movie for anyone looking for a drama or would like to see some solid acting from well-known silver screen actors. It’s a pretty accessible movie even though it comes out of a different era in movie making. Barbara Stanwyck delivers a fair performance, and Fay Wray (yes, that Fay Wray) plays a small role in the movie as well. The leading man, Sterling Hayden as Police Lieutenant Billy Doyle, comes across convincingly as a manipulatable rube. Raymond Burr (yes, that Perry Mason) does well as the hard-boiled Police Inspector that has Kathy’s number from the start.