A Belgian poster for “Humoresque,” listed on EBay for $6.99.
I am going to spoil two films for you, so stop reading now if you have not seen What Price Hollywood? (1932) and Humoresque (1946).
Lowell Sherman and Joan Crawford, respectively, commit suicide at the end of the films. And these are my favorite movie suicides: one of them gritty and brutal and realistic, and the other over-the-top Movie Magic.
What Price Hollywood? was the precursor to the three—and someday, maybe four—versions of A Star I Born. Lowell Sherman played washed-up director Max Carey, who mentors up-and-coming actress Mary Evans (Constance Bennett). In this version, they are platonic friends, which is actually more interesting. But the ending is the same: Max realizes he is running Mary’s life and career, and when he sees what he’s become, he doesn’t walk romantically into the ocean, he just shoots himself. Lowell Sherman is astonishing:
In Humoresque, Joan Crawford does walk romantically into the ocean, in four of the most beautifully lighted, scored and acted minutes of Golden Age cinematography you will ever see. Joan’s Helen Wright is also ruining the life of her young protégé, violinist John Garfield. So she does what any dipsomaniac socialite would do, and—in a black sequined Adrian gown—walks into the Pacific.
Anyone who says Joan Crawford was not a damn terrific actress, watch how she wordlessly expresses despair and then resigned acceptance:
Someday I gotta write a piece about how much better the work of “Movie Star” Joan Crawford has aged than some performances of “Serious Actresses” Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo.