Original theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Charles Walters|
|Based on||Why Should I Cry? (1949)
by I.A.R. Wylie
|Music by||Adolph Deutsch|
|Cinematography||Robert H. Planck|
|Edited by||Albert Akst|
|Box office||$1.7 million|
Torch Song is a 1953 American Technicolor musical romantic drama film distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and starring Joan Crawford and Michael Wilding in a story about a Broadway star and her rehearsal pianist. The screenplay by John Michael Hayes and Jan Lustig was based upon the story "Why Should I Cry?" by I. A. R. Wylie in a 1949 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. The film was directed by Charles Walters and produced by Sidney Franklin, Henry Berman and Charles Schnee. Crawford's singing voice was dubbed by India Adams.
Torch Song has gained note for the musical number "Two-Faced Woman" from The Band Wagon in which Crawford, in blackface, lip-syncs to Adams' voice while writhing with male dancers. The film marked Crawford's return to MGM after a ten-year absence. Her original recordings for the soundtrack, which were not used in the film, have survived and been included in home video releases.
Jenny Stewart is a tough Broadway musical star, alienating her colleagues with her neurotic demands for absolute perfection. Jenny takes offense when her new rehearsal pianist Tye Graham criticizes her song stylings and ruthless ways.
Graham was blinded in World War II but fell in love with Jenny when he was a young reporter. Deep down, Jenny yearns for a real and lasting love but is disenchanted with the men around her such as Broadway parasite Cliff Willard.
At the home of her mother, Jenny discovers an old newspaper clipping in which Tye reviewed one of her first shows and made it evident he loved her. Jenny realizes she is loved, goes to Tye, and they embrace.
Otis Guernsey, Jr. in the New York Herald Tribune wrote, "Joan Crawford has another of her star-sized roles...she is vivid and irritable, volcanic and feminine...Here is Joan Crawford all over the screen, in command, in love and in color, a real movie star in what amounts to a carefully produced one-woman show."
Torch Song was regarded as a return for Joan Crawford, who, when the picture was released, was fresh off an Academy Award nod for her performance in Sudden Fear, the previous year.
According to MGM records, the film made $1,135,000 in the US and Canada and $533,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $260,000. The film is now regarded as a camp classic, and a possible influence on Faye Dunaway's portrayal of Crawford in Mommie Dearest.