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Possessed (1947)

Walking the lonely streets of the big city at dawn, Joan Crawford is the tormented heroine of Curtis Bernhardt’s Possessed (1947), another disturbing tale of Post War domesticity coming apart of the scenes. In the opening shots of the film, in a beautifully designed sequence shot mostly from her character’s point-of-view, Crawford is wheeled into a mental hospital and dispassionately examined by a series of baffled doctors; she has completely “shut down,” and no one can figure out why. You’ll have to see the film for yourself to discover the answer; suffice it to say that, as with Leave Her To Heaven, any film that depicts such a disquieting vision of society in freefall is inextricably linked to the social milieu that created it.

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About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him or his website,

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