There’s a rather intriguing dramatic quality to this American version of an original Swedish production (from a French play, Francis de Croisset’s Il etait une fois) which had Ingrid Bergman as star. In a story of a woman’s handicap and final regeneration.
Opening with the court trial of Joan Crawford for murder, the story is developed through various stages by testimony of the several witnesses – and finally the defendant herself. Dramatic suspense is maintained by keeping the victim’s identity well hidden for a surprise climax.
Crawford is the victim of a childhood accident which left her face distorted and disfigured. Case-hardened and calloused, shunning people generally, she drops into a criminal career. Romantic approach of Conrad Veidt is the first she has had and she accepts his flattery with love-hungry adoration.
She meets plastic surgeon Melvyn Douglas whose offer of an operation is gladly accepted. Veidt then persuades her to take a job as governess on his uncle’s estate – and to murder the child-heir that stands in his path to wealth inheritance.
Crawford has a strongly dramatic and sympathetic role, despite her hardened attitude, which she handles in topnotch fashion.