Joan Crawford cops all thesping honors in this production with a virtuoso performance as a frustrated woman ridden into madness by a guilt-obsessed mind. Actress has a self-assurance that permits her to completely dominate the screen even vis-a-vis such accomplished players as Van Heflin and Raymond Massey.
Heflin’s part of a footloose engineer who romances his ladies with one eye on the railroad schedule is now drawn with equal sharpness. By sheer power of personal wit, however, Heflin infuses his role with charm and degree of credibility despite a lack of clear motivation for his behavior.
Unfolding via flashback technique, film opens with a terrific bang as the camera picks up Crawford wandering haggard and dazed through Los Angeles until she collapses. In the psychiatric ward of the local hospital, under narco-hypnosis, she relives the series of personal blows that ultimately reduced her to schizophrenia.
Despite its overall superiority, Possessed is somewhat marred by an ambiguous approach in Curtis Bernhardt’s direction. Film vacillates between being a cold clinical analysis of a mental crackup and a highly surcharged melodramatic vehicle for Crawford’s histrionics.
1947: Nomination: Best Actress (Joan Crawford)