24. A Woman’s Face (1941)

Directed by George Cukor
Written by Donald Ogden Stewart
Starring Joan Crawford, Melvyn Douglas, and Conrad Veidt

I never would have thought of murdering children for their trust funds. Yet here we are, two movies in one week, made a decade apart, that suggest it’s a stock criminal enterprise. The sophisticated, chaotic evil Torsten masterminds the plan and charges Joan Crawford’s Anna with carrying it out. TIL you can manipulate burn victims if you treat them with dignity. But that’s not enough to make Anna feel beautiful. After botching a blackmail job and spraining her ankle, she meets cute with the cuckolded Dr. Gustaf Sergert. He looks at her face and, like Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds, thinks, This just might be my masterpiece. Anna’s scars disappear after a series of painful surgeries. When did the word governness fall out of fashion? At the trial, the story of Anna’s murder of Torsten unfolds during the testimonies of several diverse witnesses. I heard somewhere that the act of remembering reconstructs, rather than replays, events. Something is lost or distorted with each recollection. Like how many times have I thought about when I got onstage at a club and thanked the bartender for letting a nineteen-year-old kid drink? Most of the details are gone: the name of the bar, how much I drank, which of my friends dragged me back to my apartment. But the feeling of shame remains, which is really all that matters. Today X and I got a letter from her aunt wishing us a happy wedding anniversary, which I totally forgot was this month. A lot of folks in our families don’t get that we only married for health insurance, and not because I wanted to make a good woman out of X, which is the only reason anyone ever gets married in old Hollywood. Yet here we are, still legit two years later. I think we’re supposed to give each other something cotton-themed? Last month I bought a twelve-pack of kitchen towels on Amazon because our old ones were falling apart. That probably counts.

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