The Cobweb (1955)

USA, Vincente Minnelli

High ’50’s melodrama directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Richard Widmark and Lauren Bacall as two therapists at an upscale mental hospital where the staff is more unhinged than the patients. The plot turns on the replacement of curtains in the main room. I kid you not. Who knew so much drama and hysteria could be wrung from a wall full of drapery?

Lacking the lush tones and symphonic strains of a Douglas Sirk film, The Cobweb is a hoot for all the wrong (right?) reasons. Being the ’50s, characters are smoking and drinking constantly; I don’t think there’s a single scene were someone’s not either swilling a martini, lighting up or both. Around the three-quarters mark I started to lose interest in the shenanigans of these pretty much unlikable (and uninteresting) characters, but it picks up in the end.

It is worth it to see Lillian Gish in a rare unsympathetic role, as the long-time employee and penny-pinching manager named Miss Inch (her name says it all.) It’s interesting to note that the same year of this film’s release, Gish was in the outstanding film Night of the Hunter, as the rifle toting, Bible quoting protector of two orphans stalked by a very sinister Robert Mitchum.

Here’s the Gist: Entertaining soap opera, though why it was shot in CineMascope I couldn’t tell you. No one needs to see that much of Richard Widmark or Oscar Levant. [**1/2]

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One thought on “The Cobweb (1955)

  1. In ’50s movies such as this, I always expect at least one character to go up in flames, the result of their constantly lighting up cigarettes right next to their ever-present highballs. Now that would be worth seeing in Cinemascope!

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