Flamingo Road (1949) Blu-ray Review

4 Stars Another notable Joan Crawford-led film noir.
Flamingo Road Screenshot

Joan Crawford’s exploration of film noir continues unabated in Michael Curtiz’s Flamingo Road, an engrossing melodramatic exposé of small-town political corruption and its effects on a handful of citizens on either side of the law.

Flamingo Road (1949)
Released: 30 Apr 1949
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 94 min
Director: Michael Curtiz
Genre: Drama, Film-Noir, Romance
Cast: Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott, Sydney Greenstreet
Writer(s): Robert Wilder, Edmund H. North, Sally Wilder
Plot: A corrupt small town sheriff manipulates local candidates to the state legislature but he eventually comes into conflict with a visiting carnival dancer.
IMDB rating: 7.1
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 34 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 03/14/2023
MSRP: $21.99

The Production: 4/5

Joan Crawford’s reign at Warner Bros. continued with Michael Curtiz’s 1949 noir melodrama Flamingo Road though for the first time there appeared some small fissures in the formula that had been working so well since the star and director had resuscitated her career four years earlier with Mildred Pierce. Flamingo Road examines the world from a smaller vantage point, but there are plenty of snakes in the grass for our heroine to cope with, and Crawford triumphs despite some rather obvious reservations.

Carnival girl Lane Bellamy (Joan Crawford) decides she’s sick of the carny life and sets off on her own in small town Bolton run with an iron fist by its rotund sheriff Titus Semple (Sydney Greenstreet). Semple has definite political plans for his protégé Fielding Carlisle (Zachary Scott), but when Field starts dating Lane, Titus hurriedly puts an end to it, not wishing his pick for the future governor of the state to be tied up with a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Blackballed in town, Lane gets a job at a roadhouse owned and operated by Lute Mae Sanders (Gladys George) where she meets the state’s leading political boss Dan Reynolds (David Brian). Dan is smitten immediately, and they quietly marry moving to Bolton’s most upper-class street Flamingo Road and stoking the ever-rising ire of the vengeful Titus Semple.

The screenplay by Robert Wilder and Edmund H. North was based on a play by Robert and Sally Wilder, and it packs a great deal of narrative within its ninety-four minute running time. As the tune “If I Could Be with You” ebbs and flows on the soundtrack (sometimes vocalized by Joan Crawford herself), Lane Bellamy’s rise from dirt poor carnival cooch dancer to jewel-encrusted political matriarch parallels other rags to riches sagas for which Crawford was known both at Warners and previously at MGM. But the several angry confrontations between Lane and Titus bring the bracing electricity to the movie that holds our attention firmly, something not found in either of her romantic encounters with both Field and Dan (the Field romance doesn’t last long broken up by Titus, and Dan’s declaring “I’m crazy about you, Lane” after knowing her less than fifteen hours is rather ludicrous under any circumstances). Director Michael Curtiz’s workmanlike approach to helming the film keeps the story flowing smoothly but doesn’t offer him much in the way of stylish directorial touches, the several sequences set at Lute Mae’s respectable roadhouse providing the most atmospheric moments in the production. There’s not a lot of detail in the backroom political deals that make up part of the motivation for the drama being played out by the various political bosses in the movie with Dan and Titus wrestling for power (All the King’s Men made at Columbia this same year and winner of the year’s Oscar as Best Film was much more focused on that), but it’s a convenient hook for all of the primary characters to dangle from.

Joan Crawford gives a dynamic, earnest, and highly professional performance, the equal of much of her already lauded work since moving to Warners, but she’s at least fifteen years too old for the role (and looks it), a fact we have to struggle to ignore to enjoy her work here to the fullest. David Brian, a fairly tough brute with a tender side, begins the first of three co-starring parts opposite Joan Crawford, and he’s the perfect co-star for her at this stage of her career, the both of them rather hard-edged and forceful. Of course, Sydney Greenstreet walks away with every scene, chortling in that singularly creepy way of his and letting his enormous girth aid him in establishing his dominance of every scene or situation. Zachary Scott makes a handsome alcoholic doormat for Titus’ bullying and bluster and clicking with Joan Crawford here just as well as he did with her in Mildred Pierce. Gladys George is wonderful in her few scenes as the seen-it-all/done-it-all Lute Mae, master of her own domain at her establishment and someone who can push back with the best of them, even to an adversary as boorishly threatening as Titus. Fred Clark has an agreeable role for a change as the small-town newspaper editor determined to fight the good fight against crooked politicians.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. The image is grand: sharp and detailed with excellent grayscale resulting in deep black levels and crisp, clean whites. There are no anomalies at all with the image making for a captivating viewing experience. The movie has been divided into 26 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is solid and authoritative. Dialogue is always clear and concise, and Max Steiner’s background score (with “If I Could Be with You” and “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” leaned on heavily as musical motifs) and the sound effects are all blended with surety. There are no problems with hiss, crackle, pops, and flutter.

Special Features: 4/5

Curtain Razor (7:17, HD): Porky Pig animated short

Crawford at Warners (12:09, SD): Peter Fitzgerald’s excellent, concise documentary on Crawford’s Warners career with learned comments from historians Richard Barrios, Molly Haskell, Jeanine Basinger, Bob Thomas, and daughter Christina Crawford.

Screen Director’s Playhouse (23:38) Crawford and Brian offer a radio adaptation of the film.

Breakdowns of 1949 (10:25, HD): outtakes from some Warner films of the year.

Theatrical Trailer (2:00, HD)

Overall: 4/5

Joan Crawford’s exploration of film noir continues unabated in Michael Curtiz’s Flamingo Road, an engrossing melodramatic exposé of small-town political corruption and its effects on a handful of citizens on either side of the law. The Warner Archive Blu-ray features exemplary picture and sound and comes with a firm recommendation.

Matt has been reviewing films and television professionally since 1974 and has been a member of Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2007, his reviews now numbering close to three thousand. During those years, he has also been a junior and senior high school English teacher earning numerous entries into Who’s Who Among America’s Educators and spent many years treading the community theater boards as an actor in everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to Stephen Sondheim musicals.

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Robin9

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Thank your this review. I'm not a Joan Crawford fan but I am a big admirer of Michael Curtiz and I always enjoy Zachary Scott and Sidney Greenstreet so I will definitely buy this disc.
 

Mark Mayes

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I watched this last night... And really loved it, rather than just '" liking" it. That hasn't always been the case because I also agree that Joan Crawford is a bit too old for this role. But she does a great job and I like her work and the film better each time I see it.
 

Stephen_J_H

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Never seen this, though I am curious. Given my age, I hear Flamingo Road and think of the nighttime soap from the early 80s starring Mark Harmon and Morgan Fairchild. That was mildly diverting, but I fully expect this to be superior.
 

Santee7

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I over spent my budget this month due to Kino sale, but in May, grabbing this because Sydney Greenstreet is the best Brit as Southerner since Laughton, in Advise and Consent.
I think he steals the whole picture.
 

Robin9

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I over spent my budget this month due to Kino sale, but in May, grabbing this because Sydney Greenstreet is the best Brit as Southerner since Laughton, in Advise and Consent.
I think he steals the whole picture.
Since?
 

benbess

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Thanks to this perceptive and overall positive review, I picked this blu-ray up. Hadn't seen it before, and as the review detail it's a solid movie, but a step down dramatically from Mildred Pierce. PQ, however, is excellent.

It was a bit shocking for me to see, however, the physical decline of Sydney Greenstreet since Casablanca. He seemed to me to be in significant discomfort for much of the movie, and it didn't surprise me that this was about the end of the line for him when it came to movie acting. He seemed ill, which was sad to see.

The movie itself was still a solid piece of entertainment, reflective of the studio's often economical narrative style. Where MGM, for instance, would often have movies of two hours, or sometimes even two and a half, this 94-minute abbreviated epic is more in the Warner Bros. manner of brisk storytelling.

This movie capped an impressive 15-year run of mostly hits for Curtiz, which unfortunately pretty much ended with this picture. Most of his movies for his last three years at Warner did only so-so at the box office. Then he came back with a box office smash for Paramount, the first VistaVision movie White Christmas. Then came another flop, with the ancient-world color film noir, The Egyptian, in CinemaScope for 20th Century Fox.

It's now possible to have quite a good at-home Michael Curtiz film festival. I think I'd do these Curtiz movies on blu-ray. I'd skip the early 30s horror movies, and instead start with....

The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938 (although hoping for a 4K remaster of this one)
Angels With Dirty Faces, 1938
Dodge City, 1939
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, 1939
The Sea Wolf, 1941
Captains of the Clouds, 1942
Yankee Doodle Dandy, 1942
Casablanca, 1942
Passage to Marseilles, 1944
Mildred Pierce, 1945
Romance on the High Seas, 1948
My Dream is Yours, 1949
Flamingo Road, 1949
Young Man with a Horn, 1950
White Christmas, 1954
The Egyptian, 1954

I wonder if there will be any other Curtiz movies from Warner Archive this year or next?


flamingo road best.jpeg
 
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