Friday, August 4, 2017

Movies Every Day 4: Autumn Leaves (1956)

"The only trouble is, with the future, it comes so much sooner than it used to."

Why I'm Watching

  • Recently got the boxed set of Crawford in the 1950s and thought it was time to break it open.
  • Joan Crawford was in her 50s when she filmed this movie. I'm trying to get a feel for the new age bracket I'm joining. 
  • Looking forward to seeing Ruth Donnelly, who I've enjoyed in a number of 1930s movies.
  • Fourth film I've seen directed by Robert Aldrich after Kiss Me Deadly, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, and Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

The Gist

Middle-aged Millie is swept off her feet by a charming younger man. While initially rejecting him due to their age difference, it's only after she finally agrees to marry him that she begins to find out who he really is, and whether or not he truly loves her. 


  • Middle aged women and mental illness have been a part of quite a few Robert Aldrich movies I've seen.


  • Love the Nat King Cole opening of "Autumn Leaves," but especially surprised to learn it was originally a French song composed by Joseph Kosma, who composed music for many of my favorite French films, with lyrics by my favorite writer and poet, Jacques PrĂ©vert.
  • Millie gets 2 balcony tickets for the symphony and rather than worrying about scaring up a date, goes alone and trades up for an orchestra seat. 
  • Burt Hanson coercing Millie to share her table at the restaurant with him and then conversing awkwardly with her, telling her she's lonely, raises red flags. 
  • Burt said, "Gee, your shoulders are white," and then kissed Millie in the ocean. I did not see that coming, nor expected the whole laying down in the surf to kiss some more.
  • Burt lets himself into Millie's place, sitting inside listening to "Autumn Leaves" until she shows up, and Millie is delighted rather than alarmed.
  • So, okay, when Burt says they never did dance together and swings her into his arms to the tune, it's easy to see how she could ignore the red flags.
  • The couple is seeing a Mr. Magoo cartoon in the theater. 
  • He wants her to go to Mexico to get married before she has a chance to change her mind.
  • Burt's very young ex-wife, Virginia, showed up at the door in a bare shouldered white dress (I now understand Burt's comment about how white Millie's shoulders are), informing Millie that she only got the divorce decree a month prior and Burt didn't know about it. Apparently, he took off, without a word to anyone, and got himself in trouble shoplifting, before he enlisted. 
  • Joan Crawford never ceases to amaze me with her talent.
  • I've never seen Lorne Greene like this before. This is no distant relation of Ben Cartwright or Cmdr. Adama. This guy is super slippery.
  • It turns out that Burt's pop is doing Burt's young ex-wife and they're trying to get property away from Burt. He flips out and thinks Millie is in league with them, so he decides to slap her around and smash her hand with a typewriter, and later forgets that he did it.
  • Millie is worried that if Burt goes to the sanitarium and is 'cured' that he might not love her or need her anymore. Dr. Couzzens confirms that she may be a "neurotic need" that he won't have use for once he's cured. 
  • It was a pretty harrowing scene when the men in white coats come to take Burt away, as he threatens to cut her guts out, and with Millie turning the faucet on full blast and covering her ears to try and block out the sound of the siren as Burt is taken away.
  • Shock treatment. Yikes! And more shock treatment.
  • Millie's upset that Burt didn't write to her while at the sanitarium.


  • Why did Burt choose Millie? Is it purely physical attraction or do these two share interests beyond the beach and the movie theater?
  • What happened to Burt's mom? 
  • Why did his first wife decide to take up with his dad?
  • Why didn't Millie visit Burke at the sanitarium during his stay?


  • Millie is highlighted during symphony while all others in audience are blacked out as she reflects on past memories.
  • Millie plays "Autumn Leaves" on the jukebox just before Burt Hanson makes his way to her table. It plays whenever they have a romantic moment together, as well as at the opening and closing of the film.
  • Contrasting two relationships with an age disparity to address the double standard of the older woman-younger man vs. older man-younger woman.
  • Odd angles of the phone in relation to Millie when she calls Dr. Couzzens to commit Burt. 
  • Quite a few shots of Millie from below so that she looms large. 

Notable Quotes

Liz (to Millie): That's life. If it ain't a squeak it's a squawk.

Millie (to Liz): Well, at least you have a family. That's something you can't win on a quiz show.

Burt: There we are!
Millie: Do you like it?
Burt: Well, that's a nice suit. But, then look who's in it.

Liz: Of course you did the right thing. You can't play tic-tac-toe with your personal feelings, that's disaster. A regular earthquake for the nervous system.
Millie: That's the problem with leading a sheltered life, someone comes along and you react like a schoolgirl. You don't know any better. Then the first thing you know, you've made a fool of yourself. And at my age, that is not very becoming.
Liz: Ah, forget it. You've got the whole future ahead of you.
Millie: The only trouble is, with the future, it comes so much sooner than it used to.

Burt: I found the door unlocked, so I just came in and waited.
Millie: I'm glad it was unlocked.
Burt: You are?
Millie:  Well, I...I wouldn't want you climbing through one of the windows. Some of the neighbors might not understand.

Burt: I took out a girl from ladies' sportswear. Found out she was secretly in love with Gregory Peck. She had his autograph so we sat and stared at it for one whole evening like some mystic ceremony. Now, can you picture that?
Millie: Yes, of course. You see, I'm in love with Gregory Peck too. Matter of fact, I resent this girl's interfering with my secret love. 

Burt: Aw, Millie. You wouldn't want me to spend the rest of my life with a bubble-gum addict, would you, Millie?
Millie: Sorry, I goofed!
Burt: You goofed? Hey man, that's 'bop' talk. Where did you ever pick that up?
Millie: Well, why shouldn't I pick up an expression here and there? I'm not THAT old!

Burt: Now I know why you married me. For my cooking.
Burt: My cooking. That's a good one! Canned orange juice, instant coffee, and I'm still trying to find some canned, buttered toast.
Millie: I'll tell you what I really like about you. The way you sleep at night...with your nose all crinkled up. I could strangle you the way you pull the covers off me, leaving me cold and shivering.
Burt: When I look at you in the morning, I can always think of reasons not to go to work.

Virginia: Sure, he should be committed!
Millie: Of course, you'd want me to commit him, get him out of your life, put him away permanently someplace where he can never again remind either one of you of your horrible guilt; how you and you had committed the ugliest of all possible sins, so ugly that it drove him into the state he's in now!
Mr. Hanson: What kind of a woman are you to be satisfied with only half a man? There must be so...
Millie: Even when he doesn't know what he's doing, he's a saner man than you are! He's decent and proud. Can you say the same for yourselves? Where's your decency? In what garbage dump, Mr. Hanson? And where's yours, you tramp?
Mr. Hanson: I don't have to listen to that!
Virginia: She's the one who's crazy!
Mr. Hanson: She has to be crazy to put up with that weakling!
Millie: You, his loving, doting fraud of a father? And you, you slut! You're both so consumed with evil, so rotten! Your filthy souls are too evil for Hell itself!

Millie (to Burt): There's something unladylike about a black eye on a woman.

Liz (to Millie): Being in love is never easy. And the more in love you are, the less easy and more lonesome it gets.

Memorable Moments

Love It or Leave It

Love it. It almost becomes a bit of psychological thriller though it's a romance at heart. It's interesting to see a relationship between an older woman and younger man portrayed in the 1950s, and I thought it was effective the way the relationship between the older man and younger woman was presented to expose the double standard. It's not a perfect film, but Joan Crawford is always fun to watch.

Similarities, Surprises, Puzzles and Patterns is adapted from the Grid Analysis Technique developed by the British Film Institute from Aidan Chambers 'Tell Me' Questions.

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