In this 1947 Warner Brothers film noir, Joan Crawford plays Louise Howell Graham, an unstable
woman with an obsession for ex-lover David Sutton, played by Van Heflin, and her resulting madness.
The film begins with Crawford’s character, Louise, dazed and walking the streets of Los Angeles looking for “David.” She enters a diner where she collapses and is taken to the psychiatric ward of a nearby hospital. In an effort to understand the nature of her problem, Dr. Harvey Willard coaxes Louise to relate her story. How did she end up this way, and what pushed her over the edge?
In the state of Washington, Louise had been working as a nurse caring for the wife of Dean Graham, played by Raymond Massey. Engineer David Sutton, who is both a neighbor and friend of Dean shares a casual relationship with Louise. Casual, that is, to David. However, Louise is completely intoxicated with David and believes herself so in love with him that she feels she will burst if she does not express these feelings along with her desire to marry him. Louise is certain that David must feel the same about her.
He does not. Not only is David not in love with Louise, he is angered by her smothering possessiveness. The rejection shocks Louise who demands that they stop seeing one another for good. Dean has been unaware of the affair between his wife’s nurse and his friend and neighbor. One day David comes over to talk with Dean to ask him for a recommendation as David has an opportunity for a great job in Canada. Louise, unable to control her obsessive feelings toward David, overhears the conversation and begs David to take her with him to Canada. He refuses and leaves without her.
Shortly after, tragedy strikes the Graham family. Mrs. Graham drowns while Louise is away at the local village. Already distraut over David’s leaving, Louise is now racked by guilt over the death of Mrs. Graham. Had she only not gone to the village, the death would never have occurred.
That evening, Dean Graham’s daughter Carol confronts Louise accusing her of having an affair with her father that drove her mother to drown herself. Louise denys the false accusation, but the denial does not satisfy Carol’s suspicions.
Louise’s emotional stability is being pushed to the limit. With David gone, the death of Mrs. Graham, and Carol’s accusation, Louise slips closer and closer to the edge.
As Louise tries to remove David from her life he returns from Canada. His reappearance and actions now seem as though he is taunting her love for him and constantly reminding her that she will never be able to have him in the way that she wants.
Unexpectedly, Dean Graham proposes marriage to Louise. Though she does not love Dean, Carol accepts the proposal believing that this will enrage and make David jealous. David crashes their marriage ceremony and when introduced to the grown up Carol immediately begins to take an keen interest in her. Louise’s plan has backfired. Not only does David not show any jealousy she herself becomes jealous of David’s interest in Carol.
Once the relationship becomes serious between David and Carol, Louise starts to have delusions and hallucinations about the reality that is around her, and often times cannot discern between what is real and unreal.
A final confrontation between David and Louise can only lead to tragedy.
The story of Possessed reveals the agonizing and torturous experience of a scorned lover who is torn apart by the unrequited love of someone who toys with the rejection.
This 1947 film noir was one of Joan Crawford’s finest screen performances earning her an academy award nomination for best actress.