Matinee Idols: Joan Bennett
From my adolescent years, I still remember my passionate reaction to seeing Vincente Minnelli's Father of the Bride, in which Joan Bennett plays the mother of the young Elizabeth Taylor. Although Taylor was the star, my immediate reaction was: Wait a minute, the mother here is much more exciting! OK, the daughter is striking, but in a rather cold and conventional way, while it is the mother who radiates the unconditional attraction! Bennett's great late role, that of the housewife in Max Ophuls's supreme The Reckless Moment (where she gets emotionally involved with the wretched James Mason), confirmed not only the allure of her mature beauty but also the unique way her appeal remains the same whether she plays the evil femme fatale, the anxious housewife or the vulnerable bride (in Fritz Lang's Secret Beyond the Door).
Two further details from Bennett's personal life helped to sustain my daydreaming: Politically, she was reported to be leaning toward the left (so it was politically correct to fantasize about her); plus she was very short-sighted, unable to discern more than the contours of the people around her without glasses or lenses, so maybe even an ugly guy like me has a chance with her… So when I saw her in her ultimate femme fatale role, in Lang's The Woman in the Window, the only question that bothered me was: Did Lang do it with her or not? To satisfy that obsession, I was for years perusing biographies and even talked with people who knew people who knew her or Lang. Today, she still reigns supreme in my imagination.