Female on the Beach might not make most people’s list of Joan Crawford’s best movies but it’s an entertaining crime thriller with a definite tinge of camp.
Lynn Markham (Joan Crawford) owns an expensive beach house (you have to wonder where would crime movies of that era have been without beach houses). She inherited it from her late husband. We will later learn that Mrs Markham had been a showgirl and that her marriage was more about her husband’s money than anything else. Now she’s decided to move into the beach house.
It had been rented out to a Mrs Crandall, who dies in mysterious circumstances. She want straight through the railing on the balcony and fell to her death. But did she fall or was she pushed?
Mrs Markham soon makes the acquaintance of Drummond Hall (Jeff Chandler). Drummy (as he’s known) is always hanging around. He owns a boat but doesn’t seem to work. It doesn’t take long for Mrs Markham to realise he’s a gigolo and that the nice aunt and uncle he lives with, Osbert and Queenie, are actually his pimps. They also operate a sideline in card cheating. Mrs Crandall had been Drummy’s previous project but she’s become too clingy and demanding.
Lynn Markham knows the score and knows all about men like Drummy, but at the same time she’s a lonely woman and she has a bit of a taste for handsome studs like Drummy. She’s willing to marry Drummy who claims to have fallen in love with her. She’s happy to let herself believe it. And to ignore the warnings of the detective investigating the demise of Mrs Crandall.
Crawford is never less than entertaining and she captures Lynn Markham’s mix of cynicism and desperate longing for love rather well. Jeff Chandler is all oily charm as the gigolo Drummy. Cecil Kellaway as Osbert and Natalie Svchafer (best known as Mrs Howell from Gilligan’s Island are delightfully immoral and scheming.
There’s enough overheated melodrama to provide plenty of enjoyment. It’s all great fun.