Thursday, December 18, 2014

"The Night Gallery" Joan Crawford portrait

I hate to be on a Joan Crawford run, but I just can't help but writing about this fantastic painting I saw in an old rerun of the Night Gallery. Actually, I only saw the pilot episode. I wasn't in love with the series and it certainly wasn't as good as The Twilight Zone. But there was something about it that still attracted me. While it might not have been the best show ever, there was still that wonderful Rod Sterling touch, that beautiful eeriness, and most importantly... art!
If you don't know anything about the Night Gallery, it ran from 1970 to 1973. They all featured eerie horror stories hosted by Rod Sterling. The way the show worked was that Rod would introduce a painting and then the actual "story" part would be the explanation of why that painting was so secretly horrific. Like I said, after but one episode, I'm no expert about the show, but apparently episodes were less sci-fi (in the light of the Twilight Zone) and more supernatural. I'll just take Wikipedia's word for it.
I saw the entire pilot which was comprised of three paintings and therefore different stories. The first and the third, I could take or leave. But, I loved one episode, "Eyes." And if you look at the details, it's easy to see why. It was directed by Stephen Spielberg, in one of his earliest directorial positions, and it starred none other than the queen of melodrama herself, Miss Joan Crawford.
The story opens with an eerie portrait of Joan Crawford looking directly out at the canvas (another engaging Crawford portrait). In "Eyes," she plays a mean-spirited, wealthy blind woman who buys the eyes of a hapless, ignorant gambler for a risky surgery. She blackmails everyone to get the illegal surgery to happen but, as it so happens, karma is a real bitch. I won't ruin the ending, but it's a worthwhile watch. The whole episode (all three stories) will leave you a little unsettled.
A show completely based around art is such an appealing concept. The premise of the show is really the premise of the blog: art holds deep secrets and much meaning. We might not see it initially, but once we understand, the understanding helps grow our appreciation of the piece and of the power of art in general.

The Joan Crawford painting, titled "Eyes," is dated from 1969 and was painted by one of my favorite TV/movie artists, Jerry Gebr, the legendary Universal artist. Gebr did a lot of work for the Night Gallery and his talents were certainly very much in demand for an art-based show. I don't know the details of the painting, but I assume due to time constraints, that Gebr did the painting off a photo instead of off of Crawford herself. He still did a magnificent job, capturing Crawford in all her elegance. At the same time, the almost expressionist styling really lends to the feelings of the ominous and the horrofic.

1 comment:

  1. Joan Crawford had no problem doing a "mean spirited" character. This was in the pilot episode. I was more intrigued by the oil of the fisherman in the story about the Nazi in South America. Perhaps "The Escape Route" would interest you to the point of providing the background in that one. It has two images, but I prefer the fisherman to the crucifixion.


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