Torch Song (1953 film)

Torch Song is a 1953 American Technicolor musical drama film distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and starring Joan Crawford and Michael Wilding in a story about a Broadway star and her blind rehearsal pianist. The screenplay by John Michael Hayes and Jan Lustig [de] was based upon the story "Why Should I Cry?" by I.A.R. Wylie in a 1949 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. The film was directed by Charles Walters and produced by Sidney Franklin, Henry Berman and Charles Schnee. Crawford's singing voice was dubbed by India Adams.

Torch Song
Torch Song.jpeg
Original theatrical release poster
Directed byCharles Walters
Screenplay by
Based onWhy Should I Cry? (1949)
by I.A.R. Wylie[1]
Produced by
CinematographyRobert H. Planck
Edited byAlbert Akst
Music byAdolph Deutsch
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • October 23, 1953 (1953-10-23)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.7 million[2]

The film has become notorious because of the musical number "Two-Faced Woman": Crawford performs in blackface and body makeup while dancing with a large chorus of male and female dancers, also in blackface. However, Crawford's facial makeup is not a disrespectful caricature of a black performer, as can be seen in other blackface performances during that period. She wore a dark-brown foundation with no exaggerated features. Crawford lip-syncs to the recording Adams originally made for Cyd Charisse in a number discarded from the 1953 film, The Band Wagon. [3] That's Entertainment III includes a segment presenting the two numbers side-by-side, in split screen.[4][5]

The film marked Crawford's return to MGM after a 10-year absence. Her original recordings for the soundtrack, which were not used in the film, have survived and have been included in home video releases.


Jenny Stewart is a tough Broadway musical star, alienating her colleagues with her neurotic demands for absolute perfection. Jenny takes offense when her new rehearsal pianist Tye Graham criticizes her song stylings and ruthless ways.

Graham was blinded in World War II but fell in love with Jenny when he was a young reporter. Deep down, Jenny yearns for a lasting love but is disenchanted with the men around her, such as Broadway parasite Cliff Willard.

At the home of her mother, Jenny discovers an old newspaper clipping in which Tye reviewed one of her early shows and made it evident he loved her. Jenny realizes she is loved, goes to Tye, and they embrace.


Musical numbersEdit

  1. "You're All the World to Me" – Danced by Crawford and Walters
  2. "Follow Me" – Sung by Crawford (dubbed by Adams)
  3. "Two-Faced Woman" (outtake) – Sung by Crawford (dubbed by Adams)
  4. "You Won't Forget Me" – Sung by Crawford (dubbed by Adams)
  5. "Follow Me" (reprise) – Sung by Render (dubbed by Lee)
  6. "Two-Faced Woman" – Sung and danced by Crawford (dubbed by Adams) and chorus
  7. "Tenderly" – Sung partially by Crawford along to a recording by Adams


Otis Guernsey Jr. in the New York Herald Tribune wrote "Joan Crawford has another of her star-sized roles...she is vivid and irritable, volcanic and feminine...Here is Joan Crawford all over the screen, in command, in love and in color, a real movie star in what amounts to a carefully produced one-woman show."[6]

Torch Song was regarded as a return for Joan Crawford, who, when the picture was released, had received an Academy Award nomination for her performance in Sudden Fear from the previous year.

According to MGM records, the film made $1,135,000 in the U.S. and Canada and $533,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $260,000.[2] The film is regarded as a camp classic and a possible influence on Faye Dunaway's portrayal of Crawford in Mommie Dearest.[citation needed]


Rambeau was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the 26th Academy Awards.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  3. ^ "The Band Wagon", Wikipedia, November 7, 2020, retrieved November 22, 2020
  4. ^ "That's Entertainment! III", Wikipedia, December 15, 2020, retrieved January 1, 2021
  5. ^ "That's Entertainment! III". Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  6. ^ Quirk, Lawrence J.. The Films of Joan Crawford. The Citadel Press, 1968.

External linksEdit