Joan Fontaine, Born to Be Bad
Joan Fontaine is an actress who never lets me down… I love her in everything. Anytime I revisit one of her films, I’m struck by just how wonderful she was. Never overplays her hand, never phones it in (even in the smaller, seemingly trivial scenes in a film, she’s always completely in the moment).
She’s particularly mesmerizing in the role of Christabel in Born to Be Bad. In fact, I’m uncommonly familiar with most actresses of Joan’s time and can’t think of another who would have done this role as much justice as she did. The way she effortlessly flips a switch from saint to sinner with her eyes, alone, fascinates me. Many stars seemed to think you had to go BIG in moments like this, but Joan Fontaine proved that subtlety often comes across as much more genuine and believable.
I’m rambling, here, but it’s sometimes difficult to describe a star’s magic – you simply have to experience it for yourself.
Born to Be Bad (1950) was directed by the wonderful Nicholas Ray. Joan’s co-stars include Robert Ryan, Zachary Scott, Joan Leslie, and Mel Ferrer.
Joan Fontaine’s character Christabel is a conniving wolf in sheep’s clothing. She uses everyone around her for her own selfish gain and it is deliciously entertaining to watch. It’s honestly almost (almost) impossible to hate her because she’s so good at being so bad. The facial expressions, body movements, things she does with her voice… it’s all, as I said earlier, mesmerizing.