Follow TV Tropes


Film / Possessed (1931)

Go To

Possessed is a 1931 film directed by Clarence Brown, starring Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. (And they're billed in that order, with Gable after the title, since Crawford was the established star and Gable was just hitting it big).

Marian Martin (Crawford) works in a cardboard box factory in Erie, Pennsylvania. She has a suitor in fellow laborer Al Manning, but Marian wants out of her grim lower-class existence. A chance encounter with alcohol-drenched rich dude Wally Stuart inspires Marian to go to New York for the express purpose of landing a rich man.

Marian is young and good-looking so she succeeds, landing one Mark Whitney (Gable), an ambitious, high-powered lawyer. The only problem is that Mark refuses to marry her; Mark was scarred by an ugly divorce involving an adulterous wife and refuses to expose himself to that again. So Marian becomes a kept woman. At first they're both OK with this, but eventually Marian starts to chafe at the social stigma of being a mistress, while Mark gets political ambitions that don't jibe well with having a mistress.


No connection to a completely different film called Possessed from 1947 that also starred Joan Crawford.


  • The Alcoholic: Wally is drunk most of the time. When Marian visits him in New York he wryly remarks that she was lucky to catch him sober.
  • Blunt "Yes": When Marian, at her first meeting with Mark, is challenged about whether she's after his money.
    Travers: Careful, Mark, she's only after our money.
    Mark: Are you?
    Marian: (Beat) Yes.
    Mark: Honest, aren't you?
    Marian: You wouldn't want me to lie to you, wouldn't you?
    Mark: That's almost the only thing I could never forgive you.
  • Creator Cameo: Clarence Brown appears as a man on the merry-go-round at the amusement park.
  • Exploding Calendar: 1928-31 is demonstrated by Marian's arm ripping a year at a time off a calendar. Amusingly, every time Marian's arm enters the screen, it has another diamond bracelet on.
  • Advertisement:
  • Face Framed in Shadow: Marian, listening from a darkened gazebo, as Mark's friends tell him that he has to cut her loose if he's going to be elected governor, while Mark insists that he'll marry her. Immediately afterwards she breaks up with him, pretending that it was her idea.
  • Funny Background Event: Al is walking with Marian past the hardscrabble shacks that the factory workers live in. As he is trying to sell her on the wonders of getting married, we see in the background a woman trying and failing to stop her obviously intoxicated husband from leaving the house.
  • Gold Digger: Marian is extremely frank and unapologetic about looking for a man to maintain her in style.
  • Match Cut: From Wally on the train, pouring a glass of champagne for Marian, to Al back at home, pouring melted ice cream into a bowl, Marian having missed their dinner appointment.
  • The Mistress: Marian is Mark's. She's OK with being a kept woman, and he's OK with her being a kept woman, but when Mark's drunk friend brings a hooker to a party, the parallel is a little too close for comfort.
  • Romantic Rain: It's pouring rain outside when Mark dashes out of the meeting hall and says he'll marry Marion no matter what happens to his political career.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Marian wears these every time she's dressing up.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Marian and Mark are getting ready to go to a fancy dinner. He puts a mink coat on her shoulders. They embrace. The mink coat falls to the ground. Cut to the next scene where Marian and Mark are an hour late for the fancy dinner.
  • Speak in Unison: Marian and Al, as they go through the rote rituals of greeting each other after three years apart. They say, in perfect unison, "Well, you've certainly changed....I never would have known you....Just think, three whole years."
    Marian: Now that that's over, I want to hear all about you.
  • There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: Wally Stuart is swilling champagne from the first-class cabin of a train compartment while chatting with Marilyn, who is standing on the platform. He tells her "Only two kinds of people, the ones in, and the ones out." This is what leads Marian to go to New York.
  • Verbed Title
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: The film ends with Mark and Marion's reunion and we never find out if he won the election.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: