The Cobweb (1955) – Entire film

Writers: John Paxton (screenplay) William Gibson (additional dialogue)

Marks the return of Lillian Gish to MGM after a 22-year absence.

With barely a pause, Lillian went to work in yet another picture, this time at her old studio, M-G-M. That her stock had risen is clear in the appearance of her name, occupying an entire screen, above the title of The Cobweb, albeit the last after the more important actors, Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Charles Boyer, and Gloria Grahame. Vincente Minnelli directed this high-powered cast that included newcomers John Kerr and Susan Strasberg, in the story of doctors, staff, and patients in the Castle House Clinic for Nervous Disorders.

Described in the script as “a woman in her fifties, thin and fierce,” Lillian plays Victoria Inch’s ferocity to the hilt in a one-note performance whose overwrought mode is shared by a number of other actors, including Grahame and Widmark. The screen time allotted to the officious Miss Inch is limited, but Lillian makes a strong impression nonetheless with pursed lips, rapid-fire line deliveries, purposeful gait, and nearly unrelieved anger. This impatient, nasty spinster was exceptional for Lillian and might have given a new direction to her movie career. At last permitted to doff her angelic halo, this was her first unsympathetic role. It led, however, to no others, and in fact, three years passed before she was again engaged for the movies.

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