As the film begins, a confused and distraught woman (Joan Crawford) wanders the streets of Los Angeles, inquiring about the whereabouts of a man named David.
After passing out in a coffee shop, she is taken to a hospital, where an examination reveals she has fallen into a non-traumatic stupor, a diagnosis which finds her immediately admitted to the psychiatric unit.
The woman's name is Louise Howell, and as the doctors seek to help her, her story is brought to life.
Completely in love with David Sutton (Van Heflin), Louise is devastated when he breaks things off with her. Telling her that he doesn't love her the way she loves him and that he feels smothered by her, David has determined that the best thing to do is to end the relationship. He believes Louise will even be glad of it one day.
Hysterical at the thought of losing David, Louise begs him not to leave, even assuring him she would do anything for him; David, who doesn't love Louise and doesn't want to be tied down by her, will not be swayed, though, and to put distance between them, he agrees to take a job in Canada.
Nurse to the invalid wife of wealthy Dean Graham (Raymond Massey),Louise lives with the Grahams in their lakefront home.
Mrs. Graham has come to believe that her nurse and her husband are having an affair, and she even writes a letter to her college-age daughter, Carol (Geraldine Brooks), informing her of that fact.
There is no affair going on, but to make things easier on Mr. Graham, Louise is willing to give up her job. He convinces her to stay on, however, and not long afterwards---on one of Louise's days off---Mrs. Graham drowns in the lake. Though Louise's nursing skills are no longer needed, Dean asks her to remain in his employ, as a caregiver to his young son. Louise agrees...and she moves to Washington with the family. Eventually, Dean---who tells Louise she is a part of his home and his life---asks her to marry him, and although she isn't in love with him, she does believe she can make him happy, so she accepts his proposal.
Though Louise appears to be happy and stable, the old obsessiveness soon comes bubbling to the surface. David Sutton, who is a longtime friend and business partner of Dean, makes an appearance at their wedding reception, and as if seeing him again isn't bad enough, it would appear that her new step-daughter, Carol, may just be the woman who has captured David's heart.
Still obsessed with David herself, Louise will do whatever it takes to keep Carol and David apart. How it all plays out is the balance of the film.
Possessed is an amazingly acted film. Joan Crawford's portrayal of the obsessive, possessive, fanatical love-crazed woman is completely brilliant. Without question, she was worthy of the Oscar nomination she received for her work here. And Van Heflin...well, this is THE FILM which began to change my mind about him. Prior to my first viewing of Possessed, I had little regard for Mr. Heflin...even thought him kind of wimpy; however, after seeing him here, my eyes were opened to a whole new side of him, and as I have already made known, the more of his films I discovered, the more I came to like him. While some might see his character as callous and unfeeling, I didn't see him that way at all; rather, I see him as a man who simply wanted to extricate himself from a love affair gone bad. I'm not overly familiar with Raymond Massey, but generally when I've seen him, he has been a villianous character, so seeing him as a decent guy was a bit odd. (It worked, though.)
This film is out on DVD, so it should be fairly easy to track down. Plus, it is on the TCM schedule for Tuesday, June 12th at 8:00 p.m. (EDT). Hope you get a chance to see it. Joan Crawford and Van Heflin fans ought to especially enjoy this one.