Few actresses other than Joan Crawford could have successfully pulled off the melodramatic excesses of Autumn Leaves. Though a very attractive fortysomething, Crawford remains aloof from romance until she meets Cliff Robertson, a young man half her age. An ardent and persistent suitor, Robertson finally breaks down her resistence to marriage.
After a few weeks of wedded bliss, Crawford is confronted by Vera Miles, who claims to be Robertson's first wife. Miles further insists that Robertson is mentally unbalanced...and his subsequent behavior seems to bear this out.
What Crawford doesn't know-but the audience does-is that the real villains of the piece are Miles and her middle-aged lover, Robertson's own father (Lorne Greene). Autumn Leaves works far better on screen than it does in print, thanks to the virtuoso performances of practically everyone in the cast.
And, as anyone who's listened to top-40 radio during the past four decades already knows, the film also yielded a hit title song, written by Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prevert, and Johnny Mercer and performed during the credits by Nat King Cole.