When Joan Crawford saw The Shining Hour on stage, she pleaded with the studio to let her spread her acting wings in the film version. She got her wish, playing a New York siren who marries a prosperous farmer (Melvyn Douglas) and moves to Wisconsin. There she is drawn to his handsome brother (Robert Young), even as she befriends the brother's selfless wife (Margaret Sullavan, Crawford's choice for the role). The passionate triangle plays out in the best tradition of classic screen melodrama: glossy and chic, but resonant with honest emotion. And the movie's heart-stopping climax with Crawford battling flames to rescue Sullavan from certain death in a house fire is, both literally and figuratively, incendiary filmmaking.

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