The Cobweb. 1955. USA. Directed by Vincente Minnelli. Screenplay by John Paxton, based on the novel by William Gibson. With Lauren Bacall, Richard Widmark, Charles Boyer. 35mm. 125 min.
Minnelli’s melodrama explores the concept of the patients running the asylum. When the head doctor at a psychiatric clinic suggests that the patients design and make new drapes for the common room, the project highlights the myriad psychoses and traumas of patients, staff, and families alike. For those who work at the clinic, all manner of past slights, unkind words, and festering tensions bubble to the surface while the redecoration is underway. Veteran actress Lillian Gish gives a gritty performance as a woman who has been neglected all her life but resolves not to accept another moment of disrespect.