Marian Martin (Joan Crawford) is an unrepentant gold digger. She’s a factory worker from Erie, Pennsylvania, but she would love to be a high society dame. Her boyfriend Al Manning (Wallace Ford) is a fellow working class guy and is content to stay that way. But Marian knows her only real chance at being a wealthy woman is to marry for money. On her way home from work one day, she meets the wealthy Wally Stuart (Richard Gallagher) when he passes by on a train. Wally is drunk at the time and tells Marian to look him up if she’s ever in New York. When Al finds out that Marian was spending time with another man, he’s livid and his reaction is enough to drive Marian straight to New York.
Marian arrives in New York and goes straight to Wally’s apartment, but he doesn’t remember her. However, he does give her some advice on meeting rich men. And as luck would have it, she catches the eye of Wally’s friend Mark Whitney (Clark Gable). Mark is divorced and doesn’t want to re-marry because he’s afraid of being hurt again. However, he does turn Marian into a kept woman and they carry on an affair for three years. He even has her pose as Mrs. Moreland, a rich divorcee, to make their arrangement appear more respectable.
While Marian has been in New York with Mark, Al has been back in Erie starting his own concrete company. His business is doing well and when he comes to New York on business, he visits Marian and proposes to her, not knowing about her relationship with Mark. She turns him down, but when he finds out she knows Mark Whitney, he uses her as a connection to get a meeting with Mark. However, Mark’s attitude toward marriage has changed now that he’s considering running for governor, despite the damage it could do to his campaign. Not wanting to hurt Mark’s campaign, Marian breaks it off with him to marry Al instead. But when Al finds out about her affair with Mark, he wants nothing to do with her unless she uses her influence with Mark to help him seal that business deal. Marian leaves Al, but will Mark take her back?
Joan Crawford and Clark Gable starred in eight movies together and Possessed is one of the best of the bunch. Not only is their chemistry completely on point, Possessed is a perfect example of why I’m so fond of many movies from the pre-code era. It’s full of the boundary-pushing material that makes the era so interesting to many people. The story is very efficiently told; Possessed clocks in at a whopping 76 minutes and not a minute of it is wasted. Plain and simple, it’s a very sharp little movie.