God, Joan Crawford is a terrible actress. TCM keeps running her films ad nauseaum, and they just suck.
In one film, she plays a student returning to her old college to get an honorary degree and see old flame Robert Montgomery (now the college president). Only, she hides a "terrible secret" (she never actually graduated), and Montgomery is fighting the college's conservative culture that drove her out. A lot of hand-wringing and worried looks, but Crawford a) never comes off as an educated woman, b) doesn't do much more for 90 percent of the film except stand around, and c) delivers her critical speech like someone barking orders at the maid.
In another film, she's a zero-believability gangster who learns she's losing her eyesight. She travels across the country to have the operation, and falls in love with her doctor. Her second-in-command, some schmoe of a gangster, travels to see her and decides to kill the doctor. The FBI arrests everyone after Joan turns state's evidence. Most of her scenes make her out to be a weak-kneed, besotted young (?) woman who can't stop mooning over her man. Despite the film's repeated assertions that she's a vicious gangster, she comes off like a Miss Lonelyhearts in love.
In yet another film, Crawford gets to play to her strength: She's a bitch of a Broadway song-and-dance star (with a painted-on tan) surrounded by weak men who meets a blind pianist who isn't cowed by her. But this ain't no Taming of the Shrew: It's packed full of awful, time-worn clichés about how lonely it is to be a star, sacrificing art to relationships, and "I can't control you if I love you", etc. Furthermore, this 1953 film actually shows Crawford in BLACKFACE! BLACKFACE!!!
Increasingly, I find Joan Crawford to be an actress of limited range and NO emotional depth. Most of her films have preposterous plots that are silly to the point of surrealist absurdity.