The Anniversary

Gasser

The Anniversary (1968)

The Anniversary (1968)

Each time I turn to a movie Bette Davis made late in her career, I expect to see something comically bad. In both of these instances I’ve been wrong. Both movies had been conveyed as horror movies, which is largely what supported my theorem of horridness. In the case of Burnt Offerings, I was amazed to find I’d discovered a great horror movie and one in which Davis is neither ridiculous looking nor acting. In this latter case of The Anniversary, I found neither a horror movie nor a bad show by Davis; however, she does affect a ridiculous eye patch.

The Anniversary rolls out more like a play. It is dialogue heavy, occurs primarily in one place and transpires over the course of one day. To start, Shirley (Elaine Taylor) arrives at a construction site in search of her fiancé, Tom Taggart (Christian Roberts). This revelation that Tom is engaged shocks the man’s brothers and fellow construction site workers Terry (Jack Hedley) and Henry (James Cossins). Their real concern for this news is that it is sure to enrage their mother, who is celebrating her anniversary this day.

Despite her husband being long dead, Mrs. Taggart insists on making a big show of their wedding anniversary each year. The Taggarts own a building construction company with labor run by the sons. Mrs. Taggart’s shrewd business approach has resulted in sloppy and embarrassing construction work that has Terry, his wife, and five children prepared to move to Canada to escape the work –and the mother. This planned move is the other bomb to be dropped on Mrs. Taggart on her anniversary, but the old woman is in the know about both revelations.

The old woman picks at Shirley to try to underhandedly dissuade her from marrying Tom. Meanwhile, the mother is horrid to Terry’s wife, Karen (Sheila Hancock), at one point informing the husband and wife that the car transporting their children and driven by Henry has been in an accident, the children in “critical” condition. This lie is delivered to impress upon Karen what it feels like to lose a son, which is the equivalent of moving Terry to Canada.

Tom makes no bones about his disdain for his mother, playfully with Karen plotting her death when the old bag is out of the room. He’s intent on marrying Shirley, but his mother has scared away two previous fiancées. When Shirley stands up to the missus, Tom starts to feel like his chosen spouse is too like his mother. Shirley is pregnant, however, and when the fright of finding Mrs. Taggart’s glass eye in bed sends her into what might be a miscarriage, Tom opts to leave his mother forever. Terry follows suit while Henry retires to bed. The story allows no defeat of Mrs. Taggart, however, and her final actions on screen are thoroughly devilish against her sons.

An eye patch to match her outfit.

An eye patch to match her outfit.

Bette Davis, despite having a silly haircut and confusingly fashionable eye patch, is splendid in such a sinister role. She draws on much of the “bitch” training she had in many roles in her younger days, exacting control over her sons and their families. The other players, none of whom I am familiar with, also embody their parts swimmingly. Taylor plays both vulnerable and determined with the right balance as she tries to endure and go to war with her future mother in law. Hancock also is fun to watch as she spars with the matriarch and tries to make up for her meek husband. The men play their roles more timidly but portray the men we would expect to have developed under Mrs. Taggart’s hand.

The Anniversary was a good drama, but at only 95 minutes in duration, it felt incredibly long. This is probably because of the degree to which the drama relies on dialogue rather than action. It nevertheless is a good sit for those who want to see Davis still kicking it in 1968, when she was 60.

Housewife

Dullsville

Housewife (1934)

Housewife (1934)

In the olden days, women stayed at home, raised the kids, planned parties and didn’t ask what their husbands had been up to when they were “working late.” The subject made a great movie in the form of 1936′s Wife vs. Secretary, but in 1934 it did not make for an enjoyable subject as Housewife.

George Brent‘s Bill Reynolds is in the advertising business. He thinks very highly of himself as the office manager for an advertising agent, but his boss does not think terribly much of him. His wife Nan (Ann Dvorak) has become an expert at running the household on his small salary. When the boss hires a new copywriter in the form of platinum blonde Bette Davis‘ Patricia, things change.

Bill had known Patricia in high school, which is the same time he started dating his wife. Patricia went off to New York and became a big deal advertising writer. So big that she is given her own office at Bill’s firm, whereas he only has a desk outside the boss’ room. His old acquaintance –who had a thing for him back in the day– symbolizes the success Bill lacks.

When Bill gets a bright idea about marketing a client’s beauty cream at double the price by saying it is “double strength”, the boss cares not. Convinced of the brilliance of his idea, Bill takes the plunge and starts his own ad firm, eventually luring away the cosmetic company. Patricia joins the businessman in the new venture and both become very successful. The change is great for Nan as a more fashionable life takes over at home. What Bill is doing during those late nights at work, however, might drive her into the arms of another man. No worries, however, the near ruin of their relationship will mend the Reynolds’ bond and they will spend their lives dreamily gazing into the sunset.

I editorialized a bit on that ending for Housewife to illustrate how pathetic a conclusion we are presented in this flick. Despite the title of the movie, the husband and not the housewife occupies the most screen time and stands out as the story’s protagonist. We see more how his life is changed than how it affects the housewife. And given a choice between exotic and young Davis and home-based Dvorak, I think we’d all be choosing the former.

The story lacks the passion and emotion of Wife vs. Secretary and Brent is probably partly to blame there. Whereas Myrna Loy made us love the housewife for her loyalty and fun-loving personality, we find nothing much to like in Dvorak’s character.

Housewife is one of the 11 movies Brent and Davis made together (See also So Big and The Old Maid). That is more than most on-screen teams did together, yet one does not think of the two in the same vein as Hepburn and Tracy. For starters, at this juncture in their careers, Brent was filling bigger parts while Davis was a supporting player. As time went on and Davis finally got noticed for her talent more than her looks, the woman would become the headliner, such as in Dark Victory. It is a wonder a woman of such great talent spent so much on screen time with a man of such great looks, but nothing more.

So Big (1932)

Dullsville

So Big (1932)

So Big (1932)

Pulitzer Prize winning novels don’t always produce award-worthy movies. Case in point: the 1932 version of So Big. One can see why writers, directors and actors are attracted to award-winning books, but too often something happens between the first reading of the source material and the final editing that results in a lackluster final product.

So Big is the story of a young school teacher who marries and then must fight to save the family farm to secure the future of she and her son. Barbara Stanwyck plays the young woman in this William Wellmandirected version. She is propelled into the school teacher role in a one-room school house farming town after her gambler father is killed in the big city.

This Selena immediately wins the affections of the adolescent boy belonging to the family that has offered her lodging. Roelf (Dick Winslow) is forced to work on his father’s cabbage farm and cannot attend school, but Selena shares books that feed his desire for greater knowledge. Although other family members laughed at Selena’s first comment of the cabbage fields as “beautiful”, Roelf agrees and draws her a picture indicating so.

Roelf is upset when Selena attracts the attention of the most handsome man in town, Pervus, played by the not-so-handsome Earle Fox. The two eventually marry and have a 10-pound son, Dirk. Around this time, Roelf leaves home to find himself a better life. Not so much later Pervus gets sick and dies, leaving the farm work to Selena.

The years pass and Dirk (Hardie Albright) is now a young adult, living in the city, working as an architect’s assistant. His mother made the most of the farm by planting the newly popular asparagus vegetable. Her country home is large, and she was able to send her boy to college where he earned his architecture degree. But Dirk is dissatisfied with his $35 per week salary. He dreams of a fancier life and attempts to fulfill that dream by going around with a wealthy married woman. The dame offers to persuade her husband to hire Dirk as a bond salesman, thus giving Dirk the glamorous life he hoped for.

Selena is naturally disappointed in her son’s desires and personality. Somewhat mirroring her own feelings is the young painter Dallas, played by Bette Davis. Dirk meets her in his office where she is hired to draw an advertisement for the firm. He falls heavily for her, but she is less impressed by him, saying she instead prefers men with rough hands, who have fought for their livelihood.

Dallas leaves for Europe only to return in time to celebrate the return of Roelf (George Brent), now a famous sculptor. She accompanies both Roelf and Dirk to visit Selena, who is overjoyed at seeing Roelf again. As those two stand beside the window, Dallas tells Dirk that his mother is beautiful. End of movie.

Although So Big starts as a movie about the struggles of a young woman to make a place for herself, having lost a comfortable city existence afforded by her father’s unsavory mode of employment. She recalls her father’s advice and makes the most of life, never complaining. When we jump ahead in time, however, the movie switches gears to focus on Dirk, who has become a greedy, lazy man deserving of little respect. We see the movie almost become a romantic tale of Dirk and Dallas, but the picture offers no resolution. We expect to see Dallas choose between the two young men –and we naturally expect her to prefer Roelf– but the movie closes with no conclusion of the romance or of Dirk’s shitty approach to life. Roelf’s presence should drive home to both Selena and Dirk what a disappointment the latter is, but we never get to that point.

Besides being unromantic and uninspiring, So Big is incredibly slow and boring. One finds it hard to find much life in any of the characters. Bette Davis and her platinum hair jump off the screen for the short time she appears there, and George Brent at least doesn’t play his usual self, but Barbara Stanwyck disappoints. Despite her unending optimism, Selena is a depressing character to watch. Either her life circumstances are unappealing or she is pathetically old looking, making us pity her.

  • So Big is set for 11 a.m. ET May 12 on TCM.

Burnt Offerings

Gasser

Burnt Offerings (1976)

    I was not terribly surprised when Ryan accepted my offer to watch with me a movie Bette Davis made in the ’70s, which guaranteed “freaky, old Bette” fun. Both of us were expecting a campy, comically bad horror flick, not unlike those that became Joan Crawford’s specialty late in her career (see Trog, Strait-Jacket, and Berserk). We were both pleasantly surprised to find Burnt Offerings as a legitimate horror/thriller and Davis’ performance quite agreeable.

     Davis is actually a minor character in the flick that offers screen time to scarcely more than six individuals. She plays Aunt Elizabeth who joins her nephew Ben (Oliver Reed), his wife Marian (Karen Black) and their son Davey (Lee Montgomery)  in renting an old mansion for a summer. The home is run-down looking from the outside, but fine on the inside. It is in a secluded wooded area nearby a nothing of a town. The entire flick takes place on this property, giving the story a trapped feeling all around.

     The notion of dangerous houses is a regular theme in horror flicks, but Burnt Offerings takes the evil nature of an estate to literal lengths. When Ben and Marian interview the house owners Roz (Eileen Heckart) and “brother” (Burgess Meredith), they speak about the home as being immortal and said having the young boy around would be good for it. They were also overly pleased to hear an old woman would be staying with the family. They notify the renters that their mother lives in a third-floor room and that they will have to take her meals three times a day. She won’t be a bother or leave her room, they say.

     When the family arrives to move into the house for the summer, the brother and sister are absent, leaving a note that they had to exit early. Marian climbs to the top floor to check on the mother and finds an empty tray and dishes in the adjacent sitting room. The woman does not answer when she knocks on the door, so Marian presumes she is asleep. 

     Marian fills her days with cleaning and sprucing up the mansion while Ben and Davey explore the grounds and clean out the swimming pool. During their first dip in the water, however, Ben is overcome with some evil force and tries to drown the boy while Aunt Elizabeth screams at him to stop. Marian easily forgives this rough-housing got out of hand. The next strange occurence is the sudden awakening of all the clocks in the house that have been out-of-order. They all jump forward to midnight and chime while everyone is asleep. This prompts Ben to leave his bed, which is when he discovers the gas furnace is leaking in Davey’s room and his door locked. Aunt Elizabeth admits to being in the room earlier but denies any wrongdoing.

     Aunt Elizabeth, a woman described as energetic for her age, has become increasingly older in her appearance and too tired to leave her bed. One night she is literally green with illness. Ben and Marian try for a doctor, but he arrives after the woman has passed. Ben is now thoroughly convinced the house is evil, but Marian is too enthralled in the estate to leave it and too committed to the mother to leave her alone. When Davey is yet again put in peril, Marian is finally persuaded to part, but must return inside to tell the mother of their departure. When Ben goes after her, we find out what is behind the mysterious bedroom door.

     I don’t know that I can totally unravel the mythology at play in Burnt Offerings, but suffice it to say this house is not so much haunted as alive itself. It seems to prey on the young and old alike, taking their lives as a way of rejuvenating itself, such as through the flowers in the greenhouse that resurrect themselves after Aunt Elizabeth’s death, and the shingles and siding that shed to reveal younger versions. It’s a thrilling and creepy concept that is well executed.

     The hints of Marian’s madness or corruption are subtle with the gradual greying of her hair –which is restored when the family decides to leave– and her glances at the third-floor window when her personality changes. The practical effects, however few were necessary, add to the unsettling feeling the audience gets as we continually try to rationalize what has occurred. Burnt Offerings is a fantastically understated horror flick that only further establishes my growing fear of Victorian-era houses.

The Star

The Star (1952)

Ring a Ding Ding

     It is no Sunset Blvd., but Bette Davis did a fine job playing an actress gone “box office poison” who desperately seeks another part. The Star was released two years after the powerful William Holden-Gloria Swanson flick and treads along the same lines but holds its own if one’s not drawing comparisons.

     Davis is Margaret Elliot, the aging actress who upon the picture’s opening wanders buy an auction of her belongings. She is broke, a fact comically exacerbated by a sister and brother-in-law who come by the woman’s apartment demanding their usual check. Margaret has a daughter who at present lives with her ex-husband and his family. This Gretchen, played by a young Natalie Wood, adores her mother but must face the constant torment of her peers who say Margaret Elliot is no longer a star.

     Margaret tries to save face for her daughter’s sake but leaves her ex-husband’s mansion in tears. She ends up driving through the neighborhoods of the rich and famous in Hollywood while downing a bottle of liquor. She is chased by a cop before crashing her car and spending the night in jail. The next thing Margaret knows she’s been bailed out by ex-actor Jim Johannson (Sterling Hayden), who had worked with the woman on a movie before giving up his career to join the Navy and later bought a shipping yard.

     Jim tries to be the voice of wisdom and persuade Margaret that possibilities for life and career exist outside a soundstage. He convinces the woman to take a job as a department store clerk outside of town –acting her way through the interview– but she soon quits the position when two snooty shoppers recognize her.

     Margaret, with the help of her agent Harry Stone (Warner Anderson) goes to a studio head to ask for a part in a film she has been eyeballing for years. The producer Joe Morrison (Minor Watson) offers the actress the part of an older character as the lead is going to Margaret’s young rival. The old pro botches the screen test, however, by trying to make the part younger and flirtier. The star later speaks to a young writer about a part she would be perfect for, hearing the plot laid out like so much of her life, but she walks out to pursue the alternative lifestyle that had been before her all along.

      The Star might lack the murder, stalking, and insanity offered by Sunset Blvd. but it is far from lacking in the drama department. Davis does a fantastic job of expressing the range of emotions to which her character is subjected. Whether she is furious at her in-laws for asking for money, remorseful over the lies she has told her daughter about her stardom, depressed about her financial situation, or resigned to the steady decline of her lifestyle, Davis offers all with gusto. She has a few vibrant rageful rants, but none go over the top as might be easy to do. She earned an Oscar nomination for her effort.

     A variety of movies –A Star is Born being another great one– address the subject of declining fame. Actors often found their standard parts going to a younger generation and many struggled to reinvent themselves, or to convince the studios to allow them to do so. Ironically, Bette Davis is one star whose career never faltered as her character’s did in The Star. Davis’ odd beauty was already on it’s way out by the time this film was released in 1952 but she had so thoroughly defined herself as more than a pretty face that her sometimes frighteningly old facade (see Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) did not prevent her from finding work. She also maintained her career well despite acting as a free agent after a 1949 voluntary release from her Warner Bros. contract.

Source: Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine

Dead Ringer

Gasser

Dead Ringer (1964)

     In the midst of her Baby Jane/Sweet Charlotte phase of psycho old lady characters, Bette Davis revisited her experience playing a twin, but this time with even darker intentions than her characters in A Stolen Life had. Dead Ringer would ultimately be a movie Davis described as failing to achieve plausibility, despite changes to the original script to try to reach that goal.

     Davis plays sisters Edie and Maggie who have not seen each other for 10 years following Maggie’s marriage to the wealthy Mr. De Lorca, whom Edie was in love with. The two reunite at the man’s funeral and Edie joins Maggie at her lavish mansion where the widow acts utterly unaffected by her husband’s death.

     It was Edie’s understanding that Maggie and Mr. De Lorca married because the woman was pregnant, but the De Lorca chauffeur tells her no child was born to the couple. On top of that frustrating revelation, Edie learns she is being evicted from the bar she owns because of three months back rent due. Under the circumstances, Edie invites her sister to her apartment above the bar and kills her –staging it as a suicide– and then trades clothes and thus lives with the woman.

     Playing her sister’s part is not easy task, but the biggest hiccup in the ruse is the boyfriend from her former life, Detective Jim Hobbson, played by Karl Malden. Jim keeps visiting the new Mrs. De Lorca and naturally is intrigued by the similarities. Edie keeps him at bay, however. The murderess is finding ways to get around any detail that might give her away to friends and servants until she meets Maggie’s lover, Tony (Peter Lawford). It does not take this gold digger long to realize what Edie has done, and he works to blackmail her. Jim gets involved in the case that eventually leads Edie to realize both Tony and her sister had murdered Mr. De Lorca. Yet another death occurs before the police come calling for “Maggie” in her husband’s murder.

     The story for Dead Ringer was a nice concept along the lines of what can one do when both her identities are responsible for murder. My biggest hangup is that with any identical twin I have ever known, I could always tell the difference between the siblings. The same must be true of those closest to the two women, especially those who have spent 10 years apart and theoretically should have been subjected to different environmental circumstances that would at least have them wearing different dress sizes.

     Paul Henreid stepped behind the camera to direct Dead Ringer, and he did not do a bad job on that front, but the story had its flaws. Whenever the two Bettes appear on screen simultaneously, Henreid either used a divided screen technique whereby the actress never crosses to the side of the set occupied by the “other” Bette. This would allow Bette to perform one part at a time and the film to be combined. In other instances body doubles were used to provide the back of one Bette or the body of one wearing a dark veil.

     Dead Ringer is the sort of movie to watch out of curiosity and for the acting’s sake. The story might not be terribly realistic, but it is fun. It is a great pick for Bette Davis fans.

Cinematic Shorts: The Letter

Wowza!

The Letter (1940)

     For anyone who has ever seen Bette Davis in The Letter, I am sure there is one scene that we all retain as the most memorable: the opening one. We hear a shot fired and the camera brings us to a man stumbling out the front door of a house followed by Davis who continues to fire as the man collapses at the base of the porch steps. She pulls the trigger with a cold expression on her face, continuing to squeeze the trigger even after all bullets have been buried in the man’s body. This take has been featured in many movie montages about great films or Davis herself and is utterly unforgettable because of the woman’s carriage and emotionless delivery.

     In these opening few minutes we know that Davis’ character of Leslie Crosbie wanted her prey dead and that he was no stranger to her. We also easily surmise from her later account to authorities that not only is she lying about the moments leading up to the shots, but that this man Jeff Hammond was more than a casual friend.

     When I watched The Letter recently with my mother, I prepped her for the film by describing it as being about a woman who shoots her lover. Although it takes a while before that exact conclusion is laid out explicitly for the audience, it is difficult to draw any other explanation from the outset. Although Leslie acts stressed in telling the police and her husband (Herbert Marshall) about Hammond’s alleged rape attempt, she sort of laughs it off with the words flowing so effortlessly. As sweet as she behaves now, we cannot forget the woman we met in the opening moments whose gaze suggested a cold-blooded killer.

Davis is shot in multiple occasions with the prison-like shadows of window blinds.

     The plot is a well-convoluted story of what happens as Leslie is arrested and put on trial and the one piece of evidence that suggests a different relationship between Hammond and Leslie than the woman has been providing. This letter will take our anti-hero to dark places physically and emotionally, and the surmounting lies will eventually lead to her downfall.

     Davis gives an overwhelming performance as the woman we’re not sure we should be rooting for. She shows us a two-sided personality and draws us in so that we feel as miserable for her deluded husband as her in-the-know lawyer must.

     Director William Wyler paints a beautiful black and white scene for this flick set in the tropical locale of Malay. I cannot imagine this picture in color as it would lose so much of the intensity that the strong shadowing provides. Much of the film occurs at night making us feel as though Leslie has drawn us into the darkness of her world. Wyler also uses the moon’s light as clouds roll over it to both dim and brighten various scenes and capture Davis’ wide-eyed gaze. The Letter is truly a masterpiece in terms of acting and filmmaking.

  • The Letter is set for 11 p.m. ET Feb. 23 on TCM.

Feature: My Momentary Celebrity Obsession–Ida Lupino

Ida Lupino

I stumbled upon Ida Lupino utterly by accident while enjoying Bogart’s They Drive By Night. I was instantly spellbound by this rather unorthodox-looking woman who commanded the screen so significantly. I find it surprising that film history has left the woman rather unremembered considering her supreme talent.

I also rather identify with Lupino. Despite going through the typical blonde phase every newcomer to Hollywood seemed to endure, the woman’s early triumphs were as a dark-haired, scrawny and dark eye-makeup-clad gal, not too far flung from my own physical specifications. Lupino proved that her small body in no way would hinder her ability to give big shows that beat down even the toughest men. Her voice was full of sass in these days, and boy is she a sight to see.

Unfortunately, she often viewed herself as a less desirable alternate to Bette Davis, having also worked at Warner Bros. and often taking the scraps Davis turned down. I do not really see any comparison between the two, however, besides that both often played strong women.

As her career progressed, Lupino aged well into more mature roles that showed little of that small woman of past prowess but still held the same talent always present. Despite her on-screen abilities, Lupino would actually become quite well established in directing television.  She also developed production companies to find talent rather than provide it herself.

Somehow Lupino managed to win no awards over her career of more than 60 acting roles, seven directed pictures, and dozens of television episodes and specials. Perhaps this adds to her obscurity in Hollywood history. One need only watch one of her roles in the 1940s to be taken by her obvious skill. It is a wonder the Academy and others did not see it as well.

Feature: Movie Posters from Italy

I have noticed through my searching for movie posters to accompany the 150+ movies I’ve blogged about so far that the Italians produced much more appealing posters than the American-created ones. I cannot be sure why this is. Are the Italians more artistic? More risqué?  Or is it just that the look of an Italian movie poster for a picture made in the U.S. is just different than to what we are accustomed? Below are a few examples I’ve stumbled across with the Italian images on the left. If you have spotted any other examples let me know, as I’m likely to come across others requiring a follow-up post down the road.

ITALY vs. AMERICA

Perhaps a semi-nude Rita Hayworth would have been too scandalous for American movie-goers, but this Italian poster for Salome is simply striking not only because of the actress’ gorgeous form, but the color scheme is simply beautiful.If you didn’t know what Dark Victory is about, you might just be confused by the foreign poster, but knowing that the woman faces blindness, that wispy shadow across her eyes is telling versus the expressionless Bette Davis in the American poster.I purchased this Italian version of Funny Face after I was frustrated to find no U.S. version featured the famous “funny face” photograph of Audrey Hepburn that inspires the title song. I was also always disappointed to find that no original poster for Citizen Kane featured the memorable image of Orson Welles standing in front of the picture of himself. Granted the Italian poster does not offer this either, and perhaps it is not your cup of tea, but it’s pretty cool.

Now, there is little difference between these two Chinatown posters but what strikes me the most –and what inspired me to recently purchase the Italian version– is that Faye Dunaway‘s eyes in the clouds are much more vibrant and obvious in the foreign poster.

That Certain Woman

Gasser

That Certain Woman (1937)

     That Certain Woman is anything but a standard romance story or even a typical romance that must fight against scandal. Unfortunately, the sheer complexity of this Bette Davis-Henry Fonda story really drags the movie down as it becomes increasingly heavy with plot elements and its lack of realistic motives.

     Davis as Mary Donnell, formerly Mrs. Al Haines, gangster, has turner her life around since her husband’s death and works as a secretary to a big shot lawyer with whom she is considerably simpatico. Fonda is Jack Merrick who has been seeing Mary for three years and has just returned from Europe desperate to marry, displaying a supreme passion for the woman. Mary requires Jack to swear off his wealthy father’s support and get a job if she is to agree to the union. Mary’s boss, Lloyd Rogers (Ian Hunter), also a friend of Jack’s, insists on their immediate marriage –Jack’s father be damned– even sharing Mary’s sordid past with her hubby-to-be.

     On the wedding night, however, Jack’s father, played by Donald Crisp, hunts the couple down and expresses outrage that his son has allowed this low-down woman to ensnare him. Seeing that Merrick Sr. is putting up a better fight than her spouse, Mary leaves the hotel and returns to her old flat she shares with roommate Amy (Mary Phillips) and waits for her beau to show up. A year and nine months later, Mary and her son Jackie are still waiting when the mother learns Jack has married another woman in France. Almost immediately thereafter Mary, while at work, discovers that couple is hospitalized after an automobile accident. Lloyd sends his secretary away to rest and deal with the grief and the next we see her it is three years later and she is living in a lavish flat funded by her boss.

     By this point Mary is warming up to Lloyd’s now obvious feelings for her, but she knows he will never fill the void reserved for Jack. When a very ill Lloyd wanders to her apartment and ultimately dies on her sofa, the newspapers are all over the story of a mobster’s wife and her love nest. Reporters also question and imply that Lloyd is the father of young Jackie. Jack now reappears in Mary’s life and is curious about the boy, taking longer than expected to realize it is his son. Jack’s wife was paralyzed in the car accident and is wheelchair-bound, but learning of the son, he is determined to leave her and return to his true love. SPOILER That wife even comes to see Mary and beg she take her husband away for the boy’s sake, but hearing how much this woman loves her husband, Mary refuses. Even worse, she ultimately sends Jackie away to live with that couple just before taking off for Europe. Years later, in Monte Carlo, she learns Jack’s wife has died and he is now on the hunt for her, happy ending for all. END SPOILER

     That Certain Woman contains so much back and forth in Mary’s relationships that it is hard for one to decide what he wants for the woman. From the start, Lloyd seemed like a wonderful suitor for the gal, despite his unhappy marriage. Although eventually the man gets to the point where he has told his wife he wants a divorce and plans to take Mary for himself, Mary refuses to do that to his spouse. She is constantly caught in a position of “the other woman” and despite a cushy lifestyle is never able to establish herself legitimately in the eyes of the press or public. Lloyd may have been funding that home and all in it, but it does not appear Mary was actually conducting an affair with him. By the time we get our happy ending, she has gotten such a run around from Jack that it seems like her baggage is sure to weigh down her life no matter with whom she ends up. Nevermind that despite fighting to keep her son at one point she willingly gives him up, which seems utterly unrealistic.

     The never-ending saga of Mary and Jack’s romance could be doable as stories such as “Wuthering Heights” and “Pride and Prejudice” have proven, but for some reason Lloyd was too appealing and the bond between our protagonists too weak. That is not to say, however, that the acting was not superb. Fonda was really more believable at first as being the one wildly in love, but Davis brings up the rear with her proving of that same fact.

     Fonda is the youngest I have ever seen him in That Certain Woman. His dark hair frames a perfectly youthful face but his performance belies his relative newness to the big screen. He made this flick during his third year in Hollywood; although, he made at least three films during each of those first years, so he already had more than half a dozen under his belt. He was well matched against the excessively talented Davis –who made this her 33rd film– and they made a nice couple on screen.

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