Friday, October 11, 2013

In This Our Life 1942

Bette Davis is very, very bad in this melodramatic potboiler, and I don’t only
mean that her character is bad,  I’m  also talking about her performance. This
is one of her extreme over the top numbers that probably gave  mimics and
comedians material for years. In fact at one point I thought her Bette Davis
eyes were going to  pop out of her head and land at her feet. Bette plays
Stanley Timberlake a nasty piece of work who takes no  prisoners and is
 a bitch to everyone who crosses her path including her sister Roy played
in her usual goody  two shoes fashion by Olivia De Havilland who brings
 to the role a sort of reprisal of her performance in Gone With The Wind.
Why these two sisters have male names is never explained, maybe their
Parents   played by a passive Frank Craven and the hypochondriac Billie Burke
were hoping for boys. The movie is based on a novel by woman’s
 writer Ellen Glasgow and is set in a small southern town that is racist
and dusty.  Bette when the movie opens is engaged to be married to George Brent
 who gives his usual dull cardboard performance, (are you breathing George) but
Bette has the hots for Roy’s husband played by the handsome  but also dull
Dennis Morgan. I don’t need to go further into the plot except to say trouble, trouble
 and more trouble is around the corner and down the road. Bette quite frankly looks
 lousy, not even heavy makeup could hide those bags and shadows under her eyes
which the pristine dvd transfer brings out in sharp and crisp focus.
 Her wigs look like they were supplied by Esther’s Hasidic wigs of Beverly Hills
, and the flashy clothes she wears doesn’t help either. Also in the cast is the great
 Charles Coburn as the rich and lecherous uncle who took his brother, the girl’s
dad for a ride, cheating him in their business partnership and ruining him for life.
As I said  Charles is a lech and his scenes with Bette which verge on an incestuous
 relationship are uncomfortable but are the best scenes in the film. The censors
must have been sleeping long and hard to allow this to get through.
 I also enjoyed seeing Hattie McDaniel in a very short role (and this after
her winning an Oscar three years earlier) playing another maid. But as Hattie
said she would rather play a maid then be one, so you go girl. Dropping
in for a visit is the great Lee Patrick as one of Bette’s wild and fun loving friends,
 and I wish she had stayed a little longer because she sure can perk up a film. I guess
the film deserves a mention if not a medal for the difficult sub plot involving
Hattie’s son played with solid dignity by  Ernest Anderson. This sensitive
and caring depiction of an African American was hardly a common
 occurrence in Hollywood movies back then, and I can’t say if it’s in the novel
or was added for the film by the screenwriter and the director John Huston.
 This was Huston’s 2nd movie, and it seems an unlikely project for him to do,
unless of course Jack Warner held his feet to the fire and made him do it. Listen
its not a bad movie, its too campy to be a total waste of time, and Bette even
when bad was fun and good for a few laughs. Also look for Papa Huston
in an unbilled cameo as a bartender. Supposedly the cast of “The Maltese Falcon”
make unbilled cameo appearances in a cafe scene, but they were no
where to be found  by me and I think this is a McGuffin, but if someone can
prove me wrong, please let me know. The film is glossy and has the rich
 Warner Bros patina flowing over it, thanks to the
cinematographer Ernest Haller who began his career in 1911.       


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