Friday, January 10, 2020

Marked Woman 1937

       “Marked Woman” marked Bette Davis’s first film after her return from England after loosing a lawsuit against Warner Bros. to get out of her contract with them and to be allowed to make movies wherever she wanted to. Even though she lost, they started to give her better roles and “Marked Woman” was to her liking. In it she plays a call girl who near the end of this fast 96-minute Warner Bros. lump is marked with an X carved into her milky white cheek by hoods who take it out on her cheek and indeed on her entire face as revenge against her. This harsh beating and scaring (done off screen thank God) was “a gift” for her turning state’s evidence against their nasty mobster boss Johnny Vanning played with greasy violence and menace by the great Eduardo Ciannelli. Was Johnny a stand in for Jack Warner? I wonder?
     Ripped from the headlines as the clinched saying goes, the movie was based on actual mob boss Lucky Luciano who went down big because of the testimony of his call girls who had enough. Bette is terrific as Mary the hard as nails but with a big heart of brass prostitute who rooms with other “girls” all of who work for Ciannelli in his rough house speak easy gambling clubs, which also serves up girls on the half shell.
            The other gals are well played by Lola Lane, Isabel Jewell,the little known Rosalind Marquis and most or least of all Mayo Methot who looked like an aging pit bull and who in real life was nicknamed “sluggy”.  It was during the making of the film that co-star Humphrey Bogart met Methot  and would marry her a year later.  Known as “the battling Bogarts they raged and fought (Methot was notorious for beating Bogie up)  across Hollywoodland during their short tempestuous marriage until Betty Bacall came on the scene and ended Bogie’s misery.
          At first Bette and the other girls lie for Ciannelli and get him off which angers the special prosecutor modeled on real life crime buster Thomas Dewey played with rare goodness by Humphrey Bogart. Bogart was trying to break away from his own gangster roles which are still more memorable  than his soft good guy ones and he would go back and forth with his killer gangster performances through the 30’s and the early 40’s. Into this mix and plot comes Jane Bryan who plays Davis’s younger good girl sister who winds up in a bad place and is the cause for all of Bette’s troubles and finally her redemption. Well directed by in house director Lloyd Bacon who started his career in 1922 doing shorts and working his way up the steep ladder.  He is most known as the guy behind two Busby Berkley musical hits “42nd Street” and “Footlight Parade” with a filmography that is filled with light but likeable films first at Warner’s then at 20th Century Fox. The screenplay was co written by Robert Rossen and has one of my favorite lines of all time in it, when Bette tells Eduardo Ciannelli “I’ll get you, even if I have to crawl back from the grave to do it! And we have no doubts that she will. Also terrific Orry Kelly gowns and a great ending when the 4 “hostesses”,  heels clicking on the sidewalk walk off into a fog bound Manhattan studio night.


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