A wonderful production and a screen version of the excellent homonymous novel written by Karel J. Benes, “A Stolen Life” is another splendid accomplishment of the fine actress Bette Davis. Co-starring the young Glenn Ford, Davis simply steals the show with her impressive performance of the twin sisters who fall in love with the same man. Kate is a talented painter, capable to love and to be generous to others, while Patricia is a selish, very superificial and vivid woman. Kate’s unscrupulous sister marries Bill, but in the end she pays a high price for all her sins, as she is drowned in an accident. Not being able to rescue Patricia’s life, Kate assumes her identity in order to be together with the love of her life. Only in the end the whole truth is discovered. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Effects, Special Effects, but Bette Davis deserved a nomination, as well, because she was simply magnificent in all the scenes in which she makes the transition between two physically similar sisters, but psychologically, very different. You will certainly love this film, another gem in the career of Bette Davis, directed by the gifted, but lesser-known Curtis Bernhardt.
One of the great classics of Bette Davis, “Mr. Skeffington” is a very complex and interesting drama. It tells the story of a beautiful, but very selfish and pragmatic woman who marries an old, wealthy Jewish businessman to save her beloved brother from an embezzlement charge. The action happens in the years before and after WWI. When her brother dies on the front, Fanny decides to separate from her husband, even if they never divorce. She abandons their only daughter, who spends her childhood and adolescence with her father, in Europe. When Hitler comes to power, her father is taken to a concentration camp, losing all his fortune, while Fanny, now an old woman, cannot accept the fact that she is no longer beautiful. Her life gets complicated even more when all of a sudden her daughter returns to her house and falls in love with one of her mother’s “beaux”. In the end, Fanny realizes that Job Skeffington is the only man who truly loves her and destiny makes them reunite and spend the rest of their lives together. So, Fanny has the chance to admit her mistakes and to correct them, but again only for her selfishness, because she doesn’t want to remain a lonely, old and sick woman, as her daughter leaves her to marry the man she loves. The story is, as I said, very complicated. It covers several decades, and it’s incredible how well made Davis the transition from a lovely young woman to a painfully sick and decrepit lady. Claude Rains, one of her frequent co-stars (you should also see “Now, Voyager”) was excellent in the role of her husband, but Davis is simply superb. They both earned an Oscar nomination, but unfortunately didn’t win. All in all, these classical dramas of Bette Davis from the 1940s emphasize best her enormous talent. She was a professional and one of the greatest actresses of all time, together with Joan Crawford, her constant rival, who excelled, too, in this kind of dramatic roles.
I was very impressed by the movie “The Little Foxes”. First, the interesting play by Lillian Hellman about a ruthless clan from 1900 in a small town in Alabama. Second, the extraordinary performance of Bette Davis in the leading role of the evil Regina Giddens. She was simply terrific, as if the part were made for her. I don’t know how it was Tallulah Bankhead’s performance in the original Broadway production, but I think that Bette Davis was the best choice for the screen version. Third, the direction of the gifted William Wyler, who directed Bette Davis in other great successful films, “Jezebel” and “The Letter”. Fourth, the great cast, which also includes Herbert Marshall as Horace Giddens, Regina’s husband, and Teresa Wright as Alexandra Giddens, their daughter. “The Little Foxes” seems like a theatrical play made for the big screen. It is not a typical American film. In some way, it resembles the British films, which are superior to the American films when it comes to acting. This motion picture of the Samuel Goldwyn Productions received 9 Oscar nominations, for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Bette Davis), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Teresa Wright and Patricia Collinge, who appeared together also in Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt”), Best Director, Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, and Best Music. The scenes I liked the most were the ones that involved Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall. They were both superb in the moments where they exchanged ironical and poisonous words. Also their facial expressions, which revealed Regina’s cruelty and Horace’s great pain, were impressive to me. I felt as if I were watching a play at the theatre. Rarely did I see such masterful performances gathered in a single Hollywood film. Others that come to my mind would be “Gone With The Wind”, “Grand Hotel”, “Casablanca”, “The Best Years of Our Lives”… I highly recommend you to watch “The Little Foxes”, another piece of artistry wonderfully made in the land of films that is Hollywood.
One of the most remarkable films in the monumental career of Bette Davis, “Now Voyager” was a hit of the 1940s. This classic made by Warner Brothers Studios is the screen version of the novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, and it reunites the legendary actress Bette Davis with some other fine actors: Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, and Gladys Cooper. The story is really interesting and it is focused on the main character, Charlotte Vale, an old maid, a frustrated woman or, we might as well say “an ugly duckling”, who turns into a beautiful, desirable and loving woman. The metamorphosis of Bette Davis throughout the whole film is astonishing, and the direction of Irving Rapper is by all means a solid, masterful work. I would like to note the outstanding performance of Gladys Cooper, who played wonderfully well the dominating and selfish mother of Charlotte. It’s not easy to act as an old, bitter woman at only 56 years old. But Gladys managed to be so convincing in all her scenes, and I think she deserved her Oscar nomination, together with Bette Davis (too bad they didn’t win the awards). The film received an Oscar for Best Music, composed by the gifted Max Steiner, a genius of the dramatic themes. I highly recommend you to watch “Now, Voyager” because of the powerful story, a real-life lesson; the cast is also a fundamental reason why this film survived the passing of time; one could never forget the face of Bette Davis in her suffering moments, then her revival, rising from the ashes of the phoenix. She is a winner here, because she has will, a heart of gold, and the necessary strength to fight for her life and to survive. She is also a woman capable to renounce unselfishly to her only and true love. In the final scene, with Bette Davis and Paul Henreid, you could hear one of the most memorable lines in cinema history: “Oh Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars”. The perfect ending to a flawless film, that you should watch at least once in your lifetime.
Bette Davis was the superstar of the Warner Brothers Studios, just like Joan Crawford for MGM (the two legends were rivals in real life, and they eventually got to make together a well-known film, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”). Davis made so many wonderful movies for Warner Bros., and one of them is certainly “The Letter”, a screen adaptation after the play by W. Somerset Maugham. The haunting musical score by Max Steiner is one of the film’s greatest assets, but the direction of William Wyler, that genius of the seventh art, together with the magnificent performance of Bette Davis, stand in front of all the others. “The Letter” was nominated for 7 Oscars, for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Music, and Best Picture. While MGM dominated the 30s with their most glorious, elegant, and entertaining movies, with more stars than in Heaven – most of them were very glamorous figures, like Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Lana Turner, Robert Taylor, Norma Shearer, John and Lionel Barrymore… -, Warner Bros. dominated the 40s with their remarkable crime dramas and with an impressive assembly of powerful actors and actresses, like Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Olivia de Havilland, Errol Flynn, Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall… The productions of Warner Bros. are not particulary beautiful motion pictures, literally, much less when it comes to the stories. They don’t have optimistic, idealistic romances, nor impressive sets and costumes, like MGM, but they do have masterful creations which are not superficial at all, and their entertainment is given solely by the tumultuous performances of the actors, in unusual and complex stories, some of them very realistic – perhaps much too realistic for the admirers of the MGM style. Let’s take as an example “The Letter”, this week’s recommendation for you. The heroine, Leslie Crosbie, is the murdered of her lover, at the same time being a married woman. She is an adulteress. With the support from a naive husband, played by the fine actor Herbert Marshall, and a good lawyer, played by the Oscar-nominated actor James Stephenson, she tries to escape from the punishment of Justice. She even takes a compromising letter from the wife of her former lover, an exotic presence, magnificently played by Gale Sondergaard. But the pangs of conscience, the remorse that she killed the only man she loved make her admit her guilt in front of her husband. Even if she is not sentenced to death by the Justice, she finds death by herself, in one of the most fascinating scenes in the film. The labyrinth garden, the hauting sky and music, the perfect combination between lights and shadows, the exotic background, and, of course, the mesmerizing performance of Bette Davis make the final scene all the more exciting and memorable to the posterity. “The Letter” is a masterful film noir and I highly recommend you to watch it. It will be an interesting experience, for sure!
Unul dintre cele mai apreciate filme din istoria cinematografiei, „Totul despre Eva”/All About Eve (1950) o readuce în atenția publicului larg pe legendara Bette Davis, care joacă rolul vieții sale. Eva, o aspirantă la statutul de mare actriță de teatru, este, însă, interpretată de mult mai tânăra Anne Baxter. În film își face o scurtă apariție și Marilyn Monroe, aflată la început de carieră. Regia și scenariul maestrului Joseph L. Mankiewicz au asigurat succesul acestei pelicule de excepție a studiourilor 20th Century Fox (extrem de apreciate în anii ’50-’60, de multe ori în detrimentul veteranilor MGM și Warner Bros.). Filmul, ce prezintă culisele vieții de scenă și complicatul drum al actorilor către notorietate, a fost nominalizat la un record fără precedent de 14 Oscaruri și a câștigat 6 dintre statuete, pentru cel mai bun actor în rol secundar (George Sanders), cele mai bune costume, cea mai bună regie, cel mai bun film, cel mai bun sunet și cel mai bun scenariu. Vă recomand să vedeți și să revedeți „Totul despre Eva”, un adevărat clasic așa cum nu se mai realizează în zilele de astăzi.
Multe dintre recomandările mele săptămânale nu se regăsesc în niciunul din albumele de cinema de specialitate, deși filmele respective sunt, din punctul meu de vedere, bune sau chiar foarte bune. Unul dintre acestea este minunata comedie romantică It’s Love I’m After (1937), care îi reunește pe marii actori Leslie Howard, Bette Davis și Olivia de Havilland. Este o producție ideală pentru o după-amiază frumoasă de vară și talentul, jocul de excepție și frumusețea actorilor (mai ales a angelicei Olivia) vă vor încânta cu siguranță. Povestea este cât se poate de simplă – dar perfect valabilă pentru acei ani. Leslie Howard și Bette Davis întruchipează doi actori de teatru de mare valoare. Personajul lui Leslie devine curând idolul tinerei și zburdalnicei Olivia, care îl „vânează” peste tot – la petreceri, la hotel, la orice ieșire a actorului visurilor sale. Situația se complică, deoarece Marcia (de Havilland) are deja logodnic, iar Basil (Howard) trăiește o controversată poveste de dragoste cu partenera lui, Joyce (Davis), deoarece între ei există o permanentă competiție pe marginea talentului și notorietății lor în rândul publicului. Filmul are, pe lângă un scenariu cât se poate de original și antrenant, și decoruri și costume frumoase – grădini de vară, saloane elegante, rochii de zi și de seară cum numai pe vremuri vedeai. Cu alte cuvinte, o reîntâlnire adorabilă și de neuitat cu o mostră veritabilă a frumoșilor ani ’30, ce pare că nu se vor mai întoarce niciodată…
Documentarul de astăzi a pus în evidență personalitatea și talentul unuia din monștrii sacri ai cinematografiei, Bette Davis. Deși toată lumea știa că ea nu întruchipa frumusețea clasică, era unanim recunoscut faptul că Bette era o actriță desăvârșită. Documentarul a prezentat începuturile anevoioase ale carierei sale, apoi succesele înregistrate în anii ’30 și ’40 (perioada ei de glorie), când a câștigat două Oscaruri. Unul din ele a fost pentru filmul „Jezebel”, o încercare mai mult sau mai puțin reușită a celor de la Warner Bros. de a sabota proiectul măreț al lui Selznick ce avea să fie concretizat un an mai târziu – vorbim, desigur, de „Pe aripile vântului”. Bette Davis excela în roluri de scorpie, și cu toții și-o amintesc în special din clasicul „Totul despre Eva”. Tot Bette a întruchipat-o pe regina Elisabeta I, care, pare-se, a fost rolul ei preferat. Peste ani, a devenit o veritabilă „Gorgonă” a marelui ecran, stârnind mirarea sau admirația cinefililor – a se vedea „Ce s-a întâmplat cu Baby Jane?” sau „Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte”. Prin urmare, documentarul de astăzi dedicat lui Bette Davis a fost unul reușit și care merită să fie urmărit și în reluare (de la ora 3:00 sau de la ora 11:00), cu mențiunea că ea nu a fost prietenă a lui Vivien Leigh și nici domnișoara ei de onoare la căsătoria cu Laurence Olivier, așa cum s-a afirmat în documentar, ci Katharine Hepburn.