THE BETTE DAVIS
THE OLD MAID
THE OLD MAID is a great classic melodrama drama that features top of the line performances from Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins in a story of romantic rivalry and maternal instinct. In THE OLD MAID, Davis portrays Charlotte Lovell, who secretly loves Clem Spender (George Brent)- the man pledged to her cousin Delia (Hopkins). When Delia breaks the engagement, Charlotte comforts Clem and he promises to marry her, but Clem dies in the Civil War before he can fulfill the promise. To avoid scandal, Charlotte arranges for her "orphaned" child to be raised by Delia, who has since become a rich widow. As expected, the women find themselves at odds over their daughter. The cast of THE OLD MAID also features Donald Crisp, Jane Bryan, Louise Fazenda, James Stephenson, Jerome Cowan, William Lundigan, Cecilia Loftus, Rand Brooks, Janet Shaw and William Hopper.
ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO
ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO is another jewel from Davis’ heyday at Warner Bros. Although not a box office success at the time of its release, ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO was recognized by critics and the film garnered three Oscar nominations, included one for Best Picture. Based upon the novel by Rachel Field, ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO is set in pre-revolutionary France and tells the story of Henriette Deluzy-Desportes (Bette Davis), the governess in the household of the Duc de Praslin (Charles Boyer). The governess’ affection for the children in her charge is reciprocated by their unhappily married father, which ultimately leads to scandal and tragedy. The central performances in ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO are outstanding; Davis’s work is subtle and understated, Boyer adds the perfect brooding quality and Barbara O'Neil garnered an Oscar nomination as the insanely jealous Duchesse de Praslin. The supporting case features Jeffrey Lynn, Virginia Weidler, Helen Westley, Walter Hampden, Henry Daniell, Harry Davenport, George Coulouris, Montagu Love, Janet Beecher, June Lockhart, Ann E. Todd and Richard Nichols.
THE GREAT LIE
THE GREAT LIE is another of the glamorous, lavishly produced sudsers, which shines thanks to the terrific performances Bette Davis and her co-star Mary Astor (who took home a Best Supporting Actress for her role). The premise of THE GREAT LIE finds Peter Van Allen (George Brent) in an unfortunate marriage to pianist Sandra Kovak (Astor). When that marriage becomes null and void, Peter is able to marry the woman he truly loves Maggie Patterson (Davis). In typical soapy melodrama fashion, the newlywed Peter is presumed killed in a plane crash, while lo and behold, Sandra finds herself pregnant from their brief marriage. Of course, Maggie wants the only living piece of the man she truly loved and wants to adopt Sandra’s child. The cast of THE GREAT LIE also features Lucile Watson, Hattie McDaniel, Grant Mitchell, Jerome Cowan, Charles Trowbridge, Thurston Hall, Russell Hicks, Virginia Brissac, J. Farrell MacDonald, Addison Richards and Sam McDaniel.
IN THIS OUR LIFE
This one is a pip. IN THIS OUR LIFE finds Bette Davis in one of her baddest of her "bad girl" roles. Director John Huston does virtually nothing to restrain Davis, who pulls out all the stops for her over-the-top character and delivers one of her most explosive and memorable performances. The premise of IN THIS OUR LIFE places Davis in the role of self-centered Stanley Timberlake, who runs off with her sister’s husband. Stanley literally drives the man to drink, and ultimately suicide, only to return home to reclaim Craig Fleming (George Brent) the fiancé she dumped to run off with a married man. However, Craig is now in love with Stanley’s selfless sister Roy (Olivia de Havilland), whose husband Stanley initially ran off with. Tragic circumstances follow, with the amoral Stanley trying to pin the blame for her actions on somebody else. The cast of IN THIS OUR LIFE also includes Dennis Morgan, Charles Coburn, Frank Craven, Billie Burke, Hattie McDaniel, Lee Patrick, Mary Servoss, Ernest Anderson, William B. Davidson, Edward Fielding, John Hamilton and William Forrest.
WATCH ON THE RHINE
WATCH ON THE RHINE is a fine screen adaptation of the Lillian Hellman stage play, with Bette Davis actually playing a supporting role. The leading role in WATCH ON THE RHINE actually belonged to Paul Lukas (who earned himself a Best Actor Oscar for his performance), but the studio needed Davis’ star quality and name recognition to sell the film to movie audiences. However, Davis was obviously more than happy to attach herself to an important production, as evidenced by her past skirmishes with the studio. Written before America’s entry into WWII, Hellman’s play was indictment of the U.S. isolationist stance and complacency in the face of the Nazi threat. WATCH ON THE RHINE tells the story of Kurt Muller (Lukas), an anti-Nazi German living in America, who continues to support the underground back in Europe. Davis does a fine job as the dutiful wife standing by her husband’s side even as he encounters Nazi influences on American soil. The cast of WATCH ON THE RHINE also includes Geraldine Fitzgerald, Lucile Watson, Beulah Bondi, George Coulouris, Donald Woods, Henry Daniell, Eric Roberts, Donald Buka, Anthony Caruso, Helmut Dantine, Clyde Fillmore, Erwin Kalser and Kurt Katch.
Although DECEPTION reunites the three stars of NOW, VOYAGER, the results aren’t quite as classic or memorable. This isn’t to say that DECEPTION isn’t without its rewards; Claude Rains fans are certain to get a kick out of it, but those looking for the epic romance of NOW, VOYAGER will find this film coming up a little bit shy of the mark. However, this noir-ish soap still lathers rather nicely. DECEPTION places Davis in the role of Christine Radcliffe, who is presently entangled with composer Alexander Hollenius (Rains); after the man she truly loved, musician Karel Novak (Paul Henreid), is believed killed in the war. When Karel reappears, Christine wants to return to him, but Alexander proves himself a major obstacle to be overcome. The cast of DECEPTION also includes John Abbott and Benson Fong.
Warner Home Video has made has made all six films are black and white comprising THE BETTE DAVIS COLLECTION VOLUME THREE ($60) in truly fine-looking 1.37:1 presentations. Age would appear to be the most limiting factor for the titles contained in this boxed set. The older films demonstrate a slightly weaker presentation than the newer films. As expected, the levels of sharpness and detail vary from film to film, but this is dependent on age and the style of the cinematography. Overall, each of the movies appears crisp and nicely defined, with only a mild softness creeping in to each. Grayscale varies between good, very good and excellent. The film elements, from which the six films have been transferred, do show some minor signs of age, with minor blemishes being the worst of it. Film grain is present in each movie, but is never excessive, even in the oldest films. Digital compression artifacts remain under the radar.
Each of the six films is a good quality Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Warner has done their usual superior job of scrubbing away most of the background hiss and other audible anomalies during the mastering process, leaving each of these vintage films with smooth, pleasant sound. It should come as no surprise that fidelity varies throughout the collection, with the oldest film having the thinnest sound, while getting progressively better as the films get newer. Voices are cleanly rendered and the dialogue is always easy to understand. No other language tracks have been included, although English and French Spanish subtitles are provided on each.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental features contained on each film. THE OLD MAID comes with the Warner Night At The Movies 1939 Short Subjects Gallery, which includes a Vintage Newsreel, Technicolor Historical Short: Lincoln In The White House, Howard Hill Sports Short: Sword Fishing, Classic Cartoons: The Film Fan and Kristopher Kolumbus and Theatrical Trailers. ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO comes with a running Audio Commentary with The Women of Warner Bros. author Daniel Bubbeo, plus the Warner Night At The Movies 1940 Short Subjects Gallery, which includes a Vintage Newsreel, Technicolor Patriotic Short: Meet The Fleet, Classic Cartoons: Hollywood Daffy and Porky's Last Stand, Audio-Only Bonus: Radioshow Adaptation with the film's stars and Theatrical Trailers.
THE GREAT LIE comes with the Warner Night At The Movies 1941 Short Subjects Gallery, which includes a Vintage Newsreel, Broadway Brevities Short: At The Stroke Of Twelve, Oscar-Nominated Technicolor Sports Parade Short: Kings Of The Turf, Hollywood Novelty Short: Polo With The Stars, Classic Cartoon: Porky's Pooch and Theatrical Trailers. IN THIS OUR LIFE comes with a running Audio Commentary with film historian Jeannine Basinger, plus the Warner Night At The Movies 1942 Short Subjects Gallery, which includes a Vintage Newsreel, Technicolor Patriotic Short: March On, America!, Technicolor Musical Short: Spanish Fiesta, Classic Cartoon: Who's Who In The Zoo and Theatrical Trailers.
WATCH ON THE RHINE comes with a running Audio Commentary with film historian Bernard F. Dick, plus the Warner Night At The Movies 1943 Short Subjects Gallery, which includes a Vintage Newsreel, Musical Short: Ozzie Nelson And His Orchestra, Classic Cartoon: The Wise Quacking Duck and Theatrical Trailers. DECEPTION comes with a running Audio Commentary with film historian Foster Hirsch, plus the Warner Night At The Movies 1943 Short Subjects Gallery, which includes a Vintage Newsreel, Oscar-winning Technicolor Sports Parade Short: Facing Your Danger, Technicolor Specials Short: Movieland Magic, Classic Cartoon: Mouse Menace and Theatrical Trailers.
There was only one Bette Davis. Great actresses of her caliber are few and far between. Again, I must give kudos to Warner for a job that is very well done. This third boxed set of her films is certain to please her fans. THE BETTE DAVIS COLLECTION VOLUME THREE is another must have.
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