Category Archives: Bette Davis

The Great Lie-1941

The Great Lie-1941

Director Edmund Goulding

Starring Bette Davis, Mary Astor

Scott’s Review #891

Reviewed April 28, 2019

Grade: B+

Breezing into her heyday of films at this point, Hollywood starlet Bette Davis had become an expert at portraying tarts and bitches in most of her films. Desiring to turn left of center and play a more sympathetic character the actress jumped at the chance to play an ingenue.

The Great Lie (1941) is the perfect showcase for her talents in a gripping, dramatic film that is purely predictable soap opera, but lovely escapism did well.

Maggie Patterson (Davis) is a demure and sensitive southern socialite vying for the affections of former beau, aviator Peter Van Allen (George Brent). Peter has impulsively married sophisticated concert pianist Sandra Kovak (Mary Astor) and both are startled to learn their marriage is invalid.

Confused, Peter decides to marry Maggie and is quickly sent off to Brazil on business when his airplane crashes into the jungle leaving him presumed dead.

When Sandra realizes she is pregnant, Maggie proposes she is allowed to raise the child as her own in exchange for taking care of Sandra financially. The two women go to Arizona to await the birth, and Sandra delivers a boy named after his father.

The women face a quandary when Peter shows up alive and well and Sandra bitterly announces to Maggie that she intends to ride off into the sunset with Peter and her son. The women scratch and claw at each other metaphorically speaking, for the remainder of the picture.

The storyline, despite being perfectly melodramatic and stellar for an afternoon daytime drama, is rather engaging throughout, never suffering from too much contrivance.

Both Maggie and Sandra have appeal and both women are likable- or at least the film does its best not to make one woman the clear villain. Sandra, dripping with gorgeous fashion and a sturdy poise is confident, pairing well with Maggie’s southern charm and sensibilities- to say nothing of her wealth. Peter would do well with either woman and I found my allegiances shifting throughout the film.

Nearly upstaging Davis is Mary Astor giving a terrific performance as Sandra. The women are the reason for The Great Lie’s grit and gusto. They play the hell out of their roles and according to legend, both hated the script and vowed together to turn the project into gold.

They nearly succeed as the best sequence is when the women travel to deserted Arizona to spend the remainder of Sandra’s pregnancy. Cooped up together, how delicious to see Davis’s Maggie play caretaker to a whiny and spoiled Sandra- typically Davis would play the Sandra character, so the scenes are a treat.

Suspension of disbelief must be achieved as the major plot of the film is jarring in incomprehension. Maggie offers to provide Sandra with a large sum of money to ensure her security. I did not buy this point as Sandra appears to be well-off, touring the world with incredible success and living a lavish lifestyle including a staff of servants and a gorgeous apartment in New York City.

The character hardly appears to need a handout despite the incorporated dialogue of Sandra’s success predicted to wane as she ages.

Another oddity is the location of Maggie’s estate. Set in Maryland, hardly a southern mecca, the location has all the trimmings of the deep south, perhaps Mississippi. With an all-black staff, magnolia trees, and southern-style cuisine, the Maryland backdrop is quite perplexing and a misfire.

More relevant would have been if the location were Mississippi, Louisiana, or Alabama. Finally, remiss would it be not to mention appearances by Hattie McDaniel and brother Sam as Violet and Jefferson, employed by Maggie, always a treat.

With high drama and terrific acting, The Great Lie (1941) offers tremendous chemistry between the female leads resulting in a deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Astor.

The dialogue may be silly and superfluous with plot gimmicks and obvious setups, but the film does work. Viewers can let loose and enjoy a sudsy drama with enjoyable trimmings.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Supporting Actress-Mary Astor (won)

The Old Maid-1939

The Old Maid-1939

Director Edmund Goulding

Starring Bette Davis, Miriam Hopkins

Scott’s Review #883

Reviewed April 3, 2019

Grade: B-

Not one to dare criticize the legendary Bette Davis (would there be much to criticize anyway?), her starring turn in The Old Maid (1939) is not one of her best-remembered films through no fault of her own.

With compelling characters and a nice flow to a short one-hour and thirty-five-minute experience, the films suffer from too much melodrama and soap opera style overacting to warrant a sturdy recommendation.

The overwrought drama may have been interesting at the time of release but now feels dated and dusty.

Davis portrays Charlotte, a modestly attractive young woman living in Philadelphia during the Civil War era. When her cousin Delia (Miriam Hopkins) discards her beau Clem Spender (George Brent) in favor of marrying another well-to-do man, Charlotte, and Clem begin an affair that results in the birth of baby Tina.

When Clem is killed in battle Charlotte opens a home for orphans as a way of hiding Tina’s illegitimacy.

As the years go by Delia’s scheming results in Tina not knowing her real mother and Charlotte suffering away like an old maid yearning to confess the truth the Tina before the young woman marries.

The highlight of the film naturally is Ms. Davis as she makes her character’s plight emotional and sympathetic.

Especially for 1939, the character is written as a strong and intelligent female with a will all her own. Davis portrays all qualities with passion and gusto only adding to the perplexing wishy-washy indecisiveness of the character.

Why does Charlotte go year after year living under the same roof with her daughter but under the constant guise of only being her aunt and allowing Delia the title of the mother?

The reasoning Charlotte is supposed to be to ensure Tina is given a proper upper-middle-class, respectable upbringing all the while being a part of her life.

The film does wonders to portray the roles of aunt and mother as opposites. As a teenager, Tina lavishes Delia with praise while considering Charlotte as matronly and dull as dishwater due to her overbearing and militant respect for rigidity.

Regardless, many facets of the story seem like plot setups to create drama and story points leading to vendettas and reoccurring conflict between Delia and Charlotte.

The fact that Charlotte is so strong and stoic on the surface is also a detraction as the audience is left frustrated over and over at the cousin’s decision not to tell the truth to Tina until the final scene when she is marrying a rich boy and even then, the scene is a disappointment.

The decision for Delia to adopt Tina at the age of twenty to finally allow her respectability and her fiancee’s parent’s approval is weak and story dictated. The filmmaker attempts to never allow Charlotte any happiness or satisfaction which is depressing to witness especially given Davis’s brash personality.

Regardless of the story issues, The Old Maid has some positives including a well-dressed set and gorgeous costumes as wedding after wedding occurs over the film’s twenty-year period.

The aging of the characters is also successfully done specifically with Davis as she goes from an impressionable youngster to graying and haggard over the years with good lighting and camera angles.

The Old Maid (1939) is a film of moderate interest as it includes some well-developed characters and a subject matter that might have been daring for the time.

The film, decades later, has a conventional slant and too many story plot setups better served for daytime television. The overall result is a too soapy style for much enjoyment but is saved by the graceful and powerful acting of Bette Davis, easily the best thing about the film.

The Little Foxes-1941

The Little Foxes-1941

Director William Wyler

Starring Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, Teresa Wright

Scott’s Review #866

Reviewed February 14, 2019

Grade: A-

Candidly speaking any film starring the ravishing and dynamic Bette Davis is worthy of a watch but The Little Foxes (1941) was released during the Hollywood legend’s heyday and the actress elicits a strong character portrayal.

The film is a complex story of Southern scheming and contains enough intrigue to keep the viewer compelled after a slow start.

Filmed in black and white and due to its age the film quality, is not the best the story nonetheless builds in suspense, especially during the final thirty minutes. This culminates in a frantic conclusion with Davis deservedly taking center stage.

Southern matriarch Regina Hubbard Giddens (Davis) is sophisticated and angry. The female member of an affluent family in a time when men rule the roost and her brothers control the family money leaving her with little power.

Living nearby, Benjamin (Charles Dingle) and Oscar (Carl Benton Reid) flaunt their wealth while Regina struggles for every crumb she can get. After the family embarks on a deal to profit from a cotton mill merger Regina schemes to score riches by any means necessary.

The southern setting with luxurious estates and more than its share of cultural and cuisine flavors serves The Little Foxes well with a palpable atmospheric style. With an antebellum, white dress, grits, and brandy featured, the goodness and girth of a proper way of living are featured.

Prominent black characters exist, primarily serving as the household help or various service roles to white folks, for 1941 this was considered progressive for studios to feature minorities so heavily and must be praised for the inclusiveness.

Throughout the run of the film, I felt a push/pull whether I sympathized with Regina or despised the character.

Comparisons to Gone With the Wind (1939) entered my mind many having to do with Regina herself. Flirtatious when she wants to be coquettish to fit her needs, she is a cross between Scarlett and Melanie.

I even began to champion the character at one point and the plight of a female in the early 1900s with the impossibility of being taken seriously as a businesswoman.

The Little Foxes is brazen in that it champions a strong and determined female character. Regina will not merely stand behind any man but chooses to stand on her own two feet.

Cinema in the 1940s is known for branching out female characters as independent and self-sufficient and this film certainly serves as a prime example of this movement.

In the film’s final act there can be no denying the true colors of Regina and any sympathy or comparisons to the characters are ultimately dismissed diabolically. The character is faced with the choice to either do the right thing and save a life or cross the line and let a beloved character die.

When she chooses the latter the scene is pivotal and filled with emotion. She has made an important decision that she can never turn back from.

Director William Wyler shoots the astounding Davis in myriad ways all central to the character’s particular motivations. Appearing determined and driven in some scenes and downright devious in others Davis is masterful at doing so much with her enormous and expressionistic eyes.

The Little Foxes portrays her as a complex and unrelenting character tailor-made for Davis’s talents.

To say that Regina gets away with murder is an unfair statement. Wyler makes it clear that despite benefiting financially the character is forever shrouded in suspicion by her brother and her daughter (Teresa Wright) who decidedly embarks on a new life in Chicago never to see her mother again.

This leaves Regina fearful and lonely in her grand house.

The Little Foxes (1941) succeeds as a showcase for the emerging talents of stalwart Bette Davis as well as a good, solid drama. Schemes, conspiracy, and backstabbing are prevalent themes, but the film also contains a melancholy subtext of loneliness and fear.

Appropriately Ms. Davis is awarded the final shot, a closeup that reveals the star power she had begun to muster as her career was in full swing.

Oscar Nominations: Outstanding Motion Picture, Best Director-William Wyler, Best Actress-Bette Davis, Best Supporting Actress-Patricia Collinge, Teresa Wright, Best Screenplay, Best Scoring of a Dramatic Picture, Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White, Best Film Editing

Death On The Nile-1978

Death On The Nile-1978

Director John Guillermen

Starring Peter Ustinov, Mia Farrow, Bette Davis

Scott’s Review #714

Reviewed January 14, 2018

Grade: B+

Death On The Nile is a 1978 British thriller that follows up the successful 1974 offering, Murder On The Orient Express- both films based on the fabulous Agatha Christie novels of the 1930s.

This time around, Belgian detective Hercules Poirot (Peter Ustinov) investigates a string of deaths aboard a luxurious steamer carrying the lavishly wealthy and their servants.

The film is a good, old-fashioned whodunit, perhaps not on the level of storytelling as its predecessor-the murder mystery contains not the oomph expected- but features exquisite Egyptian historical locales- worth its weight in gold.

Featuring a who’s who of famous stars and tremendous actors of the day, Death On The Nile carves a neat story right off the bat in such a way that the murder victim is fairly obvious right away- most of the characters have reason to celebrate her demise.

Rich and reviled heiress, Linnet Ridgeway (Lois Chiles), has stolen best friend Jacqueline’s (Mia Farrow) beau, Simon, sparking a bitter feud between the women. While honeymooning in Egypt, the newlyweds are continually taunted by angry Jacqueline.

Once the cruise ship departs with all on board, Jackie is the prime suspect when Linnet is murdered.

Poirot must find the killer as numerous other suspects all with grudges against Linnet, begin to emerge.

Death On The Nile serves up a stellar cast including legendary Bette Davis in the role of Marie Van Schuyler- an eccentric American socialite with an eye for Linnet’s necklace. The casting of Davis is reason enough to watch the film, though the character is not center stage but rather a supporting role.

The lead female honor is held for Farrow, who has the meatiest and most complex role in the film.

Jackie’s unstable actions make her the most likely to commit the deed, but the fun is to figure out the “whys” and the “hows” of the murder. Is there more than one killer? Are they working in cahoots or independently? As the body count increases these questions begin to resonate more and more.

The costumes and sets are gorgeous and it is no wonder the film won the Oscar for Best Costume Design. At a ball, the women are dripping with jewels and gorgeous gowns.

Along with Davis, boozy author Salome Otterbourne, hilariously played by Angela Lansbury, is granted the prize of wearing the most luxurious and interesting of all the costumes. She drips with jewels and, with a cocktail always in hand, is the film’s comic relief.

Director John Guillermin makes the film an overall light and fun experience and, despite the murderous drama, does not take matters too seriously.

Offering humorous moments, this balances nicely with the inevitable murders.

The fun for the audience is deducing whodunit- most of the characters have the motive and the cast of characters is hefty.

I had memories of the famous board game Clue- Was it Jackie in the ballroom with the revolver? You get the idea. The film makes for a good, solid game of mystery.

Comparisons to 1974’s Murder On The Orient Express cannot help but be drawn, especially in the lead casting of Hercules Poirot.

Truth be told, Albert Finney’s portrayal in “Murder” is superior to Peter Ustinov’s Poirot in “Death” and I am not sure what purpose Colonel Race (David Niven) as Poirot’s friend offers other than to be a loyal sidekick and present a character that Poirot can explain events to- think what Watson was to Sherlock Holmes.

Regardless, Finney is the superior Poirot as he musters more strength and charisma than Ustinov does.

How lovely and historic to witness the wonderful Egyptian locales- the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids are featured amid an attempt on the life of the romantic pair by way of falling rocks- this sets the tone for the perilous cruise about to be embarked upon.

Perhaps a perfect film for a Saturday stay-at-home evening with friends, complete with a serving of quality wine and cheese, Death On The Nile is a sophisticated, yet fun, British mystery film, fantastic to watch in a party setting where the audience can be kept guessing until the nice conclusion and the big reveal of who killed whom and why.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Costume Design (won)

Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte-1964

Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte-1964

Director Robert Aldrich

Starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland

Scott’s Review #632

Reviewed April 8, 2017

Grade: B+

The follow-up film, but not a direct sequel, to the surprise hit of 1962, What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte is a psychological thriller directed by Robert Aldrich.

The film was intended to reunite Aldrich with stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and Crawford did film several scenes, but the tension between the stars proved too much and Crawford dropped out.

Olivia de Havilland took her place and reportedly the filmmakers had to scramble to re-shoot the film nearly from scratch.

Shot in black and white, just like What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, the film is very similar in style and tone, and, rather than Los Angeles as the setting, the setting is now the sprawling southern landscape of the deep south- Louisiana to be exact, and a vast estate with a lavish mansion is the featured ominous setting.

The action begins in 1927 at a grand party taking place at the well-to-do Hollis family mansion.

The night is fraught with tension and secrets are harbored- most notably southern belle Charlotte (Davis) and her married beau, John (Bruce Dern), plan to elope and steal away into the night together.

When John is threatened by Charlotte’s father, Sam (Victor Buono), he regrettably breaks up with Charlotte, destroying her. Later, John is decapitated and his hand severed leaving all of the guests only to assume that Charlotte was murdered after she appears wearing a blood-soaked dress.

Due to a lack of evidence, Charlotte is set free.

The remainder of the film takes place during present times (1964) and in the same mansion- now rather decrepit and slated to be demolished by the town in favor of a highway.

Charlotte, now old and haggard, has lived a life of seclusion, her father long since dead, and her only company is her dedicated and faithful housekeeper, Velma (Agnes Moorehead).

Frantic at the thought of leaving the safety of her estate, Charlotte asks her cousin Miriam (de Havilland) to visit. Events then become stranger and stranger as past secrets and jealousies are revealed.

Taking nothing away from the talents of Olivia de Havilland, I cannot help but imagine how much better Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte would have been if Joan Crawford had settled into the role of cousin Miriam.

The real-life rivalry between Crawford and Davis is in large part what made What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? such compelling work and the angry emotions were so fresh and real.

Interestingly, the characters are reversed in this film- Davis plays the victimized Charlotte, Crawford would have played the villainous Miriam, and the results would have been delicious.

The plot of the film is decent, but nothing spectacular, and not nearly as splendid all around as What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? was, although certain similarities abound between the two films: a giant mansion, black and white cinematography, a mentally unstable (or assumed to be) character, a character being either drugged or victimized and two female characters who are related.

To compare the two films, which is impossible not to, What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? wins out in spades. It is the more compelling of the two films.

What does set Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte well above mediocrity (with lesser actors it may have been) is the casting of one of the greatest actresses ever to grace the big screen.

Bette Davis’s portrayal of the victimized Charlotte is fantastic. She encompasses vulnerability, anger, fear, and energy. Her facial expressions and those passionate eyes give so much to the character of Charlotte.

The clever resolution to the film and the plot twist after the film are quite well-written and surprising given that the characters assumed to be involved in the murder are not as guilty as one might think, or at least not in the way one might think, and by the time the credits roll, the story has a satisfying, hopeful ending.

Another success of the film is the use of two gruesome scenes- surprising since the film pre-dates the lifting of the film censorship rules.

When a severed head comes tumbling down the grand staircase of the mansion, it is frightening and not in the least campy or over-the-top. As John is hacked to death in the opening sequence, his hand is severed from his arm and it dramatically tumbles to the floor.

The scenes resonate because they were rarely done in mainstream film as early as 1964.

Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte is a fantastic companion piece to the superior What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? but watched back to back, will make for a fantastic late-night experience.

Successful to the film are top-notch talents such as de Havilland, Victor Buono, Bruce Dern, Agnes Moorehead, and the superior film queen herself, Bette Davis, which makes any film worth watching.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress-Agnes Moorehead, Best Song-“Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte”, Best Music Score-Substantially Original, Best Art Direction, Black-and-White, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Costume Design, Black and White, Best Film Editing

The Nanny-1965

The Nanny-1965

Director Seth Holt

Starring Bette Davis

Scott’s Review #256


Reviewed July 11, 2015

Grade: B

The Nanny is a 1965 Hammer productions thriller starring legendary film icon Bette Davis as a mysterious nanny caring for a ten-year-old boy named Joey.

Joey has recently been released from a mental institution and returned home to resume normal life, but has he been “cured”?

There is an obvious tension between Joey and Nanny, but the audience at first does not know what that tension is exactly. Why do they dislike each other? Why is Joey afraid of her?

As the plot unfolds the suspense and tensions thicken as various events occur and Joey’s parents and Aunt Pen are further fleshed out to the plot. Past events are revisited and the story becomes thrilling.

At one point, long before Joey’s return home, his younger sister has drowned and the circumstances are vague. It has devastated the family, including Nanny. Joey has been blamed for her death though he insists that Nanny is the culprit.

Nobody except the neighbor girl believes Joey and the audience is left to wonder who to believe and who to root for- Joey or Nanny? Davis, like Nanny, brings a warmness to her character, but is she sincere? Is it an act? Is Joey a sweet boy or maniacal?

These questions race through the minds of the audience as the film progresses. When the mother, Virginia eats tainted food, the obvious conclusion is that Nanny poisoned the food since she prepared it. But why? Did she do this?

As the plot is slowly explained, there are a few chills, though the ending is not all too surprising.

Any film starring Bette Davis is a treasure in my mind, though admittedly it is not her finest. Still, her finest is tough to match.

The Nanny is a good film, though not a great film. It is shot in black and white which is a nice touch for a thriller.

The main reason to watch is certainly Davis’s performance, which is always mesmerizing. Traditionally playing gruff, mean, or bitchy parts (especially in her later years), The Nanny allows Davis to play a traditionally sympathetic role.

She is seemingly sweet, proper, and well-organized. A perfect nanny on paper.

The role of Virginia, played by Wendy Craig, is a bit too neurotic and slightly over-acted. She is rather one-note as the fretting mother worried about her son. The character of the father is also a bit one-dimensional.

The Nanny is more of a classic thriller from the 1960s that is often lumped together with some of Bette Davis’s other films around the same period (Dead Ringer, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?), and the aforementioned films are in large part superior to The Nanny, but as a stand-alone, it is a decent film.



Director William Wyler

Starring Bette Davis

Scott’s Review #236


Reviewed April 18, 2015

Grade: B+

A wonderful showcase for the young and lovely Bette Davis, Jezebel (1938) is a very early film role for Davis that has many similarities to Gone with the Wind, a film that Davis reportedly lost out to Vivian Leigh.

One wonders how she would have made the character of Scarlett O’Hara her own and Jezebel is a journey exploring that possibility.

Directed by acclaimed director William Wyler, Jezebel is set in 1852 (pre-Civil War) in New Orleans. Davis plays spoiled southern belle, Julie Marsden. Julie is engaged to wealthy banker Preston Dillard, played by Henry Fonda.

After a dispute in which Julie selfishly feels her needs are not being catered to, she shockingly wears a red dress to a sophisticated ball where unmarried women are expected to wear white. This causes a scandal that results in Preston dumping Julie and leaving town.

Cocky Julie expects Preston to return to town and grovel for her forgiveness, but when he does return with a life-changing twist, the drama unfolds. Circumstances include a savage duel, longing for love, and atonement.

Fans of Davis will love Jezebel for the sheer excellence that she brings to the screen. Mesmerizing with those soulful, big eyes, and wonderful mannerisms, she exudes confidence and sophistication. Admittedly this is my earliest Davis experience and she shimmers on-screen.

Bette Davis is perfectly cast. Interesting to note are the innocent qualities early Davis possessed. Later afflicted with a hoarse, deep voice and ravaged beauty after years of alcohol and cigarette abuse, Davis in Jezebel is virginal and debutante-looking.

Interesting to me is Julie’s wardrobe choices- her horseback riding outfit, the vixen-like red dress, the virginal white dress, and the dark raven cape at the climax of the film, and various lighting techniques that Wyler used to showcase Davis’s face- almost look like candlelight.

The film itself has several similarities to Gone with the Wind (which is preceded by a year). Julie, like Scarlett, is a rich, selfish girl who likes to manipulate men and both films feature a love triangle prevalent in the story as well as broken hearts. The slaves in both films resemble each other though are a bit more glamorous in Jezebel.

The introduction of the yellow fever storyline and the sick and weak lying around in droves is similar to the wounded and dying soldier scene in Gone with the Wind where the sick and dying lie in pain. The periods, triangle, and southern charms all heavily play in both. It is impossible not to compare the two films.

Melodrama did very well, Jezebel (1938) is to be admired as it is a film featuring a strong female character something lacking in the film then (1938) and shamefully still lacking in film today! Jezebel is a true “ambitious woman’s movie”.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins- Outstanding Production, Best Actress-Bette Davis (won), Best Supporting Actress-Fay Bainter (won), Best Scoring, Best Cinematography

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?-1962

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? -1962

Director Robert Aldrich

Starring Bette Davis, Joan Crawford

Top 100 Films #71     Top 20 Horror Films #18

Scott’s Review #193


Reviewed November 14, 2014

Grade: A

Kicking off a trend, prominent throughout the 1960s, of aging Hollywood actresses starring in horror films (interestingly Bette Davis and Joan Crawford each did two- the others being Dead Ringer and Strait-Jacket), with varying degrees of success, Baby Jane is top of the heap.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, directed by Robert Aldrich, stars aforementioned Davis and Crawford as, ironically enough, two aging Hollywood actresses, Jane and Blanche Hudson.

Jane (Davis), a child star in the 1920s nicknamed Baby Jane, with an adorable signature song, “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy”, has long since faded from the spotlight, but continues to dress in her Baby Jane costume, consisting of a little girl dress with hair in curls and ribbons.

Blanche, however, garnered her success as an adult in the 1930s and until a tragic accident, which left her wheelchair-bound and subsequently ruined her career, was a popular film star- much more popular than Jane.

Blanche and Jane now wither the years away in a crumbling mansion in Los Angeles. Blanche is completely dependent on her unbalanced sister for care. Jane, resentful of Blanche’s success and popularity, plans to re-launch her career in her once-famous alter ego.

The film certainly has macabre comedic elements but never veers too far over the edge as to reach camp or foolishness. It is also a very psychological film as Jane mentally abuses Blanche and plays mind games with her to achieve the upper hand.

Davis had a ball with this role as her appearance alone is frightful- a grown woman of a certain age in blonde curls, pancake makeup, and a baby doll dress- she looks positively hideous!

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane reminds me quite a bit of Billy Wilder’s masterpiece Sunset Boulevard in several ways- both feature successful stars of years past with delusions of returning to their former fame, both feature older women more than a tinge unbalanced, and both films are set in sunny Los Angeles.

Two of the film’s supporting actors are well cast, adding much to this film and simply must be given recognition- Victor Buono, later made famous for his role of King Tut in the popular late 1960’s television series Batman, is highly effective as the opportunist sloth, Edwin Flagg, who aids Jane in her comeback attempt.

Maidie Norman as the Hudson sisters’ black housekeeper, Elvira, loyal to Blanche, but never a fan of Jane’s, slowly becomes wise to Jane’s sinister plot and does a wonderful acting job when she stands up to the manipulative sister- for 1962, a black maid verbally assaulting a white woman employer was still rather taboo and kudos to the film for bravely going there is a highly effective scene.

The fact that Davis and Crawford famously despised each other in real life adds an edge that does wonders for the audience during scenes where the two women fight and claw at each other, both physically and verbally.

The film has wonderfully quotable dialogue- “We got rats in the cellar”, Jane utters matter-of-factly, as she serves Blanche a cooked rat on a bed of lettuce for lunch one day and cackles fiendishly when she hears Blanche screams of disgust.

One aspect of the film that has taken me three viewings to become aware of and that I simply love is the musical score throughout the film- it features multiple and creepy versions of Jane’s signature song “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy” with varying tempos.

Suspension of disbelief must be used in this film- why couldn’t Blanche pound and scream at her bedroom window to alert the neighbor of trouble instead of casually tossing a note out the window?

Blanche struggling to descend steps by sliding down them and then is unable to slide across the floor to escape the mansion is silly, but alas, the film is so gripping that I happily overlook these errors and instead enjoy the suspenseful film with two actresses, rivals onscreen and off-screen, that make this film a bit too realistic, a realism that makes for delightful film watching.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Actress-Bette Davis, Best Supporting Actress-Victor Buono, Best Sound, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (won)

All About Eve-1950

All About Eve-1950

Director Joe Mankiewicz

Starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter

Top 100 Films #84

Scott’s Review #73


Reviewed June 27, 2014

Grade: A

All About Eve is a cynical masterpiece from 1950 set in the competitive world of the New York theater.

Insecure Margo Channing, played to perfection by Bette Davis, is an aging actress whose career is declining. She meets naïve Eve Harrington, played by Anne Baxter, who insinuates herself into Margo’s life and career.

One interesting facet of this film is how the opening scene is of an acceptance speech by Eve. The look of anger and disdain from the front table gives a good indication of things to come. From there the film backtracks to the first time the two women meet and the story begins.

It is certainly a dark film and jealousy and back-stabbing are common themes throughout as had never been done before set in the world of theater.

One by one, each of Margo’s friends catches on to Eve’s plot, but at what cost?

This is Bette Davis’s comeback performance as a talented Broadway star and she makes the most of the opportunity as she deliciously utters her famous revenge-minded line “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night”.

Marilyn Monroe has a cameo role as a debutante in her first film role.

The film deservedly won the 1950 Best Picture Oscar.

Oscar Nominations: 7 wins-Best Motion Picture (won), Best Director-Joseph L. Mankiewicz (won), Best Actress-Anne Baxter, Bette Davis, Best Supporting Actor-George Sanders (won), Best Supporting Actress-Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter, Best Screenplay (won), Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Sound Recording (won), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White (won), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (won), Best Film Editing

Dead Ringer-1964

Dead Ringer-1964

Director Paul Henreid

Starring Bette Davis, Karl Malden

Scott’s Review #67


Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B+

Dead Ringer (1964) is a black-and-white thriller from 1964 starring Bette Davis in her final leading role before she took on the character and supporting roles.

It’s an interesting dual role for Davis, and being a huge fan of hers, two are better than one.

The story centers on a wealthy widow and her twin sister, a struggling bar owner. The two have not spoken in decades and renewed their animosity at a funeral.

One of them schemes to cause the other’s death, which results in an entertaining game of mistaken identity.

Davis carries this film and is dynamic in every scene she is in- those eyes, facial expressions, and throaty voice. Her characteristic sexy pose with the cigarette is utilized often.

She is simply dynamic.

The story and plot are carefully crafted and the angles showing both characters are impressive for the time (1964).

The differing lifestyles of the characters also make for a more challenging performance by Davis.

Karl Malden is a treat as a love interest of one of the sisters.

The Anniversary-1968

The Anniversary-1968

Director Roy Ward Baker

Starring Bette Davis

Scott’s Review #52


Reviewed June 21, 2014

Grade: B+

The Anniversary (1968) is a British film based on a play of the same name.

The story centers on the Taggert family reunion celebrating the anniversary of the matriarch (Bette Davis) and the deceased patriarch.

The film is set like a play and most of the action takes place inside the Taggert family mansion.

The film is all Davis and she gives a deliciously over-the-top performance as a vicious mother intent on controlling her son’s lives and terrorizing their wives or significant others with cutting remarks and insults.

Davis must have had fun with this role as her storied career was clearly on the downturn and this role allowed her to let loose. One must wonder if Davis chewed up the actors in the cast as much as the characters- rumor has it she was quite intimidating to her fellow actors and a terror to work with which adds to the macabre enjoyment.

Her physical appearance of an eye patch, wig, cigarette, and bright red lipstick all work in her favor. Her maniacal laugh is incredibly campy and wonderful to watch.

Bette Davis is one of the greats and this late-career romp is fun to watch.