Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 18, 2021


(1939). Director: Edmund Goulding.

"Don't you know what happens to you means more to me than anything?"

So says young Charlotte Lovell (Bette Davis) to the man she loves, Clem Spender (George Brent), who has come back to town to discover that the woman he loves, Charlotte's cousin Delia (Miriam Hopkins), is that very day marrying someone else. Charlotte consoles Clem, who goes off to war and never returns, leaving Charlotte with a child that she disguises as a civil war orphan. Then Delia, who has a "good" marriage with one of the wealthy Ralston brothers, learns about Charlotte and Clem and is enraged ... with expectedly dramatic results. She eventually takes both mother and illegitimate daughter into her home and usurps the mother position from Charlotte. 

Bette Davis
Yes, this film has some of the elements of soap opera, but it's on a much higher level, and the film is virtually perfect in all departments, from Goulding's direction to Max Steiner's evocative score (which incorporates some old songs but also has original music), to the accomplished acting from the entire cast. This is easily one of Davis' best portrayals, years before she became much too affected and artificial in certain projects. Mariam Hopkins is her match in the more flamboyant if less dramatic role of Delia. Jane Bryan as the daughter, Tina, Donald Crisp as the wise friend and doctor, Cecelia Loftus as the wily old grandmother, and Louise Fazenda as the maid Dora are all superlative, and while he's not entirely successful at showing us the hurt and trauma beneath his light-hearted, sardonic air, even George Brent is solid. Very moving and a genuinely touching finale. A real gem of a tearjerker. Based on a novella by Edith Wharton and a Pulitzer prize-winning play by Zoe Akins. NOTE; This was my late partner, Lawrence J. Quirk's, all-time favorite movie. I was forced to watch it half a dozen times until I grew to love it, too. 

Verdict: Another in the category of 'They don't make 'em like this anymore.' ****.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - have not seen this one in a long time. Hopkins and Davis were great together on screen, even though they were bitter revivals in real life! I just watched Auld Acquaintance again, I think that one is my favorite.

William said...

"Old Acquaintance" is certainly fun although probably not as good a film as "Old Maid." I've always thought the rivalry between Davis and Hopkins was much stronger than between Davis and Crawford.

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