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Thursday, November 14, 2013

THE GIRL FROM IOth AVENUE (1935)

After Bette Davis’s career took off with OF HUMAN BONDAGE/’34 @ RKO, she returned to Warners, her home studio, and was promptly hustled thru nine pics in two years. Six of them programmers, like this slapped together adaptation of a forgotten twenty yr-old play (OUTCAST/Hubert Henry Davies) that finds her blue-collar gal falling into a tipsy surprise marriage with Ian Hunter, a recently dumped society swell out on a bender. The script & production are straight off the rack and Davis must have been bored to tears playing one of those supportive, good wife parts. There’s more creativity in the film’s striking poster than in a barely updated script that’s equal parts cliché & holes. Can they make a go of an accidental marriage? Will he stop pining for the dame that got away? Can Bette tone up her act to fit in with the Upper Crust? In spite of her antipathy, Davis could be awfully good in these things, and she looks quite fetching in Orry-Kelly’s tightly tailored outfits. One of her hats is a peach. There’s also some neat, goofy support from a couple of Hunter’s bachelor pals and a brief, nakedly masochistic perf from Dr. Frankenstein, himself, Colin Clive, as Hunter’s past rival. Maybe the play might show a bit of life if megger Alfred E. Green wasn’t phoning it in, making this 1935 film look as if it had sat on the shelf while styles in film making & sound technology passed it by.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: It was films like this that made Davis try to break her contract. She lost her case in court, but won the war back on the lot with a triumphant return to Warners in ‘37 where she was met with the greatest run of parts ever: 25 films in a decade, more than half classics. Yet there’s plenty of good pickin’s even in some lesser known titles from her galley years: THREE ON A MATCH/’32; 20,000 YEARS IN SING SING/’32; JIMMY THE GENT/’34; BORDERTOWN/’35; that’s a career’s worth of roles for many a Hollywood star.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: In Whitney Stine’s MOTHER GODDAM, one of the better film-by-film looks @ Davis (and with a great running commentary by Davis herself), this film is so little thought of, they screw up the title as THE GIRLS FROM 10TH AVENUE.

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