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Thursday, May 21, 2015

THAT CERTAIN WOMAN (1937)

Bette Davis plays a woman with a past (teenage mob bride); a present (annulled marriage to rich boy Henry Fonda); and a future (motherly sacrifice & triumph) in this unconvincing suds-fest from writer/director Edmund Goulding who should have known better. A remake of his own Early Talkie THE TRESPASSER/’29 (a big hit for Gloria Swanson), Bette positively glows as secretary to unhappily married Ian Hunter. He gallantly supports her marriage to Fonda, but the relationship can’t survive the disapproval of wealthy father-in-law Donald Crisp. It’s annulment . . . and a secret child. Four years on, Fonda’s remarried and crippled his new wife in a driving accident! So when he (and his dastardly papa) discover Bette’s raising the family heir, something’s gotta give. Then, just when you think things can’t get more ridiculous, in rolls Anita Louise, Fonda’s wheelchair-bound wife! She’s here to meet the little son she could never have conceived (conceived of?). As she & Davis play a rousing duel of motherly sacrifice, we might be watching one of those old movie parodies on the Carol Burnett Show.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Goulding did far better by Bette in DARK VICTORY/’39; THE OLD MAID/’39 and THE GREAT LIE/’41.

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