Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A Woman Is Beautiful When She Is Loved, And Only Then.

Sorry to be on such a Bette Davis rampage at the moment, I seem to be watching her movies more than anyone else's now. I find them very comforting, even though in most of them she is a murderess or a "Femme Fatale"! So today I will review Mr. Skeffington. I came home from a long day today, I had been doing a thing in school called "The Real game" where we all had to do things like work out taxes and grocery shopping. First we did something called "The Dream List" and we cut out our favourite living items from the special leaflet and wrote their costs per month. My list was like this:
  1. Period Converted Farmhouse, £1,400 a month
  2. Classic Car from the 50s, £200 a month
  3. State Of The Art Laptop, £175 a month
  4. Mobile Phone, £30 a month
The list went on. Although my wishes didn't total up to as much as my friends, it was quite a lot. I was then given my job. Estate Agent. I was less than thrilled. I had to move from the Period Farmhouse to a studio apartment to pay off my debts. At the end of the morning they asked each of us what we wanted to be. When they came to me I said "Well I have two very different options. An actess, or a social anthropologist." My teacher said, "What about an acting social anthropologist?" I replied "It's a way to go!"

Mr. Skeffington 

  • Bette Davis as Frances Beatrice 'Fanny' Trellis Skeffington
  • Claude Rains as Job Skeffington
  • Walter Abel as George Trellis, Fanny's cousin
  • Richard Waring as Trippy Trellis, Fanny's brother
  • Marjorie Riordan as Fanny Rachel Trellis, Fanny and Job's daughter as an adult
  • Robert Shayne as MacMahon, a local gangster
  • John Alexander as Jim Conderley, one of Fanny's four persistent suitors
  • Jerome Cowan as Edward Morrison, one of Fanny's four persistent suitors
  • Peter Whitney as Chester Forbish, one of Fanny's four persistent suitors
  • Bill Kennedy as Bill Thatcher, one of Fanny's four persistent suitors
  • Johnny Mitchell as Johnny Mitchell, a younger suitor of Fanny's who later marries her daughter. Born Douglas N. Lamy, this actor changed his name to that of his character.
  • George Coulouris as Doctor Byles
  • Dorothy Peterson as Manby, Fanny's housekeeper
"Would you mind moving your chin an inch to the left, George, Manby spent an hour on these curls!"
(Yes, Bette has about 6 leading men, as well as being in love with her brother.)

Awkward silence...
Fanny Trellis (Bette Davis) is the toast of New York with men proposing to her in bunches. After her parents' death, her brother Trippy insisted on being in charge of the estate. After he had wasted away their fortune that, to quote Fanny Trellis in the film, "Was a legend, but now it's a myth!", he started in on the wealth of his employer, Mr. Job (pronounced Jobe) Skeffington (Claude Rains). Mr. Skeffington was a jewish stockbroker, and Trippy once said "I don't like him, or his type." Trippy had created a group of fictional charactors that he claimed had made orders to him, but they were all ridiculously fake (Job said in the film "Well, he does show a great talent for choosing odd names and places!") and it turned out that he had stolen $50,000 from the company.  She marries Mr. Skeffington to save Trippy (who I think she was secretely in love with), but that does nothing to help Trippy emotionally, and he leaves to fight in the First World War for France. The fact that Fanny is married does nothing to discourage her suitors, who all try to "rescue' her from Mr. Skeffington. She has a baby, but the baby (who was also named Fanny) loves her father more than her vain mother. They get news that Trippy is dead, and Fanny is convinced that Job killed him, as he was fighting in the war also, and Fanny doesn't know a thing about politics! She says that the only reason that she married Job was to help Trippy, and now she only has Job. They divorce, but the young Fanny wants to live with her father in the traditional Jewish way in Europe. There is a devistateingly sad scene in a resteraunt with her and Job (here is the link). Fanny sufferes from diphtheria, and her looks are ruined forever.


Job comes back to her at the end of WWII after being in a concentration camp. When she finds out that he is blind, she developes a special affection for him, and they live happily ever after.

The Review:
This film is like a Sunset Boulevard 5 years ahead of its time. Bette's make-up just screames Baby Jane Hudson from Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?. The only problem I have with her performance is that, no matter how beautiful she is in her own way, you don't really believe that there would be 20 men surrounding her on a porch (this happens in one scene!). She does her best to make a ridiculous character come to life, and it works. I have to say, the better performance comes from Claude Rains, who makes me cry. It is very well written and scored. Bette's performance sort of reminds me of Meryl Streep at her best (I am not a hardcore Streep fan), and the whole soprano speaking voice and blinking of the eyes reminds me of her in Julie and Julia. I know that Bette really loved Meryl Streep, and sent her a letter saying that she was very proud of her, and that she hopes that they might work together some time. Meryl, a woman after my own heart, is a Bette Davis fanatic, and was more than chuffed, and said on her Turner Classic Movies tribute to Miss Davis said "As far as I was concerened, she had been working with me ever since I was a little girl. She had been building my confidence and inspiring me as long as I can remember." Or something like that anyway. If I used a rating system, this film would get 3 out of 5 stars.

Before I leave you, I just have to marvel a while at Bette's hair. It is all straight and then PHUFF! Grrrr. I wish I had the determination to sleep in rollers like she did.
Notice she even smokes whilst in a phone booth.


Frl. Irene Palfy said...

I love Claude Rains in that film - he is so brilliant!

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