“I’m bad for people. I don’t mean to be, but I can’t help myself.”
A down-and-out actress (Bette Davis) seduces an admiring architect (Franchot Tone), who breaks off his engagement with his socialite girlfriend (Margaret Lindsay) to help revive Davis’s failing career.
Bette Davis’s Oscar-winning performance in Dangerous may be one of the first instances of an Academy Award being given to an actor or actress as a consolation prize for not winning the previous year, when he or she more clearly deserved it. In this case, most (including Peary) believe that Davis should have won an Oscar instead for her breakthrough performance in Of Human Bondage (1934), which is certainly the much better film. Indeed, Dangerous — based on Laird Doyle’s story “Hard Luck Dame” — remains a poorly written and conceived melodrama with a ludicrous ending and no clear sense of who to root for or why. Tone comes across like the ultimate fool: from the moment he naively believes he can bring a beautiful but notoriously damaged young actress back to his country home for the weekend and not cause potential risk to his happy engagement with Lindsay, we lose all respect for him, making it difficult to care much about either him or the story’s resolution. Yet Davis’s performance shines through the dross of the narrative, presenting us with a fully dimensional, deeply flawed femme fatale with a host of “dangerous” demons in her closet. She alone makes this film worth seeking out for a one-time look.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Bette Davis as Joyce Heath (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actresses of the Year in his Alternate Oscars)
No, though it’s worth a look simply for Davis’s Oscar-winning performance.