“I married the woman everyone else wanted to.”
A narcissistic socialite (Bette Davis) marries a wealthy Jewish businessman (Claude Rains) to ensure that she and her shiftless brother (Richard Waring) are financially secure — but her marriage to Job Skeffington (Rains) remains loveless, and she continues to entertain a bevy of suitors until her looks finally begin to fade.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Bette Davis Films
- Claude Rains Films
- Historical Drama
- Marital Problems
Vincent Sherman faced notoriously challenging circumstances during his filming of Elizabeth von Armin‘s historical novel — primarily the death of Davis’s husband one week into shooting, which led to Davis making life miserable for just about everyone on the set (including Sherman himself, her on-and-off-again lover). The resulting film is a sluggish, tonally inconsistent “women’s drama” which never really finds its footing and feels too long by half. Davis, though enthusiastic, is simply miscast as a flirtatiously irresistible beauty:
… who’s never at a loss for suitors (who in turn come across more like a comedic Greek chorus than realistic supporting characters). Rains is as invested as always in the title role — but he’s really secondary to the proceedings; this tale should have been called Fanny Skeffington instead, given that it’s primarily concerned with tracking Davis’s predictably disastrous fall-from-grace, hastened by a convenient bout of appearance-wracking diphtheria. To that end, the final portion of the film — in which the hideously transformed Fanny finally gets her comeuppance — provides the most entertainment value, in a gruesomely baroque manner; one can’t help thinking of Davis’s later Grand Guignol performances when viewing her mask-like visage (see still below).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A grotesquely baroque tale of feminine narcissism turned sour
No, though it’s worth a look simply for its curiosity value.