“Don’t you ever get tired of lessons?”
Upon moving to the Welsh countryside, a schoolteacher (Bette Davis) decides to establish a classroom in her own house to help teach the village children. One student (John Dall) stands out as particularly gifted, and she helps him begin preparations to attend Oxford — but the tarty daughter (Joan Lorring) of her housekeeper (Rosalind Ivan) has other plans in mind for Dall.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Bette Davis Films
- Femmes Fatales
- Irving Rapper Films
- John Dall Films
- Mildred Dunnock Films
- Play Adaptations
Irving Rapper directed Bette Davis in no less than nine films, including this adaptation of Welsh author Emlyn Williams’ semi-autobiographical play about a gifted young coal-miner attempting to gain entrance into Oxford. The storyline is often overly theatrical, and certain scenes (such as when the coal-miners sing impossibly beautiful ditties while walking to and from work) come across as heavy-handed — but Davis is such a nuanced and compelling actress that she consistently elevates the material, helping us remain invested and engaged throughout.
In his film debut, Dall — best known for his starring roles in Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) and Joseph Lewis’s Gun Crazy (1949) — received a Best Supporting Actor nomination, and does an impressive job portraying his character’s deep sense of conflict:
It’s easy to understand why this strapping young man would both appreciate and resent the attentions paid to him by Davis. However, I’m less enamored with Lorring’s performance as a trollop who sets a key plot hitch in motion:
While Davis apparently hand-picked her for the role, I find her performance overly broad; sure, she’s written as a no-good femme fatale whose very mother confesses to not liking her when she was born (poor thing!), but she’s a tad too one-dimensional in her sociopathic glee for my tastes.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Bette Davis as Lily Moffat
- John Dall as Morgan Evans
No, though it’s recommended.