“There’s something in me that wants something different.”
A penniless writer (Leslie Howard) stops at a roadside diner and becomes enamored with a poetic waitress (Bette Davis) who longs for a more exciting and romantic life. When notorious gangster Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart) and his men arrive and hold the diner’s inhabitants hostage, both Davis and Howard suddenly face life-changing choices.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Bette Davis Films
- Humphrey Bogart Films
- Leslie Howard Films
- Play Adaptation
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary opens his review of this adaptation of “Robert E. Sherwood’s philosophical play” by noting it “provided the cinema with one of its few intellectual protagonists who wasn’t a mad scientist”, and adds that while the “adaptation is a bit stagy” it’s “generally well directed by Archie Mayo”. He notes that “wide-eyed Davis gives a fine, unassuming performance, and Howard, if he’d just stop talking for five seconds, is a good match for her”, while “Bogart and the other supporting players are well cast.” He points out a particularly interesting scene “in which a black gangster [Slim Thompson] reminds a black chauffeur [John Alexander], who needs orders from his rich white boss before doing anything, that they’ve been emancipated”, and notes that “Sherwood’s play is about the need for every repressed person to rebel against the particular ‘order’ — be it sexual, financial, racial, physical — in which he finds himself.” While I agree the film is a “bit stagy”, it never feels slow or boring, and I find it particularly interesting for both Davis’s uncharacteristically subdued performance and Howard’s charismatic presence — they make an appealing if star-crossed pair of would-be lovers.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Bette Davis as Gabrielle
- Leslie Howard as Alan
- Humphrey Bogart as Duke Mantee
- Sol Polito’s cinematography
Yes, for its historical importance (as Bogart’s breakthrough role) and strong performances.