Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1939. Warner Bros.. Screenplay by Casey Robinson, from the play by George Emerson Brewer Jr., Bertram Bloch. Cinematography by Ernest Haller. Produced by Hal B. Wallis. Music by Max Steiner. Production Design by Robert M. Haas. Costume Design by Orry-Kelly. Film Editing by William Holmes. Academy Awards 1939.
It always amazes me that my fellow campy queens who run around quoting Bette Davis lines (“Fasten your seat belts…blah blah blah…what a dump…blah blah blah”) don’t reach for any quotes from this particular show of Betteness with the same fervour. Running around like a well-oiled piston from room to room with excitement and verve as headstrong socialite Judith Traherne, Davis looks like she’s begging on her knees to be satirized. She’s also wonderful (of course), and though the film is dated and somewhat cornball (movies up until The Three Faces of Eve that deal with medical subject matter tend to be so) it’s always a very enjoyable tearjerker. Judith learns that her brain operation wasn’t a success and that she has a lethal brain tumour and will go blind before she dies. How does she deal with it? Sporting the latest fashions, of course!!! Davis had seen the play with Tallulah Bankhead (she filmed another Bankhead vehicle play a year later when she did The Little Foxes) and told Jack L. Warner it would make a great vehicle for her. His response, now famous: “Who wants to see a dame go blind?” He was wrong, of course, and the film became one of Davis’ biggest hits. Lots of fun for such a sad movie.