Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 1935. Warner Bros.. Story and Screenplay by Laird Doyle. Cinematography by Ernest Haller. Music by Ray Heindorf, Bernhard Kaun, Heinz Roemheld. Production Design by Hugh Reticker. Costume Design by Orry-Kelly. Film Editing by Thomas Richards. Academy Awards 1935.
Popular opinion had it that Bette Davis was overlooked by the Academy for her performance in Of Human Bondage, so she was easily expected to garner her first of two trophies for this film, essentially the same role but written by a far less conspicuous writer than the great Somerset Maugham. The truth is, she would have won anyway, as this one has all the elements that were shameless Oscar bait for women in this period: drunk scenes, random soliloquies, fallen womanhood are all in the mix, Morning Glory with an edge. Decades later, Davis is the only thing watchable about this smarmy melodrama, and it’s great to see that she is obviously a great actress who is still a tad bit raw: the “fourth Warner brother” who is so perfect in The Letter and The Little Foxes had not yet quite arrived. She plays a once-famous Broadway actress who has fallen into a miserable life after being labeled a “jinx” by the business. Franchot Tone plays a wealthy architect who recognizes her from the performances he loved her in and takes care of her, eventually abandoning his fiancee to devote himself to Davis and finance her comeback. Good intentions very easily lead to nothing but problems for our male star, but what is actually surprising is that the ending is lovely and doesn’t punish our heroine for being a woman. Its familiarity is tiresome, but at 78 efficient minutes you can’t say it’s a waste of time.