Starring: Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains
Director: Irving Rapper
In this sparkling melodrama, Bette Davis is Charlotte Vale, youngest daughter of a Boston matriarch who rules with an iron fist. Never allowed to blossom, Charlotte lives at home as a spinster, serving her mother til the strain causes a depression. Taken to stay in a sanatorium, Charlotte is allowed to finally be herself, and both her inner and outer beauty are revealed.
But returning home is not easy, as her mother tries every manipulation in the book to get her daughter back under her thumb. It’s when Charlotte is out in the world on a cruise that she meets a man and finds the love she thought had passed her by, but that man just happens to be married.
It’s A Must See Because: I suppose it’s hard to imagine Davis as an ugly duckling, but this films makeover plot was one of the first to use this device, and Davis was nominated for an Oscar for her performance. The film, with it’s focus on feeling and emotion, is very dramatic, but it’s based firmly in the psyche of the lead characters, and feels very realistic and quite delicious. It’s sheer delight seeing the looks on the characters faces as Davis is transformed from maiden aunt to butterfly, and from quiet and cowed to confident and beautiful. Especially when she sticks it to her awful, controlling mother.
The doomed romance is particularly bittersweet. Henreid is the man that Davis cannot have, an unhappily married man, and this drama only makes the whole more sweet.
See It If: you’re a Bette Davis fan, or ever wanted your over bearing mother to back off. Delicious!