If you have any doubt, this is Bette Davis’ movie ~
Hearing the news of Paddy’s passing unexpectedly knocked me for a loop. And I’m not alone in that, I know. This idea for a blogathon is a way to commiserate and commemorate a great writer, a good and genuine person, and an avid classic movie and TV fan. Patricia Nolan-Hall had a blog known as CAFTAN WOMAN, and she told us we could call her Paddy. She always had a kind word about someone else’s work. ( Where she got the time to read all of us I’ll NEVER know! ) And I’ve been one of the very lucky recipients of her praise.
If you click on this banner, you will find a slew of great bloggers who love classic films and admired Paddy. They’re participating in this blogathon, and wild horses couldn’t keep me from joining the fun. Jacqueline T. Lynch of ANOTHER OLD MOVIE BLOG along with the LADY EVE’S REEL LIFE are co-hosting this blogathon in one of the finest ideas they’ve had.
Looking over Paddy’s blog, I see she’s a Bette Davis fan. So am I. Here are the number of times she’s covered Davis:
But the film she wrote about that caught my eye is Davis’ 1937 hit: “MARKED WOMAN.”
I urge you to read Paddy’s take on it, again by clicking on the above banner. My thoughts on the movie ( with SPOILER ALERTS! ) are laid out below. Hey, if it was good enough for Paddy, it’s good news for me.
Directed by Michael Curtiz you know you’re going to get a hard hitting satisfyingly brilliant crime drama. It’s a tough world this world he shows us. There are bad guys who are bad men, and good guys who are ‘bad’ women.
It’s a sisterhood with these five gals: Bette Davis, Lola Lane, Isabel Jewell, Mayo Methot and Rosalind Marquis. Davis is sort of the den mothering, leader of the pack, looking out, in different ways, for each of the gals. She’s the mouthpiece of the group speaking up for whoever’s in trouble.
Each gal plays a “type.” Jewell is a gal with the easiest virtue among the squad, who goes to bed with the boss or anyone and gets gifts. Methot is an over the hill bar girl viewed as washed up with limited sex appeal. ( Davis goes to bat for her ). Marquis is sort of light comic relief.
I say this is Bette Davis before her highfalutin’ days of ladies to the Manor born and clipped accents, when she was a Skeffington or a Queen Elizabeth or a dying socialite or the wife who shoots her lover in the back, or a crazy wife of the president of Mexico. Here she is a plain working girl who thinks she can beat the system by earning some money and leading the business behind…
“I know all the angles . . . ” Yeah ya do!
This is the same wish all the girls have, but never achieve. The “hostess“ business ( post-code ) has an invisible fence around it run by mob boss Johnny Vanning. And nobody, but nobody escapes.
The girls bitch and moan but continue to play Vanning’s game. He is played by the cruelly handsome Eduardo Cianelli a poorly educated gangster aspiring to a higher status. When he gets in a jam for killing a four-flusher, he talks to his lawyer
( John Litel ) and decides to make Davis take the fall for him by taking the rap she’s assured he’ll spring her from.
But before this happens, there’s a fly in the ointment:
Girl next door Jane Bryan, a Warner Brothers cutie, plays Davis’ college age kid sister who’s been sheltered from what Davis’ job really is.
The cops come to arrest Davis, putting Vanning’s plan into play. It also opens Davis’ kid sister’s eyes and garners her disappointment, shattering Bryan’s respect for Davis.
[ Side note: What is a Warner Brothers movie without Allen Jenkins ]
She plays the young D.A. like a fiddle, feeding him a lot of hooey.
Bogart is on the good side and I must admit I like it when he plays a good guy with his tailored suits and perfect annunciation. In fact with my love of classic films, I know in the future that lies ahead for Bogart and Davis, it’s thrilling to watch these two size each other up and spar, seeing just the faintest hint of their future acting tricks. Gosh how I wish they had made one more picture during the height of their power at Warner Brothers, with roles equally worthy of them. Sigh!
It’s in this scene where I really see shades of what the 29-year old Bette will become.
Her mannerisms: hands in pockets, vocal tonation are things that will become her trademark. Forgive me, but I also kinda love seeing her pushed around by character actor Raymond Hatton.
There’s a trial and Davis is found ‘Not Guilty.’
She might be sprung from the hoosegow but tarnished in her kid sister’s eyes.
Bogie is pretty burnt about it, too!
The scales have been torn off Bryan’s eyes and Bette tries to get back in good with her. I like the scenes between these two, where Bette is more tender and not hard as nails.
Wanting some taste of independence after finding out and not being able to live down what Davis really does for living ( and it ain’t modeling clothes ) Bryan’s talked into going to a party with the easiest girl in the crew.
Fellas, I know you know what that look means
Bryan comes home no worse for the wear, but has it out with Davis on the stoop of their brownstone; and she gives as good as she gets. Here’s where I point out Lola Lane. She is the bitter, sultry, right-hand, raven-haired Consigliere who’s always in the background looking out for Davis, even if Bette doesn’t want her help:
Her fate is sealed by going back to the party. This ain’t no game of tiddlywinks. Grown men play for keeps. And college girls don’t make it out alive.
I showed you above what Davis’ll do when angry. And what’s done to her when she makes threats.
It’s interesting to see her play the same scene with Bogie’s District Attorney, only this time on the level. There’s no reason for him to help her after she played him for a sucker in front of everyone.
But his feelings are…more than judicious. The women ALL testify against Vanning in solidarity.
And Lola Lane shines in her testimony. ( Wish you had more dramatic roles, Lola!! )
It’s up to Bette to really make Vanning pay. But ultimately she’s paid a higher price.
I won’t spoil it too much more than I’ve already done if you haven’t seen the movie already. And if you have, you know strong classics can withstand repeated viewings. Nothing can spoil a classic. Just ask the folks who go to the TCMFF. Your third, tenth, thirtieth viewing of “MARKED WOMAN” is still just as effective.
I’ve got a lot of reading ahead of me. And so do you. Click on either of my photos to get to the directory of bloggers either on Another Old Movie Blog or the Lady Eve’s Reel Life. It’ll be tough task reading everyone’s thoughts of Paddy. I tried to pay a little homage to her with this t-shirt; sort of taking her with me to TCM’s 2022 Classic Film Festival a few weeks ago. You have to be a really special kind of person to engender such emotion from folks who’ve never met you.
I think the blogging world won’t quite be the same without her. Thank you Paddy Lee.
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