Thursday, January 17, 2002


Bette Davis, in high camp mode, in a movie that is known today mostly because Edward Albee immortalized Davis' "What a dump!" line reading in his play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" The critics who do pay attention to this film don't like it, but I found it to be good, campy, soap-opera fun. Davis plays the wife of a small town doctor (Joseph Cotton) who is bland and altruistic, refusing to press his indigent patients for money owed him. She entertains fantasies about running off with her rich lover from Chicago and eventually does, but she winds up pregnant and humiliated by her lover, and lashes out in anger at everyone, including her slatternly Mexican maid. After getting her lover to promise to marry her, she then tries to get rid of the baby she's carrying. Did I mention she kills an old man along the way?

Basically, everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in here. Davis brays and whines very well throughout--and looks like hell in an odd black wig, which gives an almost surreal touch to the proceedings at times. From today's vantage point, I think we do have some sympathy for her character, but Davis' characterization makes it difficult (on purpose) to sustain that sympathy. However, that leaves no other character for us to like, so I wound up rooting for the murderous, grasping Davis. The production code seems to be the reason for some of the more obscure plot points toward the end. Despite its iffy reputation, this is certainly worth seeing at least once.

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