Monday, November 10, 2014


Slick Novak (Jim Davis) is a soldier who has been acclaimed in the press as a war hero for saving the lives of several men at sea, but he wears his new-found fame uncomfortably. Poet Susan Grieve (Bette Davis) lives in Manhattan; unmarried, she is the very picture of the dignified artistic "spinster." Her unmarried friend Stacy Grant (John Hoyt—picture a somewhat less waspish Clifton Webb from LAURA) asks her to be his date as he sets Novak up with his sexy secretary (Janis Paige), but in the event, Slick winds up more interested in Susan, which catches her off guard. That night, Slick goes home with Susan and after some awkward banter, they kiss—and possibly more, but that remains off-screen. The next day, she takes him to her country house where eventually, the inner turmoil in both of them comes out. He's struggling with two problems: a long-held desire to be a priest and guilt over the fact that the men he saved ended up dying in another bombing days later; she still obsesses over the fact that her clergyman father went mad and killed himself, in a chair in the country house, over his wife leaving him. As they open up to each other, Susan notes, "It's dangerous to be a human being." Indeed, as once they have shared their souls, they wind up pulled apart by forces both human and mystical.

This is more an interesting movie than a truly compelling one. Some find the usually fiery Bette Davis to be miscast, but she's basically playing a variation on her more passive roles in NOW VOYAGER and OLD ACQUAINTANCE, and I think she's fine. More problematic is the male lead, Jim Davis, better known years later as Jock on TV's Dallas.  Again, "interesting" is the best word for him; he does a nice job conveying the idea that his character has deep and profound problems under the surface, but I ended up not really caring much about him, whether because of the acting or the writing, I'm not sure. Hoyt is surprisingly good in the prissy gay-best-friend role, and Janis Paige is fine in a thankless part. The conversations in this dialogue-heavy movie don't always ring true, and at 100 minutes, it's at least 20 minutes too long, but it's fun for Bette Davis fans, especially since it doesn't seem to crop up all that often. [Warner Archive streaming]

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