Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Bill (George Brent) was once a high school football hero, but now he's an office manager at an advertising firm. He wants to work on ad campaigns, but his boss belittles his every attempt to step outside the boundaries of his job. His wife Nan (Ann Dvorak) encourages him to stand up for himself, but things remain status quo until two things happen: his brother-in-law gets a better job, and his boss hires Pat (Bette Davis), an old school chum of Bill's, as an ad writer, and then humiliates Bill in front of Pat. Nan has saved a little money which she gives to Bill so he can quit and start his own ad agency. He struggles for a while but finally breaks into the big time when he snags Paul (John Halliday), a cosmetics magnate, as a client, even giving him advice about how to boost sales—by slapping a "double strength" label on his skin cream and doubling the price. Soon Bill has a very successful business, and has even hired Pat as a copy writer, which is, of course, the beginning of his downfall when he and Pat start an affair. To muddy the waters even more, Paul, sensing the situation, comes on to Nan. Soon, Bill and Nan head to divorce court until a near-tragedy in the family makes the two reconsider.

Technically, this movie was released a couple of months after the Production Code went into effect, but it gets away with presenting fairly explicitly an extramarital affair without really having to "punish" either of the participants. Davis was near a crossroads in her career—this was the first movie that came out after OF HUMAN BONDAGE made her a sensation—and though Ann Dvorak has the title role, and arguably the more important role, Davis is billed ahead of her and with good reason. Even at half-speed in a supporting part, Davis throws sparks and is the main reason to watch this, though Brent makes for a very appealing lead. Unfortunately, Dvorak comes off rather blandly, though our sympathy still remains with her character. Ruth Donnelly is fun as Dvorak's sister-in-law, and Hobart Cavanaugh and Robert Barrat are fine in supporting roles. This is mild, light-toned if not exactly comic, melodrama and is generally entertaining, but not a major Bette Davis film. [DVD]

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