Three women who were childhood schoolmates take different paths in life. Vivian marries a very wealthy lawyer and has an adorable boy. Mary, on the other hand, takes the hard road through reform school. After a superstitious faux pas, Vivian's luck turns. She strays from her steadfast husband to a life of debauchery and alcoholism. Meanwhile, Mary turns her life around and not only wins the heart of Vivian's ex-husband, but also becomes a loving step-mother to Vivian's only child. Then Vivian's worthless boyfriend makes a desperate move. Written by
Gary Jackson <email@example.com>
Director Mervyn LeRoy disliked the acting job Bette Davis did in this film. She, in turn, hated his directing and called him a "hack," feeling that her talent was being wasted playing supporting roles. This rift came back to haunt LeRoy when Davis's star began to ascend. See more »
Ruth Wescott's name is misspelled Westcott in the opening titles. See more »
Another neglected eye-opener from the pre-Code era. No doubt, this cynical essay on wanton motherhood helped bring down the wrath of the censors two years hence. Ann Dvorak is a bored upper-class matron who flees to Europe with toddler son in tow, seeking excitement and a sexual adventure she can't admit to herself. She finds them in the person of shady character Lyle Talbott, with whom she shacks-up neglecting her boy in the process. Dvorak shines in those scenes that graphically chart her growing degradation, which I take from her appearance to include heavy drug use. The ending is frankly pretty predictable, Code or no Code.
The movie is no unmixed triumph. The Blondell--William relationship seems highly improbable, while Bette Davis's contrived role as the third girl on the match remains largely a waste. In fact, the movie's second half comes nowhere near the vitality or subtlety of the first half-- note the nuances of that early bedroom scene where we become privy to Dvorak's failing marriage. It's a little gem. The second half, on the other hand, is not helped by the caricatured gangsters, especially in their final scene which unlike the rest of the movie is also poorly directed. Nonetheless, the 60 minutes comes as a revelation to those of us accustomed to the conventions of a 30-year Code period.
Thanks be to TCM for rescuing these sleepers. I doubt they were shown anytime during the censorship era, and by the time they could be shown, they were too dated and obscure. But now film buffs have a chance to discover a Hollywood era most of us didn't know existed. Three on a Match may not be the most compelling product of that time, but it does prove one thing-- despite the opinion of some, sex was not an invention of the 1960's.
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