IMDb > The Old Maid (1939)
The Old Maid
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The Old Maid (1939) More at IMDbPro »

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Casey Robinson (screen play)
Zoe Akins (based on the play by: Pulitzer Prize)
View company contact information for The Old Maid on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
2 September 1939 (USA) See more »
Vividly, unforgettably, a woman's love starved soul is revealed. All those strange secrets she locks in her heart ... moments of rapture and of heartbreak ... longings that no man can fathom. Of these has the year's finest picture been woven!
The arrival of an ex-lover on a young woman's wedding day sets in motion a chain of events which will alter her and her cousin's lives forever. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
User Reviews:
Not Really Hers But Theirs... See more (31 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Bette Davis ... Charlotte Lovell

Miriam Hopkins ... Delia Lovell
George Brent ... Clem Spender

Donald Crisp ... Dr. Lanskell

Jane Bryan ... Tina

Louise Fazenda ... Dora
James Stephenson ... Jim Ralston
Jerome Cowan ... Joe Ralston
William Lundigan ... Lanning Halsey
Cecilia Loftus ... Grandmother Lovell

Rand Brooks ... Jim
Janet Shaw ... Dee

William Hopper ... John (as DeWolf Hopper)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Rod Cameron ... (scenes deleted)
Raymond Rayhill Powell
Sidney Bracey ... Charles - the Butler (uncredited)
Marlene Burnett ... Tina as a Child (uncredited)
Frederick Burton ... Mr. Halsey (uncredited)
Ricardo Lord Cezon ... Little Boy (uncredited)
Jack George ... First Orchestra Leader / Violinist (uncredited)
Winifred Harris ... Mrs. Halsey (uncredited)
Lois James ... Girl (uncredited)
Doris Lloyd ... Miss Ford (uncredited)

Directed by
Edmund Goulding 
Writing credits
Casey Robinson (screen play)

Zoe Akins (based on the play by: Pulitzer Prize)

Edith Wharton (and the novel by)

Produced by
Henry Blanke .... associate producer
Hal B. Wallis .... executive producer
Original Music by
Max Steiner 
Cinematography by
Tony Gaudio (photography)
Film Editing by
George Amy (film editor)
Art Direction by
Robert M. Haas  (as Robert Haas)
Costume Design by
Orry-Kelly (costumes by)
Makeup Department
Perc Westmore .... makeup artist
Helen Carpenter .... wig designer (uncredited)
Production Management
Jack L. Warner .... in charge of production
Al Alleborn .... unit manager (uncredited)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Jack Sullivan .... assistant director (uncredited)
Sound Department
C.A. Riggs .... sound
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Eugene Joseff .... costume jeweller (uncredited)
Music Department
Leo F. Forbstein .... musical director
Hugo Friedhofer .... orchestral arrangements
Crew verified as complete

Production Companies
  • Warner Bros. (presents) (as Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.) (A First National Picture)
DistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
95 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (RCA Victor System)
Australia:PG | Finland:S | USA:Approved (PCA #5227) | USA:TV-PG (TV rating)

Did You Know?

Humphrey Bogart was originally cast as the male lead, but dismissed after four days' filming.See more »
Continuity: When Dee is married, the invitation states the year as 1884. Later, when Tina is to marry, the announcement reads 1881 - three years earlier.See more »
Charlotte Lovell:She thinks I can't understand her. She considers me an old maid.
Delia Lovell Ralston:My dear.
Charlotte Lovell:A ridiculous, narrow-minded old maid. What else can she ever think of me?
Delia Lovell Ralston:Poor Charlotte.
Charlotte Lovell:Oh, but you needn't pity me. Because she's really mine. If she considers me an old maid, it's because I've deliberately made myself one in her eyes. I've done it from the beginning so she wouldn't have the least suspicion. I've practised everything I've ever had to say to her, if it was important, so that I'd sound like an old maid aunt talking. Not her mother.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Featured in Rich in Love (1992)See more »
(Oh My Darling) ClementineSee more »


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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful.
Not Really Hers But Theirs..., 11 March 2012
Author: Marcin Kukuczka from Cieszyn, Poland

Do things in life get so complicated that all seems to be a chain of desperate movements within a spider's web of confusion? Can human relations turn out to be so intensely complex and unendurable? Can pretense culminate through years in order to burst out at last or make the heart still for good? Something quite rare in real life, perhaps, but quite frequent on the screen.

One of classic representatives of a drama where so much is being felt yet so much being left unsaid is a play by Zoe Akins which inspired screenwriter Casey Robinson and director Edmund Goulding to adapt it to the screen in 1939. Initially, it had been a project by Lubitsch within the Paramount studio with the leading roles planned for Judith Anderson and Helen Menken. That, however, had not materialized. Instead, this Warner Bros production stands out as one of the key entertainments of its time. Goulding's subtle direction can be analyzed as a model from different points; Robinson proved to be faithful to the theatrical source making only some little alternations for the moral requirements of the Code; Tony Gaudio's cinematography boasts of some outstanding moments with striking undertones of images...but those important aspects are not where the movie's true strength lies. It does lie in the cast who make a rather 'unattractive' (for today's viewers) content highly interesting.

BETTE DAVIS and MIRIAM HOPKINS in the roles of 'Mrs Stubborn' and 'Mrs Serious,' as the two sisters nickname each other, have equal screen time as female co-stars. That makes THE OLD MAID not merely a vehicle for the Warner Bros star (Davis) but a highly unique, sometimes extremely controversial collaboration of the two. The treasure of skill and movie's major merit is not really hers (Davis's) but theirs...It is impossible to say whose performance is better; that would never be an idea of looking at the film. It is enough to state that the two prove unusual talents and extraordinarily generous acting. The lives of the two actresses crossed at the moment, faced conflicts. Consequently, those emotions are excellently put into all the effect they achieve together on the screen. While Davis was an important star of Warner studios at the time, Hopkins, unfortunately, remained underrated though she already had some great roles behind her. As far as Bette Davis is concerned, I totally agree with New York Times reviewer Frank S Nugent who observed: "Miss Davis has given a poignant and wise performance, hard and austere of surface; yet communicating through it the deep tenderness, the hidden anguish of the heart broken mother." Her portrayal, with the time span of one generation, is supplied with undeniably broad emotions and torments that she pays seeing herself in her own daughter - the girl who was hers only when being very little and who, as a teenager, can call her nothing else than 'aunt Charlotte.' She is a very sympathetic character and easily identified with by various female viewers – there lies the heart of a temperamental maid and a broken mother. Meanwhile, Miriam Hopkins, 'the least desirable companion on a desert island' as the Harvard Lampoon labeled her, proves to be a top notch talent here depicting various tricks of emotional crush with ease. Her Delia is a sort of 'forever young'... a woman of sophisticated appeal and harsh inaccessibility desirable for the kind of role she portrays. But the tensions reach climax when the two women are together. Among many scenes, I would mention the Christmas scene when the time comes for bitter words...though everyone's supposed to be jolly...

In between them, as an object of their jealous love, comes Jane Bryan as a young, vibrant, temperamental 'foundling' CLEMenTINA. 'When she talks, she laughs; when she walks, she dances,' as Dr Lanskell (Donald Crisp) nicely defines her. Miss Bryan, though given a considerably limited but significant screen time, gives a lively performance and steals one or two moments of attention from others. Being very memorable here, we can say that she is, in a way, the third female top notch performer. Her movements before the camera, her vibrant gestures, her acting in general call the attention even of the most 'pretentious' viewers. In the supporting roles, a mention should be made of a mainstay of old Hollywood classic (especially in Bette Davis film), Donald Crisp as Dr Lanskell. His remarks are cutting at moments and his presence filled with positive portrayal of an elderly, experienced guy. George Brent, given the role thanks to Bette Davis (the first choice was Humphrey Bogart), has his few moments of good acting as Clem though the role is quite marginal.

Finally, I would like to address the appealing psychology of the film. It accurately depicts the culmination of feelings within the wretched scapegoating of other people, sometimes even those who have more rights to something or somebody than we do. Mind you that many scenes take place on staircase that marks the undertone of higher and lower status within favoritism. Charlotte is the scapegoat of the events and yet...there is some hope for her, too... when a great day comes. The finale is so touching because of its simplicity at a relatively satisfactory pace. THE OLD MAID reminds us of universal laws that govern human relations where one loving deed redresses many bitter ones.

Let me quote Frank S Nugent who observed something quintessential about this old Hollywood classic: "Scenically, it is a trifle on the static side, which could not be avoided altogether. But dramatically, it is vital, engrossing and a little terrifying." Indeed, its drama has not dated and, though a sweet tearjerker at certain moments, it may wonderfully absorb the viewers of today. Who makes it 'vital, engrossing, little terrifying' if not the PERFORMERS? Thank you Bette, Miriam and Jane! Thank you all!

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Does anyone else think... cruisemama98
The whole story in Bette Davis's face.... beseelisa2
Resemblance to same characters in . . . lora64
Whom Clem loved--was Charlotte right? roseytrebles
This Movie Ripped My Heart Out seahawk3133
Better Than Dark Victory IMHO rockwell_lancer
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