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Payment on Demand (1951)

Approved | | Drama | 3 February 1951 (USA)
The film is about divorce but with flashbacks as to why divorce occurs.



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Complete credited cast:
Joyce Ramsey (nee Jackson)
David Anderson Ramsey
Mrs. Emily Hedges
Robert Townsend
Anthony Tunliffe
Eileen Benson
Diana Ramsey
Ted Prescott
Brett King ...
Phil Polanski
Jim Boland
Mrs. Edna Blanton
Katherine Emery ...
Mrs. Gates
Lisa Golm ...


The film is about divorce but with flashbacks as to why divorce occurs.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


He strayed and he paid . . She saw to that! See more »




Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

3 February 1951 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Story of a Divorce  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Davis' 3 year-old daughter Barbara (Always called, "B.D.") makes her debut in the first of her 2 film roles as Joyce's daughter as a young girl. (The other was the neighbor's daughter in "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane." See more »


Shadow on the wall to the right as it pulls back from the conference room after the divorce settlement meeting. See more »


Mrs. Emily Hedges: Be careful, Joyce. When a woman starts getting old, time can be the avalanche and loneliness - a disaster.
See more »


Featured in Stardust: The Bette Davis Story (2006) See more »


A Woman's Intuition
Music by Victor Young
Lyrics by Ned Washington
Sung by Bette Davis
See more »

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User Reviews

Divorce story somewhat ahead of its time
4 June 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

When I was a kid, the next door neighbor was "divorced." You would have thought she was the town hooker. People just did not get divorced in the '50s.

Taken with that framework, 1951's "Payment on Demand" is quite interesting. The Ramseys, David and Joyce (Barry Sullivan and Bette Davis), have been married for about 21 years and have two daughters (Betty Lynn and Peggie Castle). One day, a grumpy David comes home and announces that he wants a divorce. Joyce is shocked, though she really shouldn't be. She and her husband have widely divergent values. She's an ambitious, social-climbing, greedy bitch, and he wanted to have a practice with his partner Robert (Kent Taylor) and live on a farm. The life she has driven him into has made him miserable.

In flashback, Joyce reviews their young love and early marriage, during which she manages to steer a lucrative client her husband's way -- and away from his partner Robert. When Robert finds out, an important friendship ends. When Joyce gives birth to their second child, David informs her that they're moving to San Francisco so he can work with his client's new business, and he'd like to buy a farm outside the city. Joyce may be weak from childbirth, but she manages to gather enough strength to make a scene. From there, she manages to get in with the society crowd, even though her husband tells her he doesn't like "snooty people." And on it goes.

The couple separate; Joyce finds out David is seeing someone and uses it to get an enormous settlement with the threat that she'll ruin the woman's reputation. Then she goes on a cruise and learns something. Loneliness isn't fun.

This is a somewhat old-fashioned look at divorce, focusing on loneliness and the misery of not having a man instead of a woman building a new life for herself and enjoying a sense of freedom. There's a lot of warning about what happens to older women. While some of that has truth to it, the script doesn't allow that there's anything in life that will bring happiness except marriage or companionship.

"Payment on Demand" offers Bette Davis a somewhat typical role as a controlling, difficult woman with shallow values, but one who learns a few lessons along the way. She's excellent. Jane Cowl, who had passed away by the time this film was released, is Mrs. Hedges, an older woman with a young "protege" - she's very good. Barry Sullivan is the long-suffering husband; he always worked well with these strong actresses, and he hands in a sympathetic performance here. John Sutton is a man Joyce meets on a cruise, and he's appropriately elegant.

Good film probably not appreciated today because we're so used to divorce, settlements, and infidelity. For the average person, this was big stuff in the '50s, when my mother's generation was just getting married and beginning their families.

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