Popular and beautiful Fanny Trellis is forced into a loveless marriage with an older man, Jewish banker Job Skeffington, in order to save her beloved brother Trippy from an embezzlement charge, and predictable complications result.
Abandoning artistic ambitions, sensitive and club-footed Philip Carey enrolls in medical school and falls in love with a waitress Mildred Rogers. She rejects him, runs off with a salesman and returns unmarried and pregnant. Philip gets her an apartment and they become engaged. Mildred runs off with another medical student. Philip takes her back again when she returns with her baby. She wrecks his apartment and burns the securities he needs to pay tuition. He gets a job as a salesman, has surgery on his foot, receives an inheritance, and returns to school where he learns Mildred is dying.Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Bette Davis wanted the role of Mildred Rodgers because she thought it would be her breakout role after years of starring in films that were getting her nowhere. She begged Warner Brothers studio chief Jack L. Warner to let her out of her contract so she could make the film. He relented because he was sure she would fail; but, when her performance sparked talk of an Oscar, Warner began a spite campaign by encouraging academy members not to vote for her. At the time, the voting campaigns and the tabulation of the results were handled by the heads of the academy (of which Warner had a membership) and it worked in his favor when Davis was left out of the Best Actress competition. Supporters of Davis, shocked by her omission, petitioned the academy for a write-in vote. She was added to the nominees as a write-in but she lost to Claudette Colbert for her performance in It Happened One Night (1934). As a result of this incident, write-in votes were henceforth disallowed. Also, as a result of Warner's coup, the academy decided to change its voting practices and hand over the counting of the results to the independent accounting firm of PriceWaterhouse, who still does the official counting to this day. See more »
Athelny's mustache and beard are almost coming unstuck in the scene in which he is eating dinner. See more »
I thought you were never coming.
Ooh, like that. After keeping me waiting. I almost went home.
I was in the second class waiting room. I thought you said you'd be there.
No, I said "is it likely I would sit in the second class if I could sit in the first?" For a gentleman of brains you don't use them, do ya?
Perhaps not. Anyway you're here, so it's alright, isn't it?
You certainly do make a girl feel important to ya.
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Coming shortly before the imposition of a morality code darkened the spirits of writers, directors and actors, the first film adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's "Of Human Bondage" titillated countless moviegoers. It has no shock value today, just fine acting.
While the cast is excellent, this is Bette Davis's first great role and one of Leslie Howard's best performances. Howard is English wannabe Parisian artist Philip Carey who is gently and firmly told that he lacks any talent and that his dedication is no substitute for true genius. Taking the lesson to heart he returns to London and enrolls in a medical college (one, by the way, that seems to have no female students-at that time there would have been at least a few. Perhaps author/physician Maugham didn't care for distaff medicos).
Having tea one day Carey is entranced by a waitress, Mildred Rogers, Bette Davis in a role as a morally loose and basically wicked farrago. Her Cockney accent is as sharp as Eliza Doolittle's. His repeated attempts to date her are greeted with the less than enthusiastic reply, "I don't mind," a sure sign for any man with his head screwed on straight that he's plumbing the depths. Maugham's Mildred supplemented her waitress tips with a bit of old fashioned street-walking, something not clearly brought out here.
Carey's besotted prostration serves Rogers' avaricious need for support of the financial kind. He is desperately in love with her-she plays him as a Sunday church organist effortlessly plies her instrument. No sex here. Recognizing that he is getting nowhere, he begins a chaste relationship with Norah, a woman who adores him. Re-enter Mildred, replete with a baby, and in her usual need of being taken care of. Exit heartbroken Norah.
Another separation from Mildred and Carey begins a long-term friendship with Sally, abetted enthusiastically by her dad who seems to view eventual marriage as both a good thing for the two young people and a chance to be relieved of one of his nine offspring.
The movie reasonably but not entirely follows Maugham's excellent novel. Howard's Carey is naive and vulnerable and for much of the movie his sad eyes remind one of a doe facing a double-barreled shotgun. Mildred is unrestrainedly wicked, a user of the worst kind, her sole preoccupation with her own needs barely disguised when she tries to wheedle Carey with a thin patina of affectionate words (and offers-at one point she promises she'll do "anything [he] wants," a daring statement for the times and one I'm sure audiences fully understood.
Pre-Code it may be but Mildred's quick-march dissolution would have satisfied the League of Catholic Decency. The ending is conventional-sin loses, principled behavior triumphs.
Director John Cromwell wrought excellent performances from his two main stars, one well-established, the other established largely because of this film. The atmosphere is 1930s London and the trip back in time is worth taking.
Available on DVD.
9/10 (for Davis's and Howard's performances)
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