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The Old Maid (1939)

Approved | | Drama | 2 September 1939 (USA)
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.

Director:

Edmund Goulding

Writers:

Casey Robinson (screen play), Zoe Akins (based on the play by: Pulitzer Prize) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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)
Rod Cameron ... Undetermined Secondary Role (scenes deleted)
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Storyline

After a two-year absence, Clem Spender returns home on the very day that his former fiancée, Delia, is marrying another man. Clem enlists in the Union army and dies on the battlefield, but not before finding comfort in the arms of Delia's cousin, Charlotte Lovell. The years pass and Charlotte establishes an orphanage and eventually confesses to Delia that her dearest young charge, Tina, is an fact her own child by Clem. Jealousy and family secrets threaten to tear the sisters apart. Written by L. Hamre

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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!

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 September 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Htjela sam dijete See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The 1935 Pulitzer Prize-winning play opened at the Empire Theatre in New York on Jan. 7, 1935 and ran for 305 performances. The leads were played by Judith Anderson and Helen Menken. Marjorie Lord, who later gained fame as the wife of Danny Thomas on TV's Make Room for Daddy (1953), was a replacement cast member in a supporting role. Producer-Director Ernst Lubitsch bought the rights to the play, intending to star both Judith Anderson and Helen Menken in a Paramount production, but the rights were later sold to Warner Bros. in January 1939. See more »

Goofs

Society women such as portrayed here would never have their names printed (on the many invitations and announcements throughout) as "Mrs. Delia ... Mrs. Henrietta" etc. but as "Mrs." before their husbands' names and as long as they remained widows. Obviously this was done for clarity to the viewer, but in period novels you don't see this stylistic error. See more »

Quotes

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 ...
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening credits are shown on facsimiles of wedding invitation cards. See more »


Soundtracks

The Wedding March
(1843) (uncredited)
from "A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op.61"
Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Played as background music after Dee's Wedding
See more »

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User Reviews

Best of Warner's Era Films Not Directed by William Wyler
9 May 2008 | by sissymaletopmanSee all my reviews

Everyone who is a fan of Davis' knows that William Wyler (director of Jezebel, the Letter, and the Little Foxes) was Davis' "best" director because he could put her in her place and control her, forcing her to not over-act and use too many bits of business and gestures, etc to distract. Davis did not need mannerisms to get emotion across on screen and Wyler seemed to be able to tell her how to control that; she learned from him, for after Jezebel in 1938, she very rarely acted in a manner displaying lack of control that matched her pre-Jezebel career.

The Old Maid was directed by Edmund Goulding; I don't know much about him except that was considered a "women's film" director and was respected as a talented one. In any event, the Old Maid is the best of Davis' four 1939 films. which include Dark Victory, Juarez, and the Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

In the Old Maid, Davis with the help of Mr Goulding delivers a restrained yet compellingly provocative performance; the film spans a twenty year time period, beginning in 1861 or so with a young Davis ministering to her cousin Delia (played by the talented but very difficult Miriam Hopkins.) Although Miriam does her best to steal each scene from Davis, she never succeeds. Bette Davis is superb in this film; so much so that it really remains one of the few undated movies from the 1930s. True star quality is related to being able to connect with an audience over years and years of time. Ms. Davis certainly has this ability - never better displayed than in the Old Maid.

Favorite scenes: Charlotte (Davis' character) wedding preparation and Delia's subsequent lie - along with the next scene that takes place when Davis realizes that Hopkins' character has lied and ruined her life - watch Davis' face as she utters "it was wicked of you" to Hopkins- (who, by the way delivers a disappointing response.) Now that's star-quality acting!


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