Bette Davis

Dark Victory 3Bette Davis With Humphrey Bogart in Dark Victory

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Real Name:  Ruth Elizabeth Davis

Birthdate:  April 5, 1908

Number of films Bette Davis made with Humphrey Bogart:  7

The Lowdown:

When the subject of typical Bogart costars comes up, it’s strange to me that Bette Davis is rarely mentioned, especially when you consider that they made seven different films together.  In one of the films, they only have brief cameos and don’t even meet (Thank Your Lucky Stars), and in a few more, Bogart plays minor roles and their interaction is minimum (The Bad Sister, Three on a Match), but considering how little they’re paired in cinematic conversation, these two had a few really great roles together!

The Filmography

The Bad Sister – 1931

The Bad Sister

In her very first film, Davis plays Laura Madison, a wallflower who’s stuck in the shadow of her older sister Marianne (Sidney Fox).  While Davis and Bogart share next to no screen time together, it’s still a strong early showing for both actors as they each do their fair share of scene stealing from their more established costars.  If you’re like me, you’ll spend most of the film wondering why every guy in town is going after Sidney Fox when Bette Davis is standing right there!!!  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Three on a Match – 1932

3 on a Match

Davis plays Ruth Wescott, the “good girl” next to Joan Blondell’s reformed “bad girl” and Ann Dvorak’s “bad girl” in the making.  Davis’ part is not nearly as developed as Blondell’s or Dvorak’s, and she was supposedly at odds with director Mervyn LeRoy because he didn’t like her acting, but she’s gorgeous and lots of fun in what scenes she does get.  Since Bogart doesn’t come in until the last act of the film, the two don’t meet.  But it is, once again, a strong showing from both of them.  Davis is solidifying the “girl next door” persona that she played many times early on in her career, and Bogart lays down another very strong gangster performance.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

The Petrified Forest – 1936

petrified forestDavis swoons over Leslie Howard’s intellectual loner . . .

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Davis plays Gabrielle (Gabby) Maple, a café owner’s daughter who’s desperate to get out of the desert so that she can see the world.  Bogart is, of course, Duke Mantee, the outlaw gangster – a role that he originated on Broadway.  While Bogart spends most of his lines squaring off against Leslie Howard, he and Davis do spend much of the film in the same frame as almost all of the action takes place within the café.  Again, both actors continue to elevate their status as the “girl next door” and the tough as nails gangster, respectively.  This is, by far, my favorite film out of all seven that they made together.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Marked Woman – 1937

Marked WomanDavis coming for Bogart’s help – a little too late . . .

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Davis plays Mary, a nightclub “hostess” that runs afoul of her gangster boss (Eduardo Ciannelli) when her kid sister (Jane Bryan) gets caught up in her troubles.  Davis is passionate in the role, and is certainly the highlight of the film.  Bogart plays Assistant District Attorney David Graham, and while the two have several key scenes together, Bogart’s character really seems to only be around for plot advancement.  It’s a decent film, and a strong showing for Davis, but a bit of a let down for Bogart considering that it’s a smaller role than their last film together.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Kid Galahad – 1937

Kid GalahadDavis – getting ready to watch Bogart take one on the chin . . .

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Davis plays Edward G. Robinson’s gangster moll, Fluff, with such a sweet and naïve quality that I was left wondering for the first half of the movie how she ended up with Robinson.  There is a brief scene in a car with Wayne Morris where she alludes to a darker past, but come on, Bette!  You can do better!  Bogart and Davis don’t spend a lot of time together, as she’s usually in the background while Bogart deals with Edward G. Robinson or Wayne Morris.

bette

The first party scene in the hotel though, where she’s serving drinks in a flower print dress with a low neckline . . . whew – she is GORGEOUS!  How did Edward G. Robinson get so lucky?  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Dark Victory – 1939

Dark Victory 2Bogart and Davis in, what I would consider, their best shared scene ever!

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Davis plays Judith Traherne, a wealthy young party girl whose life goes into a dramatic about-face after she’s diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Bogart is the Irish horse trainer (no, the accent is not as bad as you’ve heard) who’s in love with her, and the scenes they share together are some of the most dynamic in the film.  It’s a shame that Bogart’s role is so small, but he was also splitting his time between this film and The Oklahoma Kid.  Davis was reported to be dealing with a lot of personal turmoil during the film, as she was involved with costar George Brent while her marriage was falling apart.  It seems to only add to her emotional performance, as the film contains some of the most passionate and energetic acting of her career to that point.  There was also a happier ending to the film that followed Bogart to the racetrack as he led Davis’ favorite racehorse to a victory, but it was determined to be too abrupt of a tonal shift and was left on the cutting room floor.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

In This Our Life – 1942

In This Our Life

It’s the film listed in Bogart’s filmography that Bogart’s not even in!  Directed by John Huston, rumor had it that Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and a few others had appeared in the movie as background players for a scene to add a little “in-joke” for Huston fans.  Whether the scene was cut out from the film or just a hoax to begin with, none of them are visible.  So while this one is listed in their shared filmography, I’m not counting it as one of the seven they made together.

But . . . Davis plays Stanley Timberlake, a borderline-sociopathic bad girl that steals her sister’s husband.  It’s a wild role for Davis, and another big step down the road away from some of the “girl next door” roles that she’d played during the first decade of her career.  She’s a liar, a cheat, a scoundrel, and a temptress – and it’s a truly amazing performance for Davis.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

Thank Your Lucky Stars – 1943

Thank Your

Davis plays herself in this cameo-filled extravaganza that showcases a whole boatload of Hollywood’s finest performers singing and dancing for a variety show hosted by Eddie Cantor.  Davis is very good as she walks into a fancy nightclub and sings “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” for all the gents who are drinking in the place.  Davis actually injured herself during the final take of the dance portion of the number, and you can see her holding her leg as she stands outside by her car.  Unfortunately, Davis and Bogart don’t share any screen time in this, the final film that they share together.  You can find my original write up on the film here.

The Usual Suspects is an ongoing series of posts about some of Bogart’s more regular collaborators.  You can check out other entries in the series here.

The Bad Sister – 1931

Bad_Sister_poster

My Review

—A Decent Drama With Some Good Comedy— 

Your Bogie Fix:

2 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  Hobart Henley

The Lowdown

Marianne Madison (Sidney Fox) is a young woman who relishes the fact that she can have her pick of any man in town, but when she falls for a shady con man (Humphrey Bogart), Marianne soon finds herself, and her family, in an incredible amount of trouble.

What I Thought

This is a movie that can take some jarring shifts between comedy and drama, but when it really gets cooking, it does both pretty well.

It was great to see Sidney Fox in another starring role after just watching MIDNIGHT / CALL IT MURDER not that long ago. (She was the actress who had a very short career and eventually took her own life). Fox and Bogart have really wonderful chemistry, and they are given a lot more time to shine here.

A cautionary tale not unlike the one portrayed in In This Our Life, a later Bette Davis drama where Davis gets to play the bad girl, The Bad Sister focuses on an impulsive young woman who takes what she wants from life regardless of the consequences. Other than a few abrupt tonal shifts between light comedy and drama, the film is a fun watch with a number of enjoyable performances. I’m also very glad that director Henley tried to end on a happier note than what we might have been led to expect from the climax.

The only real sticking issue I had is that Marianne has such a hold over her trio of young suitors, Wade Turnball (Bert Roach), Dr. Dick Lindley (Conrad Nagel), and Valentine Corliss (Humphrey Bogart), that I began to wonder if there were any other women in town. After all, is Bette Davis really that much of a consolation prize that no one gives her a second glance until Marianne is long gone?!?

The Bogart Factor

One of his very early roles, Bogart does seem just a tad green here. He talks in a bit of a shrill voice and can be a little stiff in his movements. Valentine Corliss is another role in the same vein of Bogart characters that I’ve dubbed the young punks.  He’s definitely hiding bad intentions, but he’s also very, very skilled at charming the pants off of everyone around him.

I have to admit that I had a lot of fun watching Valentine get the better of Dr. Lindley early on in the film when he’s able to steal Marianne away from the Dr. by simply offering her a car ride home. Really, Dr. Lindley?  A woman dumps you over a car ride and you still don’t give up on her?

Bogart gets a good deal of screen time for the first three quarters of this movie, and it’s a lot of fun to see him so young and effervescent at thirty years old. For only his fourth feature film release, it’s a pretty big part.

The Cast

Sidney Fox is so cute as Marianne Madison that I was ready to forgive her for all of her nastiness right up until she loses it on her father. She and Bogart click so well together as they con everyone around them that it’s a wonder Valentine didn’t  take her on the road.  After seeing Fox for a second time, I’m definitely going to explore her filmography further.

This was Bette Davis’ first film, and as the wallflower younger sister, Laura Madison, the only drawback from her performance is that I think she’s just too doggone cute to have been ignored by all the young men in her town for so long.

Conrad Nagel is top billed as Dr. Dick Lindley even though his part isn’t that big.  Probably the best moment in the film comes when he finally kisses Bette Davis over a newborn baby to ignite their romance.

Bert Roach is the rotund young suitor Wade Turnball.  He’s got the most satisfying ending in the entire film, and his comedic touch lightens the movie at just the right moments.

David Durand plays Marianne and Laura’s kid brother Hedrick.  He does such a great job of stealing scenes and playing an impish brat that even I wanted to smack him.

The standout role here though, is none other than Zasu Pitts as the Madison’s servant, Minnie. Her timing is impeccable, and after It All Came True, I’m ready to say that she’s one of my favorite comedic film actresses from Classic Hollywood. Her continual repetition of Hmmm! whenever she gets frustrated had me smiling every time. After looking through her filmography on IMDB a bit, it looks like she was an experienced silent film actress before the talkies. I need to find more of her work!

Classic Bogie Moment

I’ve mentioned it time and time again on this blog – but Bogart can do a lot with just a little.  In A. Sperber’s Bogart biography, she talked a lot about how he would often trim back his lines and try to convey his message with as few words as possible. We get a classic example of that here as he adds a subtle pause in a line as Valentine responds to an offer from Marianne:

MarianneHow’d ya like to take a little walk, Mr. Corliss?

Valentine:  There’s nothing I’d rather do than . . . take a walk.

Just that tiny pause, with a little added smile, is more than enough to tell us that he’s got more on his mind than walking.

The Bottom Line

Much like Big City Blues, this is a film with a lot of comedic touches before it takes a sharp right-turn into a painful and heavy climax. Still, it ends on a much brighter note, and overall, the cast gels very well together. A great early role for Bogart!