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Bette Davis DVD Collection: The Old Maid + Deception

Bette Davis Collection Volume 3 DVD
Bette Davis DVD Collection.
Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

The Bette Davis Collection Vol. 3, a DVD box set consisting of six Davis vehicles, will be released on April 1.

The six films are The Old Maid (1939), All This and Heaven Too (1940), The Great Lie (1941), In This Our Life (1942), Watch on the Rhine (1943), and Deception (1946). A couple of those are remarkably good films, and all of them offer solid production values and various good-to-great performances – though Davis’ own work ranges from passable to awful.

The two best films in the lot are The Old Maid and The Great Lie, two unabashed weepies directed by Edmund Goulding. (Who’s the subject of an upcoming Q&A on Alt Film Guide.) Miriam Hopkins steals the show in the former, while Mary Astor, as a Major Bitch, does the same in the latter. (For her efforts, Astor won a best supporting actress Academy Award.) Davis, who was never very convincing when playing “nice,” is particularly bad in The Old Maid. (And to think there’s so much suffering because of George Brent…)

She’s also badly miscast in Anatole Litvak’s All This, and Heaven Too – in a role originally intended for rival Miriam Hopkins (Litvak’s former wife) – a stunning-looking Jane Eyre-ish melodrama about a French governess, her master (Charles Boyer), and his mad wife (Oscar nominee Barbara O’Neil, who dominates the movie whether she’s on screen or not).

In This Our Life was John Huston’s strange follow-up to The Maltese Falcon. The film is a bizarre melodrama (adapted by Howard Koch from Ellen Glasgow’s novel) about two sisters, one good (Olivia de Havilland), one bad and totally nuts (Davis). There’s cheating, lies, racism, manslaughter, social injustice, and kinky sexual undercurrents between Davis and her Uncle (Charles Coburn). Despite all that, the most remarkable element in In This Our Life is the portrayal of a young black man as something other than a Stepin Fetchit-like caricature.

Bette Davis, Paul Lukas in Watch on the Rhine

Watch on the Rhine is one of those well-intentioned, topical films that feel Important upon their release but that age rather rapidly. Paul Lukas won an Oscar for his portrayal of an anti-Nazi underground hero, while Bette Davis (second-billed) has what amounts to a self-effacing supporting role. Personally, I find Lukas much more effective as a suave villain (e.g., City Streets, The Lady Vanishes) than as a stiff hero. (Though, admittedly, he is just fine in Watch on the Rhine.)

Deception is a remake of the 1929 Jeanne Eagels melodrama Jealousy. Directed by Irving Rapper, with whom Davis had worked in Now, Voyager and The Corn Is Green, Deception is great to look at and boasts an excellent performance by Claude Rains. Davis, for her part, wears some nice clothes and suffers nobly. She and Rains were more evenly matched two years earlier in Mr. Skeffington.

And unless there’s a misprint, the “Technicolor patriotic short March On, America!” will show up accompanying two movies.

The Bette Davis Collection Vol. 3

  • Release date: April 1, 2008. US$59.92 SRP
  • All films b&w; not rated

The DVD info/film synopses below are from the press release.

In This Our Life (1942)

Two-time Best Actress Oscar winners and lifelong friends Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland square off as sisters (guess who’s the bad one) in In This Our Life, a must-see for fans of melodrama at its juiciest. Director John Huston, fresh from his The Maltese Falcon success, includes a cameo role for his father Walter, just as he did in Falcon. And Max Steiner’s powerful music underscores the film’s driving emotional force.

What Stanley Timberlake wants, she takes. So, on the eve of her marriage to another, she runs off with her sister’s husband, the first of many betrayals that lead to disaster…and to a compulsively watchable brew of deceit, racial bigotry, latent incest and violent death.

Special Features:

  • Commentary by film historian Jeannine Basinger
  • Warner Night at the Movies 1942 short subjects gallery:
  • Vintage newsreel
  • Technicolor patriotic short March On, America!
  • Technicolor musical short Spanish Fiesta
  • Classic cartoon Who’s Who in the Zoo
  • Trailers of In This Our Life and 1942’s Desperate Journey
  • Subtitles: English & Français (main feature only)
  • Running Time: 97 Minutes

The Old Maid (1939)

Based on an Edith Wharton novel and Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Old Maid tells the sad story of Charlotte, a woman whose circumstances force her to give up her illegitimate child and pose as the child’s “old maid” aunt, thereby facing a lifetime of maternal sacrifice. As Charlotte, Bette Davis gives one of her most nuanced performances, aging from wide-eyed girl to gray-haired martinet. Miriam Hopkins provides effective counterbalance with her portrayal of Charlotte’s effusive cousin, who raises the little girl. Two women, one child – and a brilliant example of melodrama as art.

Special Features:

  • Warner Night at the Movies 1939 short subjects gallery:
  • Vintage newsreel
  • Technicolor historical short Lincoln in the White House
  • Howard Hill sports short Sword Fishing
  • Classic cartoons The Film Fan and Kristopher Kolumbus
  • Trailers of The Old Maid and 1939’s Confessions of a Nazi Spy
  • Subtitles: English & Français (main feature only)
  • Running Time: 95 minutes

All This, and Heaven Too (1940)

Bette Davis is at the height of her phenomenal screen career, with co-star Charles Boyer in their only film together. The plot is rich in mystery and grand emotion; a powerful period drama honored with three 1940 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.

From Rachel Field’s fact-based bestseller, the story follows Henriette (Davis), governess at the Paris home of the Duc de Praslin (Boyer) and his jealous wife (Barbara O’ Neil). When governess and nobleman are drawn to each other, the Duchess erupts in fury…and meets a bloody fate. Soon Henriette and the Duc face a world eager to believe that the Duc murdered his wife. And that gentle Henriette was a willing accomplice.

Special Features:

  • Commentary by The Women of Warner Bros. author Daniel Bubbeo.
  • Warner Night at the Movies 1940 short subjects gallery:
  • Vintage newsreel
  • Technicolor patriotic short Meet the Fleet
  • Classic cartoons Hollywood Daffy and Porky’s Last Stand
  • Trailers of All This, and Heaven Too and 1940’s Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet
  • Audio-only bonus: Radio show adaptation with the film’s stars
  • Subtitles: English & Français (main feature only)
  • Running Time: 143 minutes

Mary Astor, Bette Davis in The Great Lie

The Great Lie (1941)

Tempestuous, ambitious concert pianist Sandra Kovac (Mary Astor) shares a bond with down-to-earth Maggie Van Allen (Bette Davis) and her little boy Pete. Sandra’s chic New York friends can’ t imagine what the two women have in common. What they don’ t know is that Pete is actually Sandra’s son – and the son of the heroic aviator (George Brent) that both women love. Powerful emotions rage against a backdrop of powerful music in the film that earned Astor a 1941 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her stellar performance opposite the legendary star who always gives a tour-de-force performance. This story of a great passion, a great sacrifice…and a great lie showcases two great actresses.

Special Features:

  • Warner Night at the Movies 1941 Short Subjects Gallery:
  • Vintage newsreel
  • Broadway Brevities short At the Stroke of Twelve
  • Oscar-nominated Technicolor Sports Parade short Kings of the Turf
  • Hollywood Novelty short Polo with the Stars
  • Classic cartoon Porky’s Pooch
  • Trailers of The Great Lie and 1941’s The Strawberry Blonde
  • Subtitles: English & Français (main feature only)
  • Running Time: 107 minutes

Deception (1946)

The three stars (Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains) and director (Irving Rapper) of Now Voyager reunite for this glamorous, angst-ridden melodrama set to a thrilling Erich Wolfgang Korngold score. A favorite of Davis fans, Deception inspired one of the best-known reviews in movie history: “It’s like grand opera, only the people are thinner. I wouldn’ t have missed it for the world” (Cecelia Ager, PM).

Based on Louis Verneuil’s 1928 play Jealousy, the film tells the story of pianist Christine Radcliffe separated from her great love, cellist Karel Novak by World War II. Unexpectedly reunited with him, Christine desperately strives to hide her wartime dalliance as the mistress of a wealthy, sadistic composer (Rains), with devastating results.

Special Features:

  • Commentary by film historian Foster Hirsch
  • Warner Night at the Movies 1946 short subjects gallery:
  • Vintage newsreel
  • Oscar-winning Technicolor Sports Parade Short Facing Your Danger
  • Technicolor Specials Short Movieland Magic
  • Classic cartoon Mouse Menace
  • Trailers of Deception and 1946’s A Stolen Life
  • Subtitles: English & Français (main feature only)
  • Running Time: 112 minutes

Watch on the Rhine (1943)

Lillian Hellman’s 1941 stage hit (adapted by Dashiell Hammett) retains its emotional and intellectual power in this suspenseful movie awarded the New York Film Critics 1943 Best Picture prize, and lauded as “a distinguished film, full of sense, power and beauty” by the NY Times. The praiseworthy film about standing up for what is right, at all odds, stars Paul Lukas repeating his Broadway triumph as Kurt Muller, a German underground leader who arrives with his family in Washington, DC and soon finds the tentacles of Nazi terror have a very long reach. Lukas’ passionate performance earned him an Oscar, beating out Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and Gary Cooper in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Bette Davis, who took on the film because she believed in its importance, portrays Muller’s wife with ringing integrity. Lucile Watson as a socialite whose complacency is “shaken out of the magnolias” and George Colouris as a shady blackmailer also memorably reprise their stage roles. The film was nominated for 3 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Special Features:

  • Career profile Bette Davis: A Basically Benevolent Volcano
  • Commentary by film historian Bernard F. Dick
  • Warner Night at the Movies 1943 short subjects gallery:
  • Technicolor patriotic short March On, America!
  • Musical short Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra
  • Classic cartoon The Wise Quacking Duck
  • Trailers of Watch on the Rhine and 1943’s Mission to Moscow
  • Subtitles: English & Français (main feature only)
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

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Dianne Martini -

Where can I buy this collection in Australia?

We are on the Pal system here, so any buying of dvd’s from overseas is out of the question.


Slide -

You know, 1939 was a good year for Bette as an actress. She starred in four great films for Warner Brothers: “Dark Victory”, “Juarez”, “The Old Maid”, and “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.”
Her star status is reflected in that year for she played Queen Elizabeth the First, a dying heiress, an emperor’s wife, and a woman who gives up her? child for another to raise.
Most actresses would be honored to play those kind of roles in their careers; but Bette played them all in one year.

ohbette -

This set of Ms Davis’ work is quite verse – showing the wide range of acting talent of this remakable actor.
It is a gourmet buffet of delights as Bette plays brazen to the “cutie-pie” girl next door.

Only in “Watch on the Rhine” did Bette seemed to be holding back … but the girl’s gotta get paid …

She truly is the original drama queen. From her coy expressive eyes to her unique walk across the stage … the room goes hush because of her how she moves and you know the other shoe is about to drop … so watch out … this collection is not to be missed.


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