Monday, January 26, 2009

Sometimes I do that, but my aim is better...

I'm not quite sure what it says about me that I won't go to class before noon but I'll gladly get up at 8 to watch some Bette Davis movies. In my defense, class doesn't happen in my living room, although I can't guarantee I'd get up for it if it did. Today, however, I arose hours ahead of my alarm clock, took a quick shower, and set up shop on the couch just in time to catch the second of five movies airing on TCM today from early in Miss Davis' career. I've only seen Bette as a blonde once before, in Dangerous, so this marathon was a particular treat for me.

I started out with The Girl From 10th Avenue, which features Bette in one of her rare good-girl roles. As a rich businessman's wife of not-quite-convenience, Miriam is a sympathetic character who nonetheless gets to exhibit all the passion and temper of Bette's later performances but with the benefit of being the innocent (or at least well-intentioned) party. I'd never actually heard of this movie until I saw it on TCM's schedule for today, so I don't know if it's really underrated or I'm just really uninformed, but it was an enjoyable, relatively light film and a nice contrast to the more dramatic roles I'm used to seeing Bette play.

The Petrified Forest seems to be one of the best-known movies of her early career, at least among the sources I've encountered. I've wanted to see this one for a long time, and although I had high expectations it definitely did not disappoint. Bette plays a good girl here, too, and although she's also a bit of a snob I can relate to her anywhere-but-here mentality as a lot of my peers seem to feel the same way. The idea of a free-wheeling intellectual, an arteest not bound by earthly possessions, coming in and whisking her off to France is quite appealing, I have to admit. I also liked that said intellectual didn't actually know everything there is to know about everything, after all. The fact that Alan missed the most important point of all -- that he found something to live for, and someone whose life could be made better by his presence -- demonstrated such a basic human flaw in his character that I sympathized with him all the more. That might not be what the film was going for, but it's what I got out of it. Well, one of many things, and maybe eventually I'll see it again and give it its own post (which it definitely deserves), but for now this'll do.

The last movie I watched before I had to go to class was Satan Met A Lady. Here Bette plays the darker type of character that she tended to gravitate towards, and she does so with the kind of self-assuredness that makes a truly great villain. This comedic version of The Maltese Falcon may be a bit over the top, but I thoroughly enjoyed it -- and yes, I've seen the 1941 version already. My favorite part was the final scene, wherein Bette's Valerie Purvis outsmarts Detective Shane even as he's sending her up the river. Really, any scene with Bette Davis and Warren William facing off had my attention. Their mutual charm in increasingly absurd situations had me rooting for a quite different outcome. Check out this scene and I think you'll see what I mean.

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