Monday, May 31, 2010

Sisters, Sisters

This week, we turn to another dramatic movie. Olivia de Havilland takes second billing again to Bette Davis in In This Our Life.  This time, they are sisters, Stanley and Roy Timberlake.  Roy (Olivia) is married to Dr. Peter Kingsmill (Dennis Morgan) and Stanley (Bette) is engaged to Craig Fleming (George Brent), but Stanley has developed a grand passion for Peter, and induces him to run off with her.  Roy and Craig become friends out of loneliness, and then decide to marry. Only Stanley, of course, comes back.  And, of course, has decided that Craig would make a nice trophy on her mantle.  And so it goes.

The movie is very much Davis'. Her Stanley is an unapologetic bitch.  She wants everything, and gives nothing in return.  Davis' scenes with her greedy uncle, played by almost lasciviously by Charles Coburn, are wonderfully revolting.  The old man slobbers over his "favorite" niece, giving her anything that she wants. And, she takes whatever he offers; she is beyond flirty as she butters him up for even more rewards.  Here the trailer from the film, to give you a glimpse of Ms. Davis' character:

The men are merely window dressing to the women.  Too bad really, with actors as good as George Brent and Dennis Morgan, you would like them to have more fleshed out charactersBut this movie is much more concerned with the ladies: Bette and Olivia are yin and yang to one another - with Olivia as the good, loving, kind sister.  The men are there to function as sex objects - the temptation for Stanley and the source of goodness for Roy.  

An interesting acting turn in the picture is that of Billie Burke as Lavinia Timberlake, the girls' mother.  For those of us used to the dippy Billie of Topper or Father of the Bride, this role is a bit of a surprise.  You can see where Stanley got her attitude: her mother is a piece of work, totally self absorbed, whiny, and nagging.  She is an invalid who is trying to rule her husband and daughters with guilt, but since it doesn't really work any longer, she just tries harder and gets more whiny.

I don't want to forget Hattie McDaniel, as the Timberlake's maid, but also as a mother whose innocent son is accused of murder.  Her scene with Roy is extremely touching.  As always, Ms. McDaniel takes a small role and makes it pivotal.

Next week, another drama. Do join us.

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