Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Quick Reviews: The Old Maid (1939), The Sisters (1938) and Footsteps in the Dark (1941)

"THE OLD MAID" (1939)
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Bette Davis suffers from ill-fated love in the shadow of her sister (Miriam Hopkins) in this positively catty melodrama that's either deliciously wicked or woefully histrionic.
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Davis plays Charlotte, forced to conceal the existence of her daughter, who instead grows up to call Delia (Hopkins) mother. When their relationship becomes contemptuous, the truth threatens to surface. Ending is irresistibly blubbery. [B]
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"THE SISTERS" (1938)
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A San Francisco sportswriter (Errol Flynn) marries a small-town girl (Bette Davis) in this early Anatole Litvak drama based on the 1937 bestseller about a troubled but destined couple.
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The film is relentlessly, absurdly calamitous (alcoholism! pregnancy! unemployment! earthquakes!) and get by on Flynn's boundless charm alone. After all, who's better served to play a drunk? [C-]
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"FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK" (1941)
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Errol Flynn goes amateur sleuth in this goofy, light-hearted, modest detective thriller-comedy that feels like an extension (or rather imitation) of the William Powell mold practiced in the mid 30's with Philo Vance and Nick Charles. 
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The whodunit plotting is a bit clumsy and tepid in the first hour (although thankfully uncluttered) but the final act is a doozy with some pitch-perfect and welcome comedic chops from Flynn. [B]

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