Saturday, June 30, 2012

In This Our Life (1942)



“Why not? You're afraid aren't you? Afraid of yourself. Afraid of what you might feel if you let yourself go. Why don't you admit the truth Craig? You've never gotten over me and you never will. You'd like to put your arms around me right now, wouldn't you? You'd like to kiss me, wouldn't you?” 

            I chose to watch In This Our Life today in honor of Olivia de Havilland’s 96th birthday tomorrow (Silent Sundays posting tomorrow that is why I am writing about her today). Olivia is still alive and living in France. She and her actress sister Joan Fontaine are two of just the little remaining actresses still alive from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Like probably most people the first time I ever saw Olivia in a film was Gone with the Wind. I did not think too much of her at first because, after all, the film focuses on Scarlett O’Hara and how could anyone keep their eyes off Vivien Leigh. The next film I remember seeing of hers was My Cousin Rachel because I had just finished reading the book by Daphne Du Maurier. As time went on I found more of Olivia’s films by coincidence because other actors I liked were in the films. The more I saw of Olivia the more I fell in love with her as an actress. The woman was truly versatile with her acting; she could play flat out comedy where her characters are love sick little girls (It’s Love I’m After), swashbucklers where she needs to be saved (any of her films with Errol Flynn), a woman who suffers great heartbreak or distress and comes out stronger (To Each His Own, The Snake Pit), a set of twins with one evil sister and one good (the fabulous Dark Mirror), or a sinister woman trying to drive her cousin mad to get her money (Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte). Even when she was trying to do her worst in Government Girl because she did not want to make the film, Olivia was still brilliant and incredibly funny convincing me that there is no way she could ever act poorly it is truly impossible. The two things I truly adore about Olivia de Havilland is how she was such a lady in her films even when she was playing bad characters she still had such a graceful, ladylike demeanor about her and how she never overacted in any of her films I have seen. Never am I more excited to sit down and watch a film when I know that Olivia is in it. So Happy Birthday to Olivia de Havilland, an actress I admire more and more with every film I see her in.
            In This Our Life is a story of two sisters named Stanley (Bette Davis) and Roy (de Havilland) Timberlake. Their father Asa has just been bought out of his share in the family company by his brother-in-law William (Charles Coburn) forcing the family to move out of their large ancestral home to a smaller one on the outskirts of town. Stanley, the wilder of the two sisters, is engaged to be married to a man named Craig Fleming (George Brent) but the first time we see Stanley she is walking home with Peter (Dennis Morgan) Roy’s husband. Stanley and Peter plan on running away together that night. Roy sees Peter go up to their room. She sees he is not happy and worries. Peter is a doctor so he tells her he has a consultation at another hospital out of town. Roy tells him that when he gets back they will move out of her family’s house and get their own place. Craig comes by that night to take Stanley out. Stanley comes downstairs and makes the excuse that she has a headache.
            The following day Asa goes to William’s house with Craig looking for Stanley since his daughter and William are very close. William almost has a fit when hears that his beloved niece cannot be found. Asa says that he is not worried about Stanley because this is something she would impulsively do anyway; he more worried about Roy because Peter cannot be found. Soon the family finds out that Stanley and Peter ran away together. Hearing the news Roy decides to live her life she does not want to be like her father who let people walk all over him.
            After his divorce goes through, Peter marries Stanley. The night they are married they go out to a small club. Peter wants to leave after a woman has been friendly with them and sits on their table. He says he needs to go home because he needs to be up early the next day. Stanley does not want to leave she wants to stay and dance and drink with her new friend. She argues with Peter and tells him to leave. Peter does leave but then changes his mind but ultimately decides to go home. When he walks in the door he hears Stanley call for him from the bedroom she got home before him with her car.
            Roy sees Craig sitting on a bench by himself one afternoon. He is all disheveled and has not been to his office in days. Roy tells him to move on there is nothing he can do. Eventually Craig gets up and the two set a date to go out for dinner one night. Soon Craig asks Roy to marry him, she is hesitant at first because of what happened with Peter but soon she is asking him if they can get married right away. Their happiness is short lived when Asa gets a call saying that Peter has killed himself.
            Roy still has not completely over Peter and is very upset when she hears that he has died. To make amends she goes down to her sister in Florida. Stanley cannot get a hold of herself she feels completely responsible for what happened to Peter. She tells her sister that she loved Peter very much. You can see on her face that Roy is hurt is Stanley tells her that.
            Stanley moves back home and not too long later begins to go after Craig again. She knows that somewhere in him he still has feelings for her and she plays on that big time. She wants to get away but everyone she goes to says no they either do not have the money or does not want her to go away again. She goes to Craig to see if she can borrow one thousand dollars and repay it once Peter’s life insurance comes through. Stanley writes down in Craig’s date pad to meet her at a small club for dinner around seven. She waits for him but he never shows and she leaves. On her way home Stanley has trouble seeing in the dark. Rounding a corner too fast she hits a mother and daughter and rather than be caught she drives away.
            The police come to the house the next day to say that they found Stanley’s car in an alley with blood on it. She tells the police and her sister that she had let their maid Minerva’s (Hattie McDainel) son Parry Clay take the car to get it clean and that she cannot believe that he could have done something like that. Parry is of course arrested on the spot when they pick him up at his mother’s because he is black. Roy knows her sister was the one who had the car because she likes Parry he is a smart young man studying law and wants to better himself. She especially knows that Stanley is capable of doing something like what she did and blaming someone to cover herself.
            Craig eventually gets Stanley to confess but before he can bring her in she escapes and gets what is coming to her.
            The cast was brilliant and worked perfectly together and in their parts. Bette Davis always played the wild spoiled girl who always got what she wanted. Some reviews I have read claim that this is Davis’s bitchiest nastiest role she ever played. Well I do not think she was that bitchy or that nasty she was just spoiled and living her life for herself and nobody else. The more I see Davis’s films the more I see that she was a very good actress. You can see her determination and strength in every character she played which I feel gave her characters a bit of a boost. You are left feeling bad for Stanley in the end because she is so spoiled and wanted her way. Olivia de Havilland was very good as usual. She always plays the woman who gets wronged but that never gets old with her because she was so good at those characters and managed to put a twist on them. I like to think that de Havilland got her revenge on Bette Davis in Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte haha! De Havilland was nicely paired with George Brent they looked good together. I enjoy seeing Brent in films he was a very good actor who I feel is very underrated. I also love seeing Dennis Morgan in a film but it was so weird to see him angry and upset I am so used to seeing him as the sweet guy who is hopelessly in love with the leading lady. Billie Burke plays Lavinia Timberlake the girls’ mother. In the films I have seen Burke in she is always flighty and ridiculous and I can never comprehend how people could say she was a good actress but in this film I can see what they mean. Burke although her character was an invalid and a nervous wreck was excellent.
            In This Our Life did not do very well when it was originally released. I think it is a very good film with excellent acting and a good story for the actors to sink their teeth into. Much mention and praise go to John Huston who directed this film and Max Steiner who created one of his best scores. In This Our Life is a classic film that was perfectly made and should be seen by film fans.