In one of her most overwrought performances, Davis stomps across the screen playing one of the worst creatures to crawl across God's earth. Yet even in a role she later condemned, the great actress is utterly absorbing. IN THIS OUR LIFE was adapted from Ellen Glasgow's Pulitzer Prize
winning novel and is doggedly directed by Huston, who was later accused of showing favoritism to second lead de Havilland since they were dating at the time. De Havilland is the good sister and Davis the bad, both oddly given masculine names (Davis as Stanley, de Havilland as Roy). Spoiled,
selfish Davis is encouraged by her ailing, bedridden mother, Burke, to get everything she can out of life by any means. Burke is constantly deriding her ineffectual, meek husband, Craven, pointing with pride to her brother, Coburn, a ruthless businessman, as the symbol of real masculinity. Davis
knows full well what her unmarried uncle is--and that he has been lusting after her for years, a lecherous, incestuous fixation she exploits whenever she wants something from him. Only a week before she is to marry gentle lawyer Brent, Davis inveigles Morgan, her sister's physician-husband, into
an affair and they leave together. The self-sacrificing de Havilland agrees to divorce Morgan so he can be with her sister, but Morgan, haunted by guilt, takes his own life first. Davis returns and ingratiates herself with her family. De Havilland forgives her and Davis immediately launches a
campaign to take Brent away from her sister, Brent having fallen in love with de Havilland after Davis' departure with Morgan. But Davis' wiles prove ineffective with straightlaced Brent, who spurns her suggestions of having an affair. In a rage, Davis jumps into her car and promptly runs over a
mother and child. When the child dies, the police search for Davis' car. They later confront her with the hit-and-run killing but she denies having driven the car, putting the blame on the son (Anderson) of the family's black cook, McDaniel. Police believe McDaniel when she swears that her son
never left the house. De Havilland persuades Brent to defend Anderson. The entire family now believes that Davis is guilty but she stubbornly denies her guilt. She turns to Coburn, but even her perverted uncle offers no help. He has learned that he is dying and asks Davis to come and live with him
until the end. Davis has nowhere to turn and so she hops in her car again, raging, and drives wildly off, this time crashing the auto and, thankfully, ending her miserable life.
This was Huston's second directorial chore and he was reluctant to take it on, but it had been written by Howard Koch, who was later one of the writers of CASABLANCA and who had been hired at Warner Bros. at Huston's suggestion, so he felt obligated to back up Koch's story. Davis simply chewed up
Huston, the script, and the entire production; he couldn't control her. Huston later commented: "There is something elemental about Bette--a demon within her which threatens to break out and eat everybody." As a gag, the ever-capricious Huston had many in the cast of his first film, the recently
completed THE MALTESE FALCON, appear in an unbilled brief scene. At a bar are Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Jr., Sydney Greenstreet, Ward Bond, and Barton MacLane. The bartender serving them all is Huston's famous actor father, Walter Huston. Davis later claimed that the
script by Koch was no good. When Davis later met the author, Miss Glasgow expressed her "disgust with the outcome. I couldn't have agreed with her more," said Davis, and she apologized for her extravagant performance.
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- Review: In one of her most overwrought performances, Davis stomps across the screen playing one of the worst creatures to crawl across God's earth. Yet even in a role she later condemned, the great actress is utterly absorbing. IN THIS OUR LIFE was adapted from El… (more)