Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

Index  Advertise  Werbung  Links  Feedback
© Copyright www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.

Mr. Skeffington
Review of the film with Bette Davis and Claude Rains

Article added on January 1, 2006

Film review
  
Her interpretation of Mrs. Skeffington earned Bette Davis (1908-1989) one of her eight Oscar nominations. For a few years in the 1940s, she was Hollywood's best paid actress. In Mr. Skeffington, Bette Davis stars opposite Claude Rains, today best remembered for his masterful role in Casablanca (review in German). Incidentally, the screenplay for both Casablanca and Mr. Skeffington was written by the Epstein brothers.

The film Mr. Skeffington takes place in New York City at the beginning of 1914. Bette Davis plays "Fanny" Beatrice Trellis, a beautiful, self-absorbed woman, surrounded by several men who pay court to her. She ignores others, without being dishonest with them, just playing around.

When she finds out that her brother Trippy (Richard Waring) stole $24,000 from his employer and lost it at the race track, she gets angry with him. His excuse? He had just bet on horses recommended by his employer, the Jewish-American financier Mr. Skeffington (Claude Rains), who had recommended his own horses.

Although Fanny and her brother live in a beautiful house, their family is bankrupt. In order to help her brother, she decides to marry Mr. Skeffington. Her brother however, with an anti-Semitic undertone, disapproves her marriage, which gets a small notice on the newspaper page of business transactions.

The brother is so upset that he leaves for France to join the army, where he dies in combat. Her sister thinks that he died because of her. Her marriage is no success either. She neglects her husband. When she goes out with an admirer and gangster, who takes her on purpose to a speakeasy, where her husband is enjoying the company of one of five secretaries he goes out with, Mr. Skeffington tells his wife: "Do you think I would ever have looked at another woman if you had loved me?"

When she learns about her pregnancy, her first reaction is: "Soon I will be swollen, puffy and ugly." She leaves her husband, giving birth to a girl, Frances Rachel Skeffington. When Fanny's daughter, now a beautiful young woman, returns home, Mrs. Skeffington sees in her just a rival, not her daughter. The daughter finally runs of with her mother's latest lover.

After a sailing trip, Mrs. Skeffington is diagnosed with diphtheria. Her face gets disfigured, the maximum punishment for a woman who was obsessed with beauty all her life. Her former suitors are not interested in her anymore.

Her ex-husband, Job Skeffington, who had resettled in Europe with his daughter, has survived a concentration camp, but is now blind and penniless. He needs and still loves her. Finally, Mrs. Skeffington realizes that the looks are not everything in life.

Background information on Bette Davis during her filming of Mr. Skeffington

Director Vincent Sherman (*1906) is still alive. He turned 99 on July 16th, 2005. He had worked before with both, Bette Davis and Claude Rains. He had directed Bette Davis in The Old Acquaintance and played a small role as an actor alongside Claude Rains in the Broadway theatre play, The Good Earth. Sherman and Rains became good friends and met once or twice a month.

Towards the end of the shooting of The Old Acquaintance, in a restaurant, Bette Davis suddenly told Vincent Sherman: "I love you." He was shocked and did not know what to say. After all, she was one of Hollywood's leading actresses and still married to her second husband. But nothing happened.

Between the shooting of The Old Acquaintance and Mr. Skeffington, Bette Davis's second husband, Arthur Farnsworth, died on August 25, 1943. She probably felt guilty, although nothing had happened with Vincent Sherman. However, on the set of Mr. Skeffington, Bette Davis was so difficult that Sherman asked Warner to hire another director because he could not handle her anymore. Warner told him to continue with Davis. Later, Sherman and Davis had dinner together to talk the problems over. She invited him home afterwards. This was the beginning of their love affair.

Vincent Sherman had several affairs, not only with Bette Davis, but also with Rita Hayworth and Joan Crawford. Bette Davis herself had a reputation of having affairs with her directors, in order to be able to control them better, as some critics argue.

Sherman recalls that the five or six days following the beginning of their affair, Davis worked perfectly on the set. But afterwards, she became difficult again. She was under too much stress. Her real life and her screen persona were too close. Davis' and Sherman's affair did not last very long, it was a "studio affair", almost part of the movie business.

Mr. Skeffington (German title: Das Leben der Mrs. Skeffington), 1944. Get the DVD from Amazon.com and Amazon.de.


Mr. Skeffington
(German title: Das Leben der Mrs. Skeffington), 1944. Get the DVD from Amazon.com, Amazon.de. At least my Swiss DVD is a 145-minute director's cut, a longer version of the film shown in cinemas in 1944. The DVD comes with an audio-commentary by Vincent Sherman, a major source for the article on this page.

Vincent Sherman: Studio Affairs: My Life as Film Director. University Press of Kentucky, 1996, 328 p. Get the book from Amazon.com. Vincent Sherman had several affairs, not only with Bette Davis, but also with Rita Hayworth and Joan Crawford.



Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

Index  Advertise  Werbung  Links  Feedback
© Copyright www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.