Wednesday, July 28, 2021

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR AUGUST ON TCM



Ambitious and passionate about her work, Bette Davis early on proved her talent and worth to Warner Brothers Studio with whom she had signed a seven-year contract in 1932. However, it was on loan to RKO where Bette embraced the opportunity to impress critics, audiences, and peers as Mildred Rogers in Of Human Bondage. An unsuccessful write-in campaign for an Oscar was launched for that role. Nonetheless, Bette refused an assignment from her home studio as unworthy in 1936 and sued to be relieved of her contract. The studio won this round in the courts yet Bette returned to theatres in a grand showcase in one of Warner's patented ripped-from-the-headlines pictures.

The screenplay of 1937s Marked Woman by future director Robert Rossen (They Won't Forget), Abem Finkel (Black Legion), and Seton I. Miller (The Dawn Patrol) sprang from reporting on the 1936 trial of gangster Lucky Luciano prosecuted by D.A. Thomas A. Dewy. Luciano was convicted on counts of extortion and prostitution when some of the prostitutes who worked for and were beaten and intimidated by the gangster turned State's evidence.

Lola Lane, Rosalind Marquis, Mayo Methot, Bette Davis, Jane Bryan, Isabel Jewel

Eduardo Ciannelli plays the "Luciano" character, a hood named Johnny Vanning who controls every racket in the city including the night clubs; clip joints one and all, everybody works for Johnny and everybody has to fall in line. This includes the "hostesses" (after all, this is a post-code film) and we get to know five of them, plus one.

Bette as Mary Dwight is a smart cookie. "I know all the angles and I think I'm smart enough to keep one step ahead of them till I get enough to pack it all in, and live on easy street for the rest of my life. I know how to beat this racket."

Lola Lane is Gaby, with a cynicism that pervades her whole being. Isabel Jewell is Emmy Lou whose southern belle routine helps her keep on the right side of the wrong side. Rosaline Marquis is Florrie, she and Gaby sing for their suppers. Mayo Methot is Estelle, who is getting "too old" for this gig but she doesn't know any other life. Jane Bryan is the outlier as Betty, Mary's kid sister. Mary has been putting "the kid" through college and keeping her in the dark about what she does for a living. 

Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart

The work being what it is, Mary finds herself involved in a murder and plays things the company way by feeding the crusading District Attorney David Graham played by Humphrey Bogart exactly what Vanning needs to keep from being convicted. Graham was misguided to trust the young woman but it is a lesson he was prepared to learn. He will be smarter the next time he goes after Vanning.

Tragedy strikes Mary and destruction faces Emmy Lou and the other hostesses when Vanning kills young Betty. Mary wants revenge and Graham can get it for her but only if these women are brave enough to go public.

Marked Woman has much to say about the justice system, and the place it affords those on the fringes of society or those without means and influence. Bogart's D.A., in particular, has a most impassioned speech to the jury. Here is an actor proving his versatility throughout the decade. Will he, like Bette, soon get a chance at the really notable roles?

Bette Davis, Mayo Methot, Lloyd Bacon
Notes during lunch

Bette, of course, takes her opportunity to shine as Mary Dwight but doesn't overshadow the work of the ensemble of women so important to the telling of this story. Director Lloyd Bacon was nominated at the Venice Film Festival for Best Foreign Film for Marked Woman which was the only time Warner's workhorse director worked with Warner's diva.

TCM's screening of Marked Woman kicks off this year's Summer Under the Stars celebration at the beginning of the August 1st programming day when Bette Davis glows under the spotlight.


Of note:

Humphrey Bogart and Mayo Methot met working on Marked Woman and were married on August 28, 1938 until May 10, 1945.












26 comments:

  1. It's fascinating that you chose this movie! I recently interviewed Michael Asimow, a law professor who co-wrote Real to Reel: Truth and Trickery in Courtroom Movies, and he listed Marked Woman as one of his favorite fact-based courtroom films. It provides a great role for Bette Davis.

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    1. Oh, yes. I am going to put that book on my Christmas wish list. Then when my husband forgets what I asked for, I'll get it for myself. (It took me one Christmas, one birthday, and to Mother's Day before I got the Val Lewton box set.)

      I plan on sharing this one with my daughter this weekend. Although, I am getting to the stage where I can't always remember if I showed her a particular movie or not.

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  2. I saw MARKED WOMAN years ago. I remember very little about it but (judging from the rating I gave it) I must have liked it quite a bit.

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    1. Perhaps it is time to see if the movie and your opinion has changed over time. It may be even better than recalled.

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  3. Definitely one of Bette's best! She and Bogey did, I think, one more film together after this one, Dark Victory, though he's in a supporting role in that one (they were also both cast in the earlier Three on a Match but they have no scenes together) - wonder what the 2 of them might have been like paired onscreen once Bogart became a big star?

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    1. The work in Marked Women between Bette and Bogart showed more potential than opportunities at the studio provided. The two very different but committed actors with the right roles would have been powerful.

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  4. Paddy Lee, good write-up of a good movie. I first viewed MARKED WOMAN(1937) on Memphis, Tennessee's WREG Channel 3 LATE MOVIE in 1976. I liked in then and I still do. What can I say, it has Bette and Bogie two of the all-time great movie stars. They have always been favorites of mine and I think the movie is a must see if you are a fan of them. Also, if you like a good crime drama, tune in.

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    1. Marked Woman is timeless in its story of crime and justice.

      When my sister (there would eventually be four of us) and I were young, our dad would always get us up, even on a school night, if a Bogie movie was being aired. I introduced my daughter to him through Dead End, it made her a fan of Bogart and of William Wyler. I just have to mention them and she's all set.

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    2. Paddy Lee, that was neat of your father. My daughter is also a Bogart fan. We had Bogart movies on vhs and later dvd for her to view, anytime she wanted, while she was growing up. Classic movies passed on to the next generation.

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    3. Sharing the love of this films is a wonderful bonding experience.

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  5. Swell choice, and great review. Such a kick to see Davis and Bogart earlier in their careers.

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    1. A terrific film and project for these two actors. Particularly, as Warners was in that phase of not really knowing what to do with a lot of their talent.

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  6. Oh Paddy, absolutely great review. I have not seen this, and I have often wondered how Bogie met Mayo Now I know. This is now Tops on my list! Thank you so very much, I so enjoy your writing.

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    1. Thank you for the kind words. They mean a lot to me.

      It has been a couple of years since TCM aired Marked Woman and I am looking forward to a revisit during Summer Under the Stars.

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  7. There was a 1980 TV-Movie titled BOGIE which starred KEVIN O'CONNOR. (I didn't see it). KATHRYN HARROLD played LAUREN BACALL. MAYO METHOT was played by ANN WEDGEWORTH. Ann is probably best known for the comedy show EVENING SHADE. One of the things I know her from is an earlier show FILTHY RICH with DIXIE CARTER, DELTA BURKE and CHARLES FRANK. Like you, I am a fan of Charles. P.S. Ann was once married to RIP TORN, a very talented actor. My favorite Rip Torn performance is COLUMBO: DEATH HITS THE JACKPOT where he played the killer. BETSY PALMER and JAMIE ROSE(FALCON CREST) were also in it.

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    1. I missed that Bogie movie as well. It has an interesting cast but I wonder about the script.

      I haven't thought of Evening Shade in ages. Excellent program, as I recall. Regarding Rip Torn, I don't know that I have a favourite performance but if I stop to think about it, Death Hits the Jackpot would certainly be on the short list.

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  8. I saw ROBERT DAVI portray LUCKY LUCIANO in a TV-Movie. It was WHITE HOT: THE MYSTERIOUS MURDER OF THELMA TODD starring LONI ANDERSON. I really liked Loni in her dramatic TV-Movies. She had earlier played JAYNE MANSFIELD in a 1980 TV-Movie. They should have had her play MARILYN MONROE. Do you know Loni from very many things? P.S. As most people know she was once married to BURT REYNOLDS who was the star of...EVENING SHADE!

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    1. I was surprised to realize that I only know Loni from WKRP in Cincinnati which is a favourite sitcom. I probably remember when those TV movies aired due to the promos.

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  9. I forgot to mention that LONI ANDERSON's birthday is today. She is 76! You may know that she has a son named QUINTON(named after BURT REYNOLDS' character from GUNSMOKE). Loni and Burt adopted him when he was a baby. He is Burt's only child. Loni has a daughter DIERDRE from an earlier marriage. Loni is also a grandmother.

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    1. Gossip always seems to get around and I recall the break up of Loni and Burt's marriage being big news. I think they had one of their major battles while in Toronto. It must have been sad and intense.

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  10. MARKIE POST died on Aug. 7 at the age of 70. She is best known for her role as CHRISTINE SULLIVAN on NIGHT COURT, the NBC comedy. I know her from an earlier show THE FALL GUY with LEE MAJORS. Markie played TERRI MICHAELS. She later was on the CBS comedy HEARTS AFIRE with JOHN RITTER. (The Fall Guy was on ABC.) Markie was good in dramatic TV-Movies and was also good on that PYRAMID game show. Which shows do you know Markie from?

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    1. Night Court is still a favourite of mine and that is where I know Markie best. I understand she was a writer for Jeopardy! in an earlier career.

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  11. BETTE DAVIS worked for AARON SPELLING when she did the two-hour premiere of HOTEL. (She was going to be a regular before she had a stroke.) One of the things I know MARKIE POST from is an episode of THE LOVE BOAT(produced by Aaron Spelling). Markie played a woman who was disguised as a girl. (Shades of GINGER ROGERS-THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR.) Her story was with GEOFFREY SCOTT who is best known for DYNASTY(Mr. Spelling again). Geoffrey died earlier this year at the age of 79. I know him from his MURDER, SHE WROTE ep with DALE ROBERTSON, MICHAEL SPOUND and DAVID BIRNEY. This was the second ep that Dale did as LEE, a rancher and friend of JESSICA and her late husband FRANK FLETCHER.

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    1. Dale Robertson was an interesting actor. I have seen him in many westerns, and Take Care of My Little Girl which looked at the harm that could be wrought by the Sorority system, or at least by taking it too seriously.

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  12. This sounds custom-made for Davis, although I'm glad to hear she didn't outshine the rest of the female cast. I found this movie recently, and now I can't wait to see it.

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    1. Marked Woman is the type of Warners Brothers picture that would make us kids watching the late show in the dark so happy we were awake.

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