In This Our Life (1942)
"No one is better than Bette when she's bad!" declared the posters for In This Our Life. Bette Davis is more than bad in the role of Stanley (yes, Stanley) Timberlake: at times, she seems to be the devil incarnate. Spoiled rotten, the wealthy Stanley runs roughshod over her milquetoast father, Asa (Frank Craven), even as she twists her wealthy uncle William Fitzroy (Charles Coburn) around her little finger. Even when Stanley dumps her fiancÚ, Craig Fleming (George Brent), in order to steal the husband (Dennis Morgan) of her sister, Roy (Olivia de Havilland), the family indulges the girl's every whim. Roy marries Craig on the rebound, and when Stanley returns from her tryst with Roy's ex -- who has conveniently committed suicide -- she tries to win Craig back. The limit comes when Stanley, driving in excess of the speed limit, strikes and kills a mother and child. She tries to pin the blame on the law-student son (Ernest Anderson) of the family's African-American servant (Hattie McDaniel), but her lies fail to save her this time. Running out of places to hide -- even her "pet" uncle is dying -- Stanley again races off in her car, this time to her well-deserved doom. Book author Ellen Glasgow wasn't thrilled by what Warner Bros. did to her novel, but Bette Davis was pure gold at the box office, and the fans flocked in. The film was praised in 1942 for offering a positive portrait of a black character (Ernest Anderson), though by modern-day standards this treatment still comes off as condescending. In This Our Life was directed by John Huston, and if you watch closely during the roadhouse sequence you'll spot Huston's father, Walter, as a bartender and most of the cast of Huston's The Maltese Falcon as atmospheric extras. … More
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Critic Reviews for In This Our Life
Good soap opera, with an unusually resiliant Good Woman, and plenty to say about race relations.
Don't be fooled by the impressive credits. This is pretty much a stinker.
Audience Reviews for In This Our Life
Director John Huston's second film (after "The Maltese Falcon") was a "women's picture," believe it or not, but it has his masculine, maverick stamp all over it. It's depressing to me that so few people remember "In This Our Life." I had never heard of it until two weeks ago!
I suspect the major reason it has been ignored (suppressed?) is that it challenged white audiences to look at their racism. Quite a ballsy thing to do in 1942, especially given the fact that the United States had just entered World War II. Perhaps understandably, white Americans were in no mood to be criticized at the time of their supreme sacrifice.
I can understand that it was too tough to be appreciated in the 1940s, but why hasn't it been rediscovered since? Perhaps there's something about it that still cuts too close to the bone for white Americans. Let's not forget that most still live in all-white communities and wouldn't sell their house to a black family.
Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland star as sisters in a charming small town. De Havilland has recently gotten married, and her sister (Davis) seduces the husband and runs off with him! And that's just in the first half-hour. Davis's character reveals more and more layers of narcissism and treachery.
There are hints of an unwholesome aspect to Davis's relationship with her uncle. Then in the last half-hour there is the cherry on her loathsome cake. She frames a young black man for a crime she commits. This young man is a servant who is practically part of the family and is struggling to put himself through law school. His mother, incidentally, is played by Hattie McDaniel, who just a couple years earlier had made history as the first black actor to win an Oscar (for "Gone With the Wind").
"In This Our Life" is not a great film, but it has so much merit. Its disappearance from film history is a gross injustice.
Just by reading the synopsis on here, you can tell this movie involves a very complicated love story. I think it's a bit too complicated. It's an okay movie, but it's not great.More
"in this our life" is bette davis' cooperation with director john huston, backsetted in the old south reputed for its insolent southern belle while racial bigotry still exists then. olivia de havilland's casted as davis' virtuous sister with the capacity and benevolence to make the best of everything, even the men disposed by davis. it might be a reminder of de havilland's miss goody goody image in "gone with the wind" but this time her counterpart devoids the glamourous polish and de havilland herself begins to show some hardened edge rather than her sweet pie lad image alongside errol flynn in swashbuckler pieces.
davis is the wildly arbitrary sister of the reputed timberlake family with an uncle who has a drolling incestuous crush on her. with the uncle's financial backup,davis struts around, stealing her sister's beau then destroys him willfully, eventually her irresponsiblity deteriorates into framing a diligent black janitor after she accidentally runs over a woman. davis plays that kind of malicious bitch who could only be gratified by someone else's unhappiness, and once she obtains and devours something, she tramps it and tosses aside, absolutely guiltless and unwilling to take the blame with a pretentious victimized facade.
unevitably "in this our life" is melodramatic with the archetypes of selfless gentle woman like de havilland and bitch-perfect bette davis, but at least it has enough relish to make a watchable picture, and john huston's noirish strokes add gritty seasoning to it.
like "jezebel" and "little foxes", davis gets into the skin of another abrasive southern stereotype, malevolent egoist who is vain enough to disregard the welfare of others. "gone with the wind" glamour star vivien leigh also thrives in such southern belle role, such as her scarlet o'hara and "streetcar named desire", but the main difference between leigh's and davis' interpretations would be the relentless brass and spunk. leigh's performing style is more feminine and laid-back in the niche of shakespian thespian while miss davis shamelessly smirks and growls. maybe that's what defines davis' feminist poise, watching a woman who doesn't hesitate to galope full throttle being a bitch even she appears in a light of coquettish wardrobe by orry-kelly.
In This Our Life Quotes
- Stanley Timberlake:
- Why don't you go back to Roy, where you belong? She's just FOOL enough to have you!
- Asa Timberlake:
- The weak always have the strong to protect them. But the strong must protect themselves.
- Stanley Timberlake:
- I couldn't help it. I never could help anything.
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