Of Human Bondage - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Of Human Bondage Reviews

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October 8, 2016
It is so easy to forget that this flick was produced less than five years into talkies, and the slow paced drama reflects the pace of those earlier productions, without sound. Directors and writers had yet to catch up to the new medium, and lose the tedium. Otherwise, I found the production to be compelling, reflecting impassioned pathos.
½ April 16, 2016
Based on the acclaimed novel, this movie would propel Bette Davis into stardom, and also has a nice turn from Leslie Howard. Its a sort of tragedy of how someone can love someone else more than that person loves back, with a demented human chain of people stringing other people along. It has its moments, but that glimmer of hope makes one feel okay by the ending, even though the rest of the movie is bleak.
Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
March 31, 2016
It's a little hard to watch this one, just as it was a little hard to read the novel by W. Somerset Maugham. Leslie Howard plays the sensitive, club-footed young man who falls for a lower-class, vulgar woman who manipulates and exploits him time and time again. Bette Davis plays the woman brilliantly, and for her performance I could have notched up my rating half a star. The movie has one scene worth watching in particular - the one where she viciously rips into him after he tells her that she disgusts him. Her response:

"Me?! I disgust you? You, you, you're too fine! You'll have none of me, but you'll sit here all night looking at your naked females...You cad! You dirty swine! I never cared for you, not once. I was always makin' a fool of ya. You bored me stiff! I hated ya! It made me sick when I had to let ya kiss me. I only did it because ya begged me. Ya hounded me and drove me crazy! And after you kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth! WIPE MY MOUTH! I made up for it. For every kiss, I had a laugh. We laughed at ya, Miller and me, and Griffith and me, we laughed at ya! Because you were such a mug, a mug, a mug! You know what you are? You gimpy-legged monster? You're a cripple! A cripple! A cripple!"

Despite that, he STILL returns back to her (arrgh), which is disagreeable to watch, even though he has a benign acceptance about being doomed to love her, just as a much friendlier woman is doomed to love him. And so it goes. The movie would firmly establish Bette Davis as an actress, and rightfully so, though she was snubbed by the Academy. I found it interesting to read later that there was such an uproar over it that the Academy president said write-in votes could be cast, and Davis received enough to finish ahead of one of the nominees, but not enough to beat Claudette Colbert who would win for 'It Happened One Night' (the process would be changed the following year). Unfortunately, Davis can't completely overcome the masochism of the story, or Leslie Howard's somewhat wooden performance.
½ December 7, 2015
Bette Davis is on fire here as the endlessly troubled and complex Mildred Rogers. If you can get past a rather shaky and uneven cockney accent, she's sure to thrill in this tale of love, growth, unfulfilled longing and destruction. I did enjoy a lot of the symbolism and found the bit with MIldred at the end to be quite grotesque, memorable and visually haunting. Leslie Howard, too, gives a fine performance here and I very much enjoyed watching his character progress and grow as he struggles to lose his shackles, both physically and metaphorically. The story is engaging enough and very well acted, and overall I found it to be a highly entertaining ride. Verdict: "I don't mind."
October 6, 2015
The best of the many versions, Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, & most of the actors at the prime of their careers and with exceptional editing. What goes around - comes around.
June 13, 2015
well acted, not much else.
½ May 30, 2015
This first attempt to adapt Maughaum's novel is memorable for Bette Davis' visceral and brutal performance that came closer to realism than any created within the Hollywood Machine. It is surprising that this film was even accepted at the time of it's release. It features a level of honesty you do not normally find in movies of this era.
½ April 10, 2015
What a weird coincidence to have watched this just after the "How I Met Your Mother" episode "Hooked" (season 5 episode 16), because this explores a similar idea, of unrequited love used to the advantage of the receiver.

But oh, how dating has changed since it was called "courting". Philip Carey (Leslie Howard, of "Gone With the Wind" fame) goes weeks between seeing the three different women he's involved with at different points in the film, and somehow it comes as a surprise to him that the one he loves the most passionately, Mildred Rogers (Bette Davis), has ran off and married a richer man. Yet she keeps Philip hanging, eventually taking advantage of his hospitality when her "husband" (Alan Hale) leaves her with an illegitimate child.

But Philip isn't the only one "hooked", and is himself one of those manipulative jerks that multiple characters in the HIMYM episode find themselves becoming in a continuous circle of romantic disappointment. He's got a beautiful and, most importantly, honest, woman who loves him in Norah (Kay Johnson), who points out this cycle just before he leaves her to take in the distraught Mildred, only to eventually find out she's merely taking advantage of his love so he'll provide for her.

Bette Davis steals the show as Mildred in a performance that launched her career and earned her a write-in (so, unofficial) nomination for Best Actress. She has the film's juiciest scenes, swanning around the place and playing out situations to her advantage. Her performance is psychical, in her movements and expressions, and layered, with hints of sadness and manipulation and bitterness. I never really felt sorry for her, though, and was happy when she got her just deserts in the end. Was her performance the best in history up to that point, as Life Magazine said? No. Her British accent is very grating, and there's not a single scene in which I understood Philip's attraction to her. But I will hand it to her that her performance was something ahead of its time.

"Of Human Bondage" has a strong central story, and very good performances. Once Philip finds Sally, his eventual wife and the nicest girl of the bunch, by the end, it feels earned and the death of Mildred feels like the just desserts after a dinner of deceit. It could've done without a few of the other subplots, such as waffle about Philip's work, and a little more interconnection between his three love interests so we could get a better idea of his inner turmoil, but as a whole it's a strong melodrama, and according to critics of its time a good piece of realism, too.
January 25, 2015
Despite her less than convincing English accent, Bette Davis gives an absolutely incredible performance.
August 29, 2014
Of Human Bondage has solid score and radiant Bette Davis who steals the show (especially near the end) and she became a star thanks to this performance, but other aspects of the film are so-so - it is technically forgettable and the story is weak with a tendency of going to soap opera levels. It has a great ending and acting, but apart from that is a forgettable experience.
½ July 19, 2014
A cautionary tale of a thoroughly Doomed Love-Affair--A Strumpet and her Puppet...Contempt!!
July 14, 2014
Bette Davis is the reason this moldy film shines. The idea that people are bonded to each other is a facinating way to look at life love and marriage. The public domain print I saw was pretty beat up. Would love to watch a restored print.
½ June 12, 2014
it's a touching movie
tho the ending kinda the weakest part of the movie
Super Reviewer
May 3, 2014
The electrifying, larger than life persona of Bette Davis and her big swollen eyes are enough to captivate Leslie Howard's poor but well meaning sap, and film lovers like myself too. A compelling melodrama about unrequited love, obsession, excess of candidness, and punishment.
½ February 10, 2014
Bette Davis as Mildred Rogers is a force of nature in 'Of Human Bondage.' Much like Jimmy Dean in 'Giant,' her need to portray the character's tragic failings with maximum effect not only overshadows her fellow actors, but the story itself as well. Furthermore, during her character's violent slide into destitution and street life, she more or less invents the look for the self-destructive, punk-rock diva. Bette Davis = one very modern woman.
December 18, 2013
Fascinating example of the Hollywood film industry in transition. The Hayes Code was fairly new and it certainly seems like John Cromwell was able to get more realism packed into his film than one might expect from an 80 year movie. Certainly, the film has clumsy moments or daft ideas of holding an audiences' hand -- but this is early sound filmmaking. The aspect that makes this film so valuable and valid is Bette Davis' performance. I am not too familiar with early film history, but Davis' portrayal of the "Femme Fatale" almost feels "current" and is most certainly a valid depiction of a pathetic and cruel-spirited person. I don't think I've seen an actor look that real from this era of film work. And, Davis seems more British than some of her British born/trained co-stars. This is most definitely a film to be seen.
August 3, 2013
Fabulous melodrama with the straight Leslie Howard playing off Bette Davis' warped character. Utterly captivating.
July 20, 2013
A young man overcomes his awkwardness brought about by a clubfoot and pursues a medical career. But his world is thrown upside down when he meets and falls in love with a gruff Cockney waitress who brings him nothing but grief. An adult drama which deals heavily with the darker side of love. Bette Davis' striking performance as the cold temptress is excellent and memorable.
July 10, 2013
No one does this like "Bettes"
May 16, 2013
Howard and Davis feel as immediate and as real 80 years later.
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