In This Our Life Reviews
So "In This Our Life" is melodrama at its cheapest and most overwrought, but boring it isn't. Forgettable and overly preachy in its differentiations in righteousness, maybe, but when you have Davis as your villain and Olivia De Havilland as your angel in white, sneaky shoddiness is prolific yet hardly noticeable. We're too busy cackling and cracking asides to care about how manipulative, how transparent, the film really is.
Its plot, however laughably twisty it is, is killer. The thrills of the film all derive from the personal lives of Roy and Stanley Timberlake (De Havilland and Davis), a pair of sisters whose respective journeys in finding true love have been cyclonic, to put it lightly. Not because both are born lonelyhearts, but because Stanley, who exists to do little else besides cause mayhem, is incapable of falling for someone naturally and wholesomely: swiping another woman's property and ruining the life of another is more her speed.
Early on in "In This Our Life," Stanley victimizes the unsuspecting Roy by seducing - and then running off with - her betrothed (Dennis Morgan). But as this is a soap opera in which one sister must be bad and one must be good, Roy takes the high road and moves on with her life, finding romance with, to our liking, the spouse Stanley left behind. Stanley, in the meantime, continues on her rampage of destruction. All she can do, it seems, is cause trouble and dig herself a deeper grave.
On an overarching level, though, going over "In This Our Life's" timeline of flabbergasting events in detail ruins its bracing methods of entertainment. Perhaps it's no different than your average daytime soap, just lensed in black-and-white and given shiny studio treatment. But I'm not the first person to admit that even the rankest of melodrama is highly watchable, and "In This Our Life," putting aside the way its characters are nothing more than classic soaper stereotypes with inevitabilities to undergo, is of better quality than it should be.
In addition to its solid direction from Huston and the wide-eyed bewilderment that is Davis's delightfully campy leading performance, the film also realistically touches upon racial discrimination in the 1940s, a landmark for a film that would otherwise be jocularly crazy and comprehensively forgettable. But diamonds found within rough movies are not uncommon, and at least this one builds a wall of magnificent hamminess to assist its social commentary.
Stanley Timberlake is a spoiled niece of a rich business man who dumps her fiancé one night and runs off with her sister's husband. They head into the city and find life harder than they anticipated. The husband kills himself leading to Stanley coming crawling back to her family. When her family doesn't welcome her with open arms, life becomes hard for Stanley.
"She isn't like that."
"I don't know what anyone's like."
John Huston, director of Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The African Queen, Annie (1982), The Man Who Would be King, Key Largo, The Asphalt Jungle, and Prizzi's Honor, delivers In this Our Life. The storyline for this picture is very compelling, well delivered, and reminded me of The Long Hot Summer with Paul Newman the way the characters were crossed and frustrated. The acting was outstanding and the cast includes Bette Davis, Charles Coburn, Olivia de Havilland, Billie Burke, and Hattie McDaniel.
"It's conceivable two people could leave the house the same night and not leave together."
I DVR'd this picture off Turner Classic Movies (TCM) some time ago because it was directed by legendary John Huston and was led by strong female performances. The plot sounded interesting and I can tell you it is delivered very well. Davis plays her character to perfection and the sub plots were very well delivered. I strongly recommend seeing this film.
"I can't think when you're this close to me."
"Then hold me closer. I don't want you to think."
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.
Figurinhas tarimbadas, mas a história e o modo como ela é contada não me parecem excepcionais. O que interessa é a caracterização de um personagem negro - numa fita hollywoodiana, de estúdio, com pedigree de sobra, salvo engano situada no sul dos EUA, no início dos anos 40.
Em boa parte do acervo do período, os afrodescednentes são retratados como caricaturas para efeito de alívio cômico (vide Pérfida e O Último Refúgio) ou como serviçais apatetados. Aqui, há um criado, sim, mas que fala e se comporta como uma pessoa normal, tem inteligência e ideias próprias - e almeja ser advogado.
Pode parecer risível, mas talvez seja um choque para quem estava acostumado com o preconceito e a condescendência gravados sem cerimômias em outros títulos do período, e que causam mal-estar. Naqueles tempos, a sociedade era assim; o cinematografia estadunidense refletia isso e, hoje, ela serve de testemunho.
Conforme registrado por outro comentarista, Nascida para Ser Má não selou o fim do estereótipo nas telonas, mas apontou, sim, para o início do fim, com uma figura representada naturalisticamente.
Davis plays the bitch to fever point, at times she looks maniacal. At the time of filming her husband became desperately ill and subsequent events led to a decline in her health as well, one which plagued not only this film, but several of her next ones as well. Nonetheless the manic energy of her portrayal suits her character most of the time, even though it gets unnerving in certain scenes.
Able support of De Havilland as yet another good girl. I wonder if she never just thought "ah shit, another film where I get to look doe-eyed and simpering while the other chick gets to do shots and wink at sailors"... But that aside, Olivia always played the good girl to a T, it must be said and she brings warmth and depth to a character that otherwise could be summed up in one sentence, not an easy feat.