Melodrama Sunday Movie Classics
In my last post I talked about maybe being a little anal about the rules for Saturday and Sunday afternoon movie watching. I shared my rules for Saturday afternoon movie viewing which is B-horror and science fiction. I also shared 3 of my favorite flicks. The Blob (1958), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and The Tingler (1959). (hope you check ’em out)
So, for Part 2 I’m showcasing Sunday and my criteria for some great classic melodrama.
I love melodramas because they can be so over the top and cathartic (think movie therapy) and there’s no better day to indulge than on a lazy Sunday, vegging on the couch, better yet if it’s a rainy day.
According to dictionary.com:
Melodrama – Exaggerated and emotional or sentimental, sensational or sensationalized: over dramatic.
Bette Davis is my favorite Melodrama Diva! Talk about emotional and dramatic, she had those attitudes down pat. With her I find myself either talking back to my TV screen or weeping. (this is why rain helps) So, let’s find out about “The First Lady of the American Screen:
Ruth Elizabeth Davis (April 5, 1908 – October 6, 1989) known as Bette Davis
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Ms. Davis is regarded as one of the greatest actors in cinema history. Bette Davis was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and won the Academy Award for Best Actress twice. She was also the first person to receive 10 Academy Award nominations for acting, and was the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. With more than 100 films, television and theater roles to her credit, in 1999, Davis placed second on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest female stars of all time.
Bette was known for her no-nonsense, no-holds barred personality and wasn’t afraid to take on unsympathetic character roles. In the RKO film Of Human Bondage (1934), she played such a character as Mildred, the cruel and vicious waitress. A film adaptation of the 1915 novel of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham. This melodramatic adaptation about a crippled doctor’s destructive and compulsive passion for this coarse waitress was advertised with the tagline on one of its posters: “The Love That Lifted a Man to Paradise…and Hurled Him Back to Earth Again.”
In her 1st major, critically acclaimed part she insisted on looking hideous to depict the ravages of the disease tuberculosis on the human body. She wasn’t nominated for an Oscar but so impressed fellow artists that they insisted she be a write-in on the ballot.
Bette as “Mildred” in Of Human Bondage 1934
A little bit of Mildred’s charm:
Let’s take a look at her 10 Oscar nominations and 2 wins:
- 1935: Won for Dangerous, as a self-destructive, alcoholic actress (really a make-up for not winning Of Human Bondage)
- 1938: Won for Jezebel, as a self absorbed 1850’s southern belle whose insistence on wearing a red-dress to a formal affair (white = chaste) brings scandal and disapproval. Her man “Pres” Henry Fonda was too through with her.
- 1939: Nominated for Dark Victory, as Judith Traherne, an impetuous, terminally ill Long Island socialite. (yes that’s Bette with a drunken Ronald Reagan) Big time tear-jerker! – Bette’s favorite!
- 1940: Nominated for The Letter, as a low-down, adulterous murderer who has absolutely no remorse for blowing her lover away. However, karma is a bitch.
- 1941: Nominated for The Little Foxes, as Southern aristocrat Regina Giddens – that girl put the cold in cold-blooded.
1942: Nominated for Now, Voyager, as Charlotte Vale – a dowdy, overweight, spinster, abused by her mother but fights back and achieves a starling transformation in body and spirit. An incredible performance! My absolute favorite Bette Davis role!
Charlotte on the edge of a well deserved nervous breakdown:
- 1944: Nominated for Mr. Skeffington, as Fanny Skeffington, a woman so conceited that she tries to steal her daughter’s boyfriend, loses her looks after an illness but still has the nerve to treat her husband like dirt and still believe she can have any man – no way. In the end she learns the hard way that “a woman is beautiful when she’s loved and only then.” (too bad it’s after her husband goes blind in a concentration camp)
- 1950: Nominated for All About Eve, as Margo Channing an insecure Broadway star challenged by the younger, conniving Eve – “Fasten your seat-belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” It was selected in 1990 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry and was among the first 50 films to be registered.
- 1952: Nominated for The Star, as Maggie, a washed up actress trying to revive her career. Notably, at this time in Bette Davis’ career, she was struggling for roles despite her body of work. Bette’s ego was blamed.
- 1962: Nominated for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, as the demented Baby Jane Hudson who tortures and terrorizes her sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) Much like their real life rivalry. This role renewed her success and paved the way for other deranged characters in such films as: Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964) and The Nanny (1965)
Bette continued to perform in film and on television in the 70’s and 80’s. In 1983 at the age of 75 she had a mastectomy as a result of breast cancer. Nine days later she suffered a stroke. Despite her failing health she continued to work until her death in 1989.
This is an in-depth retrospect of “The First Lady of the American Screen”
Enjoy! Don’t forget to bring your hankie.
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