DANGEROUS (director: Alfred E. Green; screenwriter: Laird Doyle; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Thomas Richards; music: Leo F. Forbstein; cast: Bette Davis (Joyce Heath), Franchot Tone (Don Bellows), Margaret Lindsay (Gail Armitage), Alison Skipworth (Mrs. Williams), John Eldredge (Gorton Heath), Dick Foran (Teddy), Douglas Wood (Elmont), Pierre Watkin (George Sheffield); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harry Joe Brown; Warner Brothers; 1935)
“Dreadful soap opera film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Bette Davis won her first Oscar for this dreadful soap opera film; common wisdom said it was a makeup for not even being nominated for her superb 1934 performance in Of Human Bondage. Alfred E. Green (“Baby Face”/”The Girl From Tenth Avenue”/”The Golden Arrow”) directs as if he were doing an amateur summer stock play in a resort reserved for braindead tourists, while Laird Doyle turns in the weak screenplay. The character Bette plays was inspired by stage legend Jeanne Eagels, a Bette favorite, who became a drug addict and died tragically on the skids at the age of 35.
It would be too kind to only say this is a film I did not find credible, one must also say that Miss Davis’s flamboyant performance was mawkish and unconvincing. This is the film where Bette had an affair with costar Franchot Tone even though he was engaged at the time to Joan Crawford, whom he married after the picture. The bitter enmity between the rival divas began here, legend has it, and lasted their lifetime.
Joyce Heath (Bette Davis) is a former famous Broadway stage actress whose career nose dived when she was labeled a jinx, as every man she got involved with either died or was financially ruined. She’s now an embittered and slovenly lush whom architect Don Bellows (Franchot Tone) runs into in a cheap cellar beer joint when out slumming with his polo friend Teddy (Dick Foran) and wealthy knockout fiancée Gail Armitage (Margaret Lindsay). We’re then asked to swallow that Don makes his mission in life her rehabilitation because he saw her onstage once and her performance inspired him to leave Wall Street to be an architect. Don thereby takes Joyce to his weekend country Connecticut home to regain her dignity and to overcome the superstitious belief that she’s a jinx. Our good boy then takes his nest egg and finances a show with a leading producer (Pierre Watkin) that ensures she’ll return to Broadway. The recovering Joyce gets our boy hot and he suddenly breaks off his engagement with Gail. Later it’s discovered that Joyce is married to a weakling named Gorton (John Eldredge), who appears on the scene to tell her he won’t give her a divorce. If all this nonsense wasn’t enough to stomach, we then have to see Joyce, the one our boy just single-handedly rehabilitated, intentionally crash her car into a tree hoping to kill her hubby passenger or both of them. She survives without much damage, but hubby’s now paralyzed for life. When Joyce returns to the stage, she’s (pardon the pun) a smash hit. Our boy Don still wants her as a bride, but the lady’s now guilt-ridden over what she has done to her hubby and sends Don off to marry Gail while she dedicates her life to taking care of Gorton.
Even Davis was honest enough to say she found the script maudlin and that the Oscar belonged to Katharine Hepburn for Alice Adams.
REVIEWED ON 4/8/2008 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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