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DECEPTION (director: Irving Rapper; screenwriters: John Collier/Joseph Than/from the play by Louis Verneuil; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Alan Crosland Jr.; music: Erich Wolfgang Korngold; cast: Bette Davis (Christine Radcliffe), Paul Henreid (Karel Novak), Claude Rains (Alexander Hollenius), John Abbott (Bertram Gribble), Benson Fong (Jimmy); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Henry Blanke/Jack Warner; Warner Bros.; 1946)
“Bette Davis as hammy as ever.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Irving Rapper (“Shining Victory”/”Now, Voyager”/”Rhapsody in Blue”) helms this labored romantic melodrama, a remake of the early talkie 1929 “Jealousy” that was also based on a Louis Verneuil play. It’s written by John Collier and Joseph Than.

American music teacher pianist Christine Radcliffe (Bette Davis) dwells in a posh Manhattan penthouse. Her lover is a brilliant European cello player, Karel Novak (Paul Henreid). Duringthe war they were separated, as he was imprisoned in a concentration camp. Now that the war is over they’re reunited after meeting accidentally in the city, and the couple plan to wed. Karel is amazed at how a music teacher can afford to live in such luxury, and never gets the truth from Christine. We soon learn that Christine, who thought her fianc√© was a goner, was for the last few years the kept woman and protege of wealthy, elderly and controlling celebrated composer Alexander Hollenius (Claude Rains). The ego-maniacal Alexander provided for her creature comforts, a relationship that shames her and she wants kept secret. Alexander agrees to this deception, but can’t resist using his influence to behind the scenes block the career of his fragile rival and sadistically to torment Christine. When sicko Alexander threatens to publicly humiliate her now husband, Karel, who needs Alexander’s composition to perform a solo concert, Christine fears Alexander will replace hubby with another cello player and reacts by fatally shooting her jealous former provider and trying to make it look like a suicide. Hubby stands by his lady, as they report the shooting to the police.

With classical music filling the background, cheesy soap opera dialogue in the forefront, histrionics taking over the concert hall, none of the characters being likable and Bette Davis as hammy as ever, this preposterous opera-like tale is amazingly enjoyable as straight theatrical drama that is nevertheless campy and could easily have been treated as comedy.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”