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THAT CERTAIN WOMAN (director/writer: Edmund Goulding; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Jack Killifer; music: Max Steiner; cast: Bette Davis (Mary Donnell), Henry Fonda (Jack Merrick, Jr.), Anita Louise (Flip Merrick), Ian Hunter (Lloyd Rogers), Donald Crisp (Jack Merrick, Sr.), Katherine Alexander (Mrs. Rogers), Hugh O’Connell (Reporter Virgil Whitaker); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Robert Lord/Hal B. Wallis/Jack L. Warner; Warner Brothers; 1937)
If you like the pic, it’s clearly because of Bette Davis.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director Edmund Goulding (“The Razor’s Edge”/”Nightmare Alley”/”The Old Maid”)finely directs this well-produced glossy melodrama remake of his own smash-hit The Trespasser (1929), which starred Gloria Swanson in her talkie debut. Bette Davis plays the Swanson role.

Mary Donnell (Bette Davis) is a 16-year-old innocent married to a bootlegger. When hubby gets bumped off, Mary desires a straight life and gets hired as a secretary to the wealthy attorney Lloyd Rogers (Ian Hunter).Though Lloyd falls in love with the widowed Mary, he keeps those feelings to himself.Jack (Henry Fonda), the son of Lloyd’s millionaire client Merrick (Donald Crisp), is the playboy who falls in love with Mary. They elope, but Merrick thinks his son married beneath him and when he digs into Mary’s past annuls the marriage. Though reluctant, Jack agrees. Thereby the single again Mary returns to her old job. Mary becomes pregnant and has a baby boy sired by Jack. She tells her secret to Lloyd and swears him to secrecy. In the meantime, Jack marries someone of his own class named Flip (Anita Louise). Tragedy hits when she’s fatally injured in an automobile accident. Also, if you can believe, Lloyd becomes ill and dies, but not before confessing his love for her. Lloyd has left Mary and her child a fortune in his will, which leads his wife (Katherine Alexander) to conclude it’s her hubby’s illegitimate child and tries to stop Mary’s inheritance. As a result Mary confides the truth to Jack, which leads his nasty father to try and take away the child because he contends Mary is an unfit mother. The frustrated Mary gives in to the pressure caused by Merrick and leaves the child with Jack. But while a distraught Mary fled to Europe, Flo conveniently dies and, in the end, Jack treks to Europe to find Mary.

If you like the pic, it’s clearly because of Bette Davis. She excels in a role calling for a mother’s self-sacrificial love to win the audience over. It’s a tearjerker woman’s pic, one that is busy with a lot of folks conveniently dying to aid the plot and most of the action coming off as contrived.When seriously examined, this soap story doesn’t stand up to scrutiny–it has a ring of sudsy untruth.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”