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Of Human Bondage

1934

The 1934 film was the first film to bring real critical success to its star Bette Davis, her over-the-top, theatrical performance was passed over for a Best Actress Oscar nomination, although she was an unofficial write-in candidate. The RKO film, directed by John Cromwell, tells the story of a club-footed, sensitive artist Philip Carey (Leslie Howard), an Englishman who has been studying painting in Paris for four years, but is advised by his art teacher that his work is mediocre and second-rate, and that he lacks promise. So he returns to London, England to take up studies to become a medical doctor, but his older age and introspection make it difficult for him to keep up in his scholastic work. In England, he becomes infatuated - and then obsessed by a blonde, lower-class, slatternly and vulgar, Cockney-accented, illiterate tearoom waitress named Mildred Rogers (Bette Davis).



Of Human Bondage is a 1934 Cinema of the United States drama film directed by John Cromwell (director) and is widely regarded by critics as the film that made Bette Davis a star. which finally was being enforced four years after it was adopted. "I made it very clear that Mildred was not going to die of a dread disease looking as if a Debutante had missed her noon nap. The last stages of tuberculosis, poverty and neglect are not pretty and I intended to be convincing-looking. We pulled no punches and Mildred emerged . . . as starkly real as a pestilence."< name=Davis />
File:Bette davis of human bondage.jpg
Reflecting on her performance in later years, Davis said, "My understanding of Mildred's vileness – not compassion but empathy – gave me pause . . . I was still an innocent. And yet Mildred's machinations I miraculously understood when it came to playing her. I was often ashamed of this . . . I suppose no amount of rationalization can change the fact that we are all made up of good and evil."< name=Davis />
Nervous about audience reaction to her performance, Davis opted not to attend a preview of the film in Santa Barbara, California, although her mother Ruth and husband Harmon O. Nelson went. Ruth later related, "For one hour and a half of horrible realism, we sat riveted without speaking a word, with only a fleeting glance now and then at each other. We left the theater in absolute silence. Neither of us knew what to think, for we felt the picture would make or break her, but would the public like the unpleasant story as well as the people at the preview seemed to?"< name=Stine /> Upon arriving home, her husband told Davis he thought her performance, while "painfully sincere," might harm her career.< name=Stine />
One reaction RKO executives never expected to hear at the preview was laughter. After watching the film several times, they felt the Max Steiner score was to blame, and the composer wrote a new one that included a Motif (music) for each of the principal characters.< name=Stine />
The film premiered at Radio City Music Hall on June 28, 1934,< name=Stine /> and went into general release on July 20. The generally rave reviews upset Warner executives, who were embarrassed one of their contract players was being acclaimed for a film made at another studio, and they tried to exclude its title from any publicity about Davis.< name=Stine /> Although her nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress was considered a sure thing by many, she was ignored in favor of Grace Moore for One Night of Love, Norma Shearer for The Barretts of Wimpole Street, and eventual winner Claudette Colbert for It Happened One Night. Angry voters ignored the nominees on their ballots and wrote in Davis' name,</>

Cast

  • Leslie Howard (actor) ..... Philip Carey
  • Bette Davis ..... Mildred Rogers
  • Frances Dee ..... Sally Athelny
  • Kay Johnson ..... Norah
  • Reginald Denny (actor) ..... Harry Griffiths
  • Alan Hale, Sr. ..... Emil Miler
  • Reginald Sheffield ..... Cyril Dunsford
  • Reginald Owen ..... Thorpe Athelny
  • Tempe Pigott .....Agnes Hollet, Philip's landlady

Critical reception

Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times said the Maugham novel "has come through the operation of being transferred to the screen in an unexpectedly healthy fashion. It may not possess any great dramatic strength, but the very lifelike quality of the story and the marked authenticity of its atmosphere cause the spectators to hang on every word uttered by the interesting group of characters." He thought Leslie Howard's portrayal "excels any performance he has given before the camera. No more expert illustration of getting under the skin of the character has been done in motion pictures," and he described Bette Davis as "enormously effective."</> and as such, there are numerous DVD and online download editions available of varying image and audio quality.


Category:1934 films
Category:1930s drama films
Category:American drama films
Category:Films based on novels
Category:Black-and-white films
Category:Films directed by John Cromwell
Category:RKO Pictures films
Category:Films set in London
Category:Films based on works by Somerset Maugham
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Pandro S. Berman

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