April 03, 2016

The Bette Davis Blogathon - Old Acquaintance (1943)

Thanks to Crystal for hosting the blogathon and inviting me to participate. I love Bette Davis' work. Please visit Crystal's fine blog, In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.

I'll be focusing on Bette Davis and her 1943 film Old Acquaintance. The film also stars Miriam Hopkins, Gig Young, John Loder, Dolores Moran, Phillip Reed, Roscoe Karns, Anne Revere, and Esther Dale. I'm also adding a treat for those who love to listen to Bette's radio work: her performances on Academy Award, Lux Radio Theatre, Screen Directors Playhouse and The Screen Guild Theater. :) Listen to the radio programs via the player below.

Bette Davis Fast Facts

Born: Ruth Elizabeth Davis on April 5, 1908 in Lowell, Massachusetts
Died: October 6, 1989 (age 81) in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France (metastasized breast cancer)
Father: Harlow Morrell Davis (March 9, 1885 - January 1, 1938)
Mother: Ruth Augusta Davis (née Favor; September 16, 1885 - July 1, 1961)
Sister: Barbara Harriett "Bobby" Davis Berry (October 25, 1909 - July 19, 1979)
Harmon Nelson (August 18, 1932 - December 6, 1938) (divorced)
Arthur Farnsworth (December 31, 1940 - August 25, 1943) (his death)
William Grant Sherry (November 30, 1945 - July 5, 1950) (divorced) (1 child)
Gary Merrill (July 28, 1950 - July 6, 1960) (divorced) (2 adopted children)
Born: Barbara Davis Sherry on May 1, 1947 in Santa Ana, California
Adopted: Margot Mosher Merrill (January 1951)
Adopted: Michael Woodman Merrill (February 1952)


Academy Awards

All nominations and wins were for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
1935 Nomination for Of Human Bondage (1934). This was a write-in nomination.
1936 Won for Dangerous (1935).
1939 Won for Jezebel (1938).
1940 Nomination for Dark Victory (1939).
1941 Nomination for The Letter (1940).
1942 Nomination for The Little Foxes (1941).
1943 Nomination for Now, Voyager (1942).
1945 Nomination for Mr. Skeffington (1944).
1951 Nomination for All About Eve (1950).
1953 Nomination for The Star (1952).
1963 Nomination for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).

Miss Davis received the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award in 1977.
Miss Davis won a British Film Institute Fellowship in 1987.

Golden Globes

1951 Nominated for Best Actress - Drama for All About Eve (1950)
1962 Nominated for Best Actress - Comedy or Musical for Pocketful of Miracles (1961)
1963 Nominated for Best Actress - Drama for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
1974 Won the Cecil B. DeMille Award.

Primetime Emmy Awards

1974 Nominated for Special Classification of Outstanding Program and Individual Achievement for ABC's Wide World of Entertainment (1973) - For episode "Warner Bros. Movies - A 50 Year Salute."

1979 Won for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Special for Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter (1979) - For playing: "Lucy Mason."

1980 Nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Special for White Mama (1980) - For playing: "Adele Malone."

1983 Nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Special for Little Gloria...Happy at Last (1982) - For playing "Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt."

Walk of Fame

Motion Picture. February 8, 1960. At 6225 Hollywood Blvd.
Television. February 8, 1960. At 6335 Hollywood Blvd.

Did You Know?

Nicknames: The Fourth Warner Brother, The First Lady of Film, The First Lady of the American Screen

She was elected as first female president of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in October 1941.

When she first came to Hollywood as a contract player, Universal Pictures wanted to change her name to Bettina Dawes. She informed the studio that she refused to go through life with a name that sounded like "Between the Drawers."

Nominated for an Academy Award 5 years in a row: 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942 and 1943. She shares the record for most consecutive nominations with Greer Garson.

After her first picture, Davis was sitting outside the office of Universal Pictures executive Carl Laemmle, Jr. when she overhead him say about her, "She's got as much sex appeal as Slim Summerville. Who wants to get her at the end of the picture?"

Had a long-running feud with Miriam Hopkins due to her affair with Hopkins' husband, director Anatole Litvak, as well as Davis getting many roles that Hopkins wanted.

Played dual roles of twin sisters in two movies: A Stolen Life (1946) and Dead Ringer (1964).

Played spinsters named Charlotte in 3 different movies: The Old Maid (1939), Now, Voyager (1942), and Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964).

In 1982, she was awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the Defense Department's highest civilian award, for founding and running the Hollywood Canteen during World War II.

Film Poster

Recognize the nine credited stars of Old Acquaintance?
Misspelled names in the credits! Yikes!
Complete Opening Credits

Old Acquaintance (1943)

Release Date: November 27, 1943
Production Dates: November 11, 1942 - February 13, 1943
Duration (in minutes): 110 or 116
Physical Properties: BW and RCA Sound System
Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Brand Name: A Warner Bros.- First National Picture
Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Director: Vincent Sherman
Assistant Director: Art Lueker
Producer: Henry Blanke
Executive Producer: Jack L. Warner
Writers: John Van Druten (screenplay), Lenore Coffee (screenplay), Edmund Goulding (contributed to screenplay)
Source Text: Based on the play Old Acquaintance by John Van Druten, as produced by Dwight Deere Wiman (New York, December 23, 1940).
Photography: Sol Polito
Art Direction: John Hughes
Film Editor: Terry Morse
Set Decoration: Fred M. MacLean
Costumes: Orry-Kelly (gowns)
Music: Franz Waxman, Leon Raab (orchestral arrangements), Leo F. Forbstein (musical director)
Sound: Robert B. Lee
Make-up: Perc Westmore
Production Misc: Leo Guild (unit publicity)

Bette Davis (Katherine "Kit" Marlowe)
Miriam Hopkins (Mildred "Millie" Drake)
Gig Young (Rudd Kendall)
John Loder (Preston Drake)
Dolores Moran (Deirdre Drake)
Phillip Reed (Lucian Grant) - Name misspelled in credits as Philip Reed.
Roscoe Karns (Charlie Archer)
Anne Revere (Belle Carter) - Name misspelled in credits as Ann Revere.
Esther Dale (Harriet)
Leona Maricle (Julia Broadbank)
George Lessey (Dean)
Joseph Crehan (Editor)
James Conlin (Photographer)
Marjorie Hoshelle (Margaret Kemp)
Tommye Adams (College girl)
Kathleen O'Malley (College girl) - Pat O'Malley was her father.
Timmy Sabor (College girl)
Frances Ward (College girl)
Virginia Patton (College girl)
Lucille Lamarr (College girl)
Harriett Olsen (College girl)
Dorothy Schoemer (College girl)
Francine Rufo (Deirdre as a child)
Ann Codee (Mademoiselle)
Creighton Hale (Stage manager)
Pierre Watkin (Mr. Winter)
Frank Darien (Stage doorman)
Philip Van Zandt (Clerk)
Charles Jordan (Bootlegger)
Herbert Rawlinson (Chairman)
Gordon Clark (Usher)
Ann Doran (Saleslady)
Frank Mayo (Army officer)
Jack Mower (Army officer)
Major Sam Harris (Army officer)
Charles Sullivan (Taxi driver)

In 1924, prize-winning novelist Kit Marlowe returns to her home town to give a lecture and is greeted by her old friend, Millie Drake. In the years since they last saw each other, Millie has married and is now pregnant with her first child, news that Kit learns first from Millie's husband Preston. At first Millie is upset that Kit does not seem eager to see her, but later, after Kit apologizes, Millie confesses that she too has written a book designed to be a best seller. Eight years later, Millie is a wealthy and successful writer of popular fiction. She and Preston and their eight-year-old daughter Deirdre are in New York City to attend the opening of Kit's play. Millie's success has helped destroy her marriage, however, and the afternoon before opening night, Preston, who is drinking heavily, tells Kit that he is in love with her. Replying that Millie would always be between them, Kit tries to patch up her friend's marriage, but Preston leaves Millie after asking Kit to keep an eye on Deirdre. Ten years later, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Kit joins the Red Cross and broadcasts a request for money over the radio. Preston, who is now in the army, hears Kit's speech and telephones her. Kit agrees to join him for a drink, sending Rudd Kendall, her younger lover, to fetch Deirdre as a surprise for Preston. Preston surprises Kit as well when he announces his engagement. The next morning, Rudd, having received his commission, begs Kit to marry him immediately. Because of the difference in their ages, Kit turns him down, and a disappointed Rudd joins the now-grown Deirdre for a walk. The two spend the day together and fall in love. In the meantime, Kit changes her mind about Rudd and reveals her plans to marry him to Millie. After Preston tells Millie he is remarrying and wants to see Deirdre more often, he confesses that he was once in love with Kit. Overcome with jealousy, Millie tells Deirdre about Kit's marriage plans and then accuses Kit of stealing her husband. Fed up with her friend's tantrums, Kit gives Millie a thorough shaking. That night Rudd breaks the news to Kit that he has fallen in love with Deirdre. Although it is a shock, Kit pretends to be delighted and rushes off to make sure that a disillusioned Deirdre does not miss her chance for a happy marriage. Later, Millie stops by Kit's apartment to apologize and Kit forgives her. Millie then describes her new book, Old Acquaintance, about two longtime women friends, and the two women drink to it.

According to a Los Angeles Times news item dated January 22, 1941, Warner Bros. purchased the John Van Druten play for $75,000. The play was performed for President Franklin D. Roosevelt on his birthday. The MPPA initially objected to the Van Druten play because "Kit" and "Rudd" live together before "Rudd" becomes involved with "Deirdre." This was changed in the screenplay.

HR news items add the following information about the production: Olivia de Havilland was considered for a role in the film and Franchot Tone was scheduled to play the male lead, which had been announced for George Brent before the latter enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. Tone later turned down the role because, under the terms of a government wage freeze order, the studio was not permitted to pay him for his work on this film. Tone was reportedly willing to turn over his salary to a charity, but the Byrnes Act did not allow that option. The Byrnes Act prohibited an actor from earning more than the salary he or she had been paid immediately previous to October 27, 1942 when the law went into effect, and Tone's earnings the previous year had been uncharacteristically low because of illness.

The Warner Bros. Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library adds the following information about the production: Jerome Cowan tested for the role of "Preston" and Rosalind Russell and Irene Dunne were considered for the role of "Kit." Although Edmund Goulding worked on early versions of the screenplay, he waived writing credit on the screenplay. The extent of his contribution is unknown. Am October 30, 1942 HR news item notes that Irving Rapper would replace Edmund Goulding as director because of the latter's illness. According to a modern source, when Edmund Goulding had a heart attack before filming started he was replaced by Vincent Sherman.

Modern sources add that cameraman Sol Polito was assigned at Bette Davis' request.

Bette Davis requested the casting of Norma Shearer in the role of Mildred "Millie" Drake. Norma Shearer turned it down.

This film was the second collaboration of legendary arch-enemies Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins. (Their previous collaboration had been 1939's The Old Maid.) The fact that in 1939, Bette Davis had an affair with Miriam Hopkins' then-husband, director Anatole Litvak, only added to their mutual hatred. To their credit, the two actresses had a sense of humor about the situation and allowed publicity photographs to be taken of them facing each other wearing boxing gloves, with director Vincent Sherman between them.

During rehearsals for the scene when "Millie" rages against "Kit" for stealing her husband, Miriam Hopkins tried to distract and upstage Davis. Although Davis did not lose her temper with Hopkins in public, she never worked with her again.

Miriam Hopkins reprised her role in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on May 29, 1944, co-starring Alexis Smith and Otto Kruger. Listen below:

Two television versions of the play were broadcast. On November 14, 1951, ABC's Celanese Theatre featured a version with Ruth Chatterton as Kit and Edna Best as Millie. On November 29, 1956, NBC's Lux Video Theatre featured a version with Ruth Hussey as Kit and Lynn Bari as Millie.

In 1976 Universal announced a planned remake, but this film was never made. Van Druten's play was also the basis for the 1981 MGM/UA film Rich and Famous starring Candice Bergen and Jacqueline Bisset and directed by George Cukor.

The star of the Broadway play written by Bette Davis' character is a difficult actress named "Julia Broadbank," a pretty obvious allusion to Tallulah Bankhead, with whom Davis had a famously acrimonious relationship after Davis landed film versions of Dark Victory and The Little Foxes, both of which had been stage triumphs for Bankhead.

According to director Vincent Sherman, the only comment Bette Davis made about her character before filming was that she might use a cigarette holder. Miriam Hopkins' scene in the hotel room was shot first and she deliberately used a long cigarette holder to thwart Davis' character idea.

Vincent Sherman wanted Eleanor Parker for the role of Deidre, but the studio stuck with original director Edmund Goulding's choice of Dolores Moran for the part.

The Broadway play opened on December 23, 1940 at the Morosco Theatre and closed May 17, 1941 after 170 performances. The opening night cast included Jane Cowl as Kit, Peggy Wood as Millie and Kent Smith as Rudd Kendall.

Kit Marlowe: "Oh, I would look like a hag of ninety when I want to look like Shirley Temple." This is my favorite one. Click to listen to Bette Davis.

Kit Marlowe: "Cheer up, there's always what's left of the ice."

Kit Marlowe: "It's late, and I'm very, very tired of youth and love and self-sacrifice."

Kit Marlowe: "There comes a time in every woman's life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne."

Kit Marlowe: "I know...my fatal beauty drives men mad."

Kit Marlowe: [responding to a question about Millie's daughter Deirdre] "Well, she's really partly mine anyway. I was at the hospital when she was born. As a matter of fact, she gave me her first smile. Her mother said it was gas."

Kit Marlowe: "If you'd just look at Millie's activities as confession of weakness, an admission that there's something essentially lacking in her nature, you'd find it a little touching and love her."
Preston Drake: "You sound like one of Millie's books."

Kit Marlowe: "Millie remembers the same things I do, that's important. For instance, she's the only person I know, who still remembers when I used to be called Chunky."
Preston Drake: "I'd think you wouldn't want to remember that."
Kit Marlowe: "But one does. Funny, one does."

Kit Marlowe: "Deirdre, come out from behind that screen."
[a pause]
Kit Marlowe: "Deirdre, come out, or do you want me to come back there and drag you out."
Deirdre Drake: [emerging from behind screen] "How did you know I was there?"
Kit Marlowe: "My dear, I was hiding behind screens before you were born."

Belle Carter: [to Kit] "Tell me, how is your new book coming along?"
Kit Marlowe: "Well, I write and I write, and I still don't like it."
Belle Carter: "But, at least when you do turn one out, it's a gem! None of this grinding them out like sausage."
Belle Carter: [She realizes that she has just insulted Millie and pauses with embarrassment.] "I suppose I could cut my throat."
Millie Drake: [clearly offended] "There's a knife on the table!"

Kit Marlowe: "I'd better get out of here, Millie, before I do something I'll be very sorry for."
Millie Drake: "Yes, go! And if you think I want you to come back ever you're wrong! Well? why don't you go?"
Kit Marlowe: "In just a minute."
[She puts down her parcels, crosses the room, grabs Millie by the shoulders and shakes her violently, then shoves her so she falls on the sofa.]
Kit Marlowe: "Sorry."
[She picks up her things and exits, leaving Millie throwing a tantrum.]

Millie Drake: [about Kit] "That silly young boy she's been carrying on with has been called into the navy, and she must immediately become a young sailor's bride... of 42."

If you'd like to listen to Old Acquaintance in .mp3 format, download the file here.

Film Clips and Trailer from Old Acquaintance (1943)

Old Acquaintance (1943) Title Sequence

Old Acquaintance (1943) Trailer

Bette Davis Shakes the Daylights Out of Miriam Hopkins

My Fatal Beauty

You Don't Know Kit!

Vincent Sherman on Bette Davis

Watch Old Acquaintance (1943)


Silver Screenings said...

I didn't realize Bette Davis requested Norma Shearer be in the film. That might have been a great pairing...however, it's hard to imagine anyone else but Davis and Miriam Hopkins in the main roles.

Thanks for providing so much background info and sharing your research on this film. Great to learn all of this!

Judy said...

I love this film - Davis and Hopkins make such a great combination and there is so much warmth between them on screen, even if they didn't like each other in real life! Thanks for doing all this research, and I look forward to listening to the OTR version.

Anonymous said...

Hi Meredith. Thanks so much for participating in the blogathon with such a great entry. I've always loved "Old Acquaintance", and could easily consider it to be among my top Bette movies.

Oh by the way, I don't know if you seen my announcement post a few weeks ago about my next blogathon, but in case you haven't the link is below if you want to join in.


Phyl said...

Another movie I need to add to my list! Gig Young = Mmmmm ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi Meredith,

I haven't got a better way to contact you, but I'm wanting to let you know that I've just announced my Second Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon, and would love to invite you to participate. The link is below with more details.