Of Human Bondage (1934)

Laughing Gravy
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
Laughing Gravy
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
Joined: September 1st, 2005, 4:44 am

March 18th, 2018, 5:59 pm #1



Of Human Bondage (1934) Dir. John Cromwell
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham
RKO Radio Pictures
83 min. / B&W / 1.33:1

Club-footed medical student Leslie Howard is madly in love with cheap but proud waitress Bette Davis, who's no good for him: in fact, she's not good for ANYBODY. But when she has nowhere else to go, she keeps coming back to him, which prevents him from either being successful in his studies or his relationships (in short, he's WAY too good to her). Eventually, the gutter she slips into is too much for even him to step into.

Not sure what the deal is; maybe I'm just a pushover these days, but I keep loving movies critics went all "meh" over. This picture is fabled for making BETTE DAVIS out of Bette Davis, and her accolades are well rewarded: she is truly great in this film, pretty much playing a female Mr. Hyde, looking worse every time we see her. I'm not much of a Howard fan, but he's actually terrific in this, too. And the other ladies in his life include Frances Dee and Kay Johnson (Mrs. Cromwell), so he's got THAT goin' for him. On the other hand, you have to wonder about somebody who'd fall so madly in love with a waitress that he takes her back even after she gets pregnant by Alan Hale!

Million-dollar Dialog:
Leslie, on their first meeting: "You don't suppose I care what an anemic little waitress says to me, do you?"

And after a date: "I'm a little awkward at this, but will you kiss me good night?"
Bette's retort: "No."

And Bette, later, on her relationship credo: “Oh, it’s always the same. If you want a man to be nice to you, you have to be rotten to him.”

RKO did its best to comply with the new Code, but from what I've read, this picture (released at the end of June, 1934) is considered the last "Pre-Code" film. It's fallen into the public domain, but the print I have of it - on the Roan Group's Pre-Code Hollywood Vol. 1 set - is excellent.

A couple of other things - first of all, Mr. Cromwell had a long and varied career, giving us such hits as Spitfire (1934), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), Algiers (1938), So Ends Our Night (1941), Since You Went Away (1944), Caged (1950), and The Racket (1951), amongst many others. We should talk about him more. Second, he and Kay Johnson gave birth in 1940 to James Cromwell, one of Hollywood's busiest and most respected actors (just saw him as the judge in Marshall).

Really enjoyed Of Human Bondage.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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The Batman
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
The Batman
Balcony Gang, Foist Class
Joined: September 4th, 2005, 5:34 pm

March 19th, 2018, 2:38 pm #2

Great film and audiences seem to agree, critics be damned, as the film has a respectable 7.3 rating on IMDb.

I have the more recent Kino DVD release and it looks marvelous.


EDIT: I actually have the recent Kino BLU-RAY for this film, but for some reason I cannot find it for sale on Amazon anymore.

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