Friday, June 20, 2014

Bette Davis: Two Early Films

I recently caught two Bette Davis films that I had never seen before.

First up is 1932's Hell's House, courtesy of Netflix. Jimmy (Junior Durkin) is an orphaned farm boy who arrives in the big city. He gets a job answering phones in a bootlegger's office, is arrested and sent to reform school when he refuses to name the bootlegger (Pat O'Brien.) Bette doesn't have much to do as O'Brien's girlfriend, but it's always a treat to see her.

This movie was a Capital Films Exchange Release. I mention that because the subject matter is a Warner Brothers standard. In fact, in 1933 Warners released a much better reform school film The Mayor of Hell starring James Cagney, and a 1938 remake Crime School starring Humphrey Bogart and The Dead End Kids.

Jimmy the Gent (1934) was the first of only two pairings of Bette and James Cagney. Bette and James are in love but working for rival businesses that search for heirs to large fortunes. It's a fast paced film with a bit of fun, but far from a masterpiece. At least, Bette has much more to do here than in Hell's House, but it's not much of a stretch for her.

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