Thursday, October 4, 2012

Marked Woman

I don't think I've ever blogged about the movie Marked Woman before. It's airing overnight tonight at 1:30 AM on TCM.

Bette Davis stars as Mary, a woman who is more or less an escort at a club run by gangsters. Her job is to lure men in, and make certain that they get involved in the high-stakes gambling that goes on -- gambling that is really designed to fleece the men. She leaves the club with one of the men, who hasn't paid off his gambling debt. Eventually, he gets killed and the body discovered with her address, which leads to her being the chief suspect for District Attorney David Graham (Humphrey Bogart). Well, not quite. David logically suspects that it's really Vanning, the guy who runs the club (played by Eduardo Ciannelli), who knows who carried out the murder, and on whose order the murder was committed. But Mary refuses to put the finger on him.

Meanwhile, Bette's apartment is a fun place. It's really more of a rooming house, with Mary and all of her escort friends sharing the premises. Into all this walks Betty (Jane Bryan). She's Mary's naïve kid sister, having just arrived from the small town where they both grew up, thinking that Mary must lead a terribly exciting life. Up to this point, Mary has felt confident, believing that she can handle whatever either Vanning or Graham tries to throw at her, and stay one step ahead of everything, as she says. That wasn't quite the case before, and with her kid sister in town, it's certainly not the case now. Betty is wholly unprepared for the sort of life Mary leads, with the result that when she starts to try the same lifestyle, it's going to get her in a lot of trouble....

But that sort of trouble might be just what was needed to push Mary into cooperating with the DA against Vanning. The problem is that, if Mary does cooperate, it's going to put her in a lot of danger -- unsurprisingly, Vanning doesn't like the idea of anybody turning state's evidence against him.

By the time Marked Woman was made in 1937, Bette Davis was queen of the Warner Bros. lot. (Bogart, still a ways away from truly becoming a star, only gets second billing.) So it's a bit odd that she's in a movie like this that comes across as less than a prestige movie and more in tune with the sort of gangster moviess James Cagney was starring in before the clampdown of the Production Code. (I think the prestige movies at WB at this time were all going to Paul Muni.) Still, Davis takes her role and makes a very entertaining movie out of Marked Woman. It's far from being her most prestigious work, but it's just as entertaining, if not more so, as many of those "big" roles she's get from Jezebel on.

Amazon lists Marked Woman as being available on DVD, but TCM doesn't. You'd think Marked Woman is the sort of movie that would be perfect for the Warner Archive, or one of the TCM shop's Bette Davis box sets.

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