Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Miriam Hopkins day

TCM is marking Miriam Hopkins' birthday tomorrow with several of her films. I probably should have posted about The Old Maid, which is airing at 9:00 AM, earlier today. But it's available on DVD thanks to its other star, Bette Davis.

Davis plays Charlotte, who will become the titular old maid. She's a young woman in the Civil War era who's attending the wedding of her cousing Delia (Hopkins). Who shows up for the wedding but Delia's former fiancé Clem (George Brent)? Awkward. Thankfully, Charlotte had had a flame for him as well, so she runs off for the day with Clem, and obviously had sex with him, because she gets knocked up, although we don't learn about this for a little while.

As I said earlier, this is set during the Civil War and the years after, so we fast foward to some time later, when Charlotte is running an orphanage for Civil War orphans. This is oh so convenient, because one of those orphans just happens to be her daughter! We've fast forwarded to what is supposed to be the day of Charlotte's wedding, to Delia's brother-in-law. However, Charlotte breaks down and tells Delia that she had a child by Clem; presumably she's worried about what her new husband is going to think.

Delia, jerk that she is, decides to take Charlotte's daughter and raise her as her own! Charlotte's husband, meanwhile, dies tragically young, and Delia spends the next hour or so rubbing Charlotte's nose in all of this: Charlotte could never be a good mother what with that past and being a widow and not particularly of means like Delia is, after all.

The Old Maid is one of those "weepies", women's pictures that aren't exactly my cup of tea. I have to admit that I find the whole plot ludicrous, and the characters' motivations strain credulity. Delia is just too nasty, while Charlotte is interesting only because she's a great fit for Bette Davis and all her famous on-screen rants.

If you like Bette Davis and the melodramatic movies of the late 1930s, you'll probably enjoy this tremendously. If I were going to suggest a movie for people who don't know Davis all that well to start off with, this isn't the one I'd select.

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