Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I believe that I've never done a full-length post on the film Dangerous before. I probably shouldn't be surprised, since it's one that shows up astonishingly infrequently on TCM, despite the fact that it's a Warner Bros. movie and it won Bette Davis the first of her two Best Actress Oscars. It's getting one of its rare showings tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM on TCM, so now might be a good time to recommend it.

Franchot Tone is the male lead, playing Don Bellows, a prominent young well-to-do architect, engaged to lovely Gail Armitage (Margaret Lindsay). Several years earlier, Don had seen the actress Joyce Heath (Bette Davis) give a perfromance on Broadway that changed his life, convincing him that he ought to go into a field that would allow him to show off his creative side, which is why he became an architect. Time hasn't been kind to Joyce, who turned to the bottle and lost her prominent place on stage, now looking about as haggard as Davis' character from Of Human Bondage a year earlier. Don sees Joyce one day, and feels he just has to tell her what an influence she had on his life.

Well, actually he feels he has to do more than that. He has to try to rehabilitate her. Why go on such a fool's errand, I don't know, but we wouldn't have a movie if Don didn't do something so obviously stupid. At least Joyce has the good sense to warn Don not to do it. She insists that she's a bad influence on every man she touches, and he shouldn't waste his time or money trying to help her. For not only is Don wasting his time; he's decided it would be a good idea to use his wealth to help her too! He's willing to be the financial backer for a new play starring Joyce, allowing her to get back on her feet and return to a successful acting career.

Now, of course, it doesn't go as Don plans. He should have known this based on Joyce's warnings, be he wouldn't listen. It's much worse than that: he's fallen in love with her. As I'm writing this review, I'm finding myself laughing at the sheer ludicrousness of the plot developments, but bear with me. The movie handles eerything much better than my laughter is making it seem. Don wants Joyce to marry him. She refuses, but that shouldn't be a surprise. She's already warned Don that she's a jinx, and not only doesn't want to marry Don, but insists she can't marry him.

At this point, we learn that the reason she can't marry Don is because she's already got a husband, whom she ruined financially. She wants to give him his freedom, but he refuses, apparently being happy with Joyce. At this point, the film really takes a melodramatic turn, but I can't really say what Joyce does next without giving away key plot points.

As I implied earlier, Dangerous is the sort of melodrama that sounds as though it ought to be a complete mess. In fact, though, it turns out to be a pretty good movie, largely down to the performance from Davis. She won the Oscar, even though she supposedly felt she shouldn't have and that the Academy was making up for not nominating her the previous year for Of Human Bondage. Davis felt that Katharine Hepburn gave a better performance in Alice Adams. In defense of the idea that Davis deserved this Oscar, I'd have to say that Hepburn had wonderful material to work with. She certainly shines above and beyond everybody else, but it's easy to shine with a script like Alice Adams. Bette Davis takes material that probably should be sub-par, and makes you forget that it's sub-par. Compare this to The Star, in which Davis fails to raise the level of the script, turning it into unintential comedy. Perhaps part of the credit ought to be in the casting of Franchot Tone; he's much more convincing of the man wasting his life for Bette Davis' benefit than Sterling Hayden was. The script also give him more realistic motivations; I'm probably being a bit harsh if I'm suggesting that the script of Dangerous is as much of a mess as that of The Star.

In any case, Dangerous is well worth a viewing. It's also gotten a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive Collection.

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