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Bette Davis in MR SKEFFINGTON


DickLindsay
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MR SKEFFINGTON with Bette Davis
In a few days (Sunday), TCM will have BETTE DAVIS day with 10+ films.  One of the films will be Mr. Skeffington and that one for me, is at the top of the list.  Bette Davis (with Claude Rains) was just utterly fabulous in this. I've always loved this film for two reasons: (1) it's great.  it was written by the Epstein brothers who, two years earlier, wrote CASABLANCA. The writing in this film is top notch as well, and (2) Bette Davis is phenominal in it.  Her character is that of a woman who is very, very beautiful.  So beautiful, in fact, that Bette Davis did not want to do the film.  She did not feel her physical appearance fit the character.  Thankfully, the studio heads persuaded her to do it by offering to have beautiful costumes and dresses made for her to accent her appearance.  The result is an absolutely beautiful film and one of the finest performances by this legend. If you haven't seen it, tune in on Sunday or put it in your DVR box.  I haven't seen it in several years and I am looking forward to it very much.  I am wondering what others think about this film.  Comments? (below are some original stills from my personal collection)

 

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Thanks for sharing those wonderful stills with us. Critic James Agee, when reviewing the film in 1944, felt it was an overwrought story made to manipulate female moviegoers. Not sure if I agree with his assessment, but I do think Bette is slightly miscast and should have listened to herself. It would have worked better with someone like Vivien Leigh or Gene Tierney-- a woman whose beauty was obvious and too striking to ignore. 

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Thanks for sharing those wonderful stills with us. Critic James Agee, when reviewing the film in 1944, felt it was an overwrought story made to manipulate female moviegoers. Not sure if I agree with his assessment, but I do think Bette is slightly miscast and should have listened to herself. It would have worked better with someone like Vivien Leigh or Gene Tierney-- a woman whose beauty was obvious and too striking to ignore. 

 

I don't think Tierney could have pulled off the role, since her acting skill was somewhat limited.    Unless Warner wanted to purchase a loan out what other WB actresses did he have available for such a role?    I say none.   WB didn't have the great beauties of the time under contract and the good looking women he had,  e.g. Alexis Smith,  maybe Ann Sheridan, were not close in acting ability to Davis or Lupino (fine looking but not  the Leigh \ Tierney \ Lamarr type).    Of course he wasn't going to give such a role to DeHavilland.  

 

Ingrid Bergman would have been perfect for such a role,  so maybe Jack should have tried o get her for the film. 

 

Anyhow,   I still feel Bette pulls off the role and WB had another actress receive a best actress nomination.   Couldn't locate if the film made a profit or not for the studio.

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I don't think Tierney could have pulled off the role, since her acting skill was somewhat limited.    Unless Warner wanted to purchase a loan out what other WB actresses did he have available for such a role?    I say none.   WB didn't have the great beauties of the time under contract and the good looking women he had,  e.g. Alexis Smith,  maybe Ann Sheridan, were not close in acting ability to Davis or Lupino (fine looking but not  the Leigh \ Tierney \ Lamarr type).    Of course he wasn't going to give such a role to DeHavilland.  

 

Ingrid Bergman would have been perfect for such a role,  so maybe Jack should have tried o get her for the film. 

 

Anyhow,   I still feel Bette pulls off the role and WB had another actress receive a best actress nomination.   Couldn't locate if the film made a profit or not for the studio.

 

The reason I suggested Tierney was based on the job she does in both LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN and THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR. I think she did have range and she certainly had the looks-- though her acting was largely dependent on how much she was pushed by her directors. 

 

I agree that Ingrid Bergman would have done an excellent job. And instead of Rains, they could have reunited her with Boyer. Joan Fontaine (in Warners' remake of THE CONSTANT NYMPH a year earlier) might also have been acceptable.

 

But Davis still does not work for me in this role. In NOW, VOYAGER she starts as an ugly duckling and we know that even despite her metamorphosis, she still has all those ugly insecurities inside-- that's sort of what bonds her to the young girl later on in the picture. But in MR. SKEFFINGTON there is not supposed to be any doubt that she's a confident and alluring woman. I feel what we get here is play-acting, a vainglorious actress in a less-than-noble attempt to play a great screen siren. It's just not believable at all, no matter how much they dress her up. 

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Thanks for that OP DickLindsay, I feel the same way.

I for one am glad Bette played the part, it needed her over-the-top drama skills to make it work. All her jerkiness & gesturing is perfect for a vain self centered charactor, making it more believable.

 

As for Bette's "looks" I thought she did just fine. In fact I think it was Robert Osborne that said in an intro (or interview) about this movie "Bette Davis was a good enough actor, she makes you believe she is beautiful." That's my favorite observations/opinions of Bette Davis acting.

 

For Fannie's early years, the beauty standard was the "Gibson girl" look; and the pompadour hair & costuming help Bette pull it off pretty well. Her fine features & big saucer eyes certainly help fit the standard;

220px-Gibson_Girl_by_Charles_Dana_Gibson300px-Gibson_Girls_Magnifying_Glass_by_C

 

Even later on, when the modern "flapper" girl was the popular look, Fannie is always the height of fashion, despite the fact she's a bit longer in the tooth than her fellow hipsters-

 

200px-Normatalmadge_crop.jpg

 

The boyish figure overtook the previously popular buxom figure, which Bette has naturally. The WB costumers did a marvelous job of dressing Bette for the role of Fannie Skeffington, minimizing her ample chest.

The flapper of the 20's echos Fannie's wild "anything goes" personality, ready for a thrill at every turn. Sadly for Job, Fannie forgets she's married! But this just emphasizes her inability to mature & take responsibility for herself.

(in contrast, look how conservatively dressed her daughter is!)

 

I've always really enjoyed Bette Davis in these WB melodramas- Mr Skeffington, Now Voyager, Dark Victory, etc. These are great little morality tales we can recognise elements of ourselves in. I think Bette Davis' personality & acting is one of the reasons why they are so compelling 70 years later.

 

*all photos courtesy of Wikipedia

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If Bette makes someone believe she is beautiful in this film, it is because the person is willing to overlook a lot. The same person might believe Cary Grant should be cast as a frog or that Hattie McDaniel should be cast as Scarlett O'Hara. All of them were fine actors too, but there are certain roles they just cannot play. And an alluring sexpot is one of the roles Bette cannot play.

 

I think Osborne gets it wrong in this case. What we believe is that Bette wants to be a beautiful woman and she wants to convince others she's a beautiful woman. But in the end it's play-acting (and not very good play-acting). Beautiful women do not need to make us believe they are beautiful. They just are beautiful, naturally.

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Thanks for that OP DickLindsay, I feel the same way.

I for one am glad Bette played the part, it needed her over-the-top drama skills to make it work. All her jerkiness & gesturing is perfect for a vain self centered charactor, making it more believable.

 

As for Bette's "looks" I thought she did just fine. In fact I think it was Robert Osborne that said in an intro (or interview) about this movie "Bette Davis was a good enough actor, she makes you believe she is beautiful." That's my favorite observations/opinions of Bette Davis acting.

 

For Fannie's early years, the beauty standard was the "Gibson girl" look; and the pompadour hair & costuming help Bette pull it off pretty well. Her fine features & big saucer eyes certainly help fit the standard;

220px-Gibson_Girl_by_Charles_Dana_Gibson300px-Gibson_Girls_Magnifying_Glass_by_C

 

Even later on, when the modern "flapper" girl was the popular look, Fannie is always the height of fashion, despite the fact she's a bit longer in the tooth than her fellow hipsters-

 

200px-Normatalmadge_crop.jpg

 

The boyish figure overtook the previously popular buxom figure, which Bette has naturally. The WB costumers did a marvelous job of dressing Bette for the role of Fannie Skeffington, minimizing her ample chest.

The flapper of the 20's echos Fannie's wild "anything goes" personality, ready for a thrill at every turn. Sadly for Job, Fannie forgets she's married! But this just emphasizes her inability to mature & take responsibility for herself.

(in contrast, look how conservatively dressed her daughter is!)

 

I've always really enjoyed Bette Davis in these WB melodramas- Mr Skeffington, Now Voyager, Dark Victory, etc. These are great little morality tales we can recognise elements of ourselves in. I think Bette Davis' personality & acting is one of the reasons why they are so compelling 70 years later.

 

*all photos courtesy of Wikipedia

I totally agree with you and the OP. Bette Davis is great in this, and was nominated once again, because of her skill in "acting" the role, she becomes the beautiful woman. As you pointed out, she is perfect, whether as the gibson girl or flapper. She can be a beautiful seductive woman still, as she was some ten years earlier, in the likes of HOUSEWIFE. Here she is older,and has done her share of matronly roles, so it is doubly amazing that she has willed herself to be this beautiful woman. She may not be the conventional beauty type, which underscores her accomplishment even more. Anyone who can't see this is as blind as poor Job.
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Thanks for that OP DickLindsay, I feel the same way.

I for one am glad Bette played the part, it needed her over-the-top drama skills to make it work. All her jerkiness & gesturing is perfect for a vain self centered charactor, making it more believable.

 

As for Bette's "looks" I thought she did just fine. In fact I think it was Robert Osborne that said in an intro (or interview) about this movie "Bette Davis was a good enough actor, she makes you believe she is beautiful." That's my favorite observations/opinions of Bette Davis acting.

 

For Fannie's early years, the beauty standard was the "Gibson girl" look; and the pompadour hair & costuming help Bette pull it off pretty well. Her fine features & big saucer eyes certainly help fit the standard;

220px-Gibson_Girl_by_Charles_Dana_Gibson300px-Gibson_Girls_Magnifying_Glass_by_C

 

Even later on, when the modern "flapper" girl was the popular look, Fannie is always the height of fashion, despite the fact she's a bit longer in the tooth than her fellow hipsters-

 

200px-Normatalmadge_crop.jpg

 

The boyish figure overtook the previously popular buxom figure, which Bette has naturally. The WB costumers did a marvelous job of dressing Bette for the role of Fannie Skeffington, minimizing her ample chest.

The flapper of the 20's echos Fannie's wild "anything goes" personality, ready for a thrill at every turn. Sadly for Job, Fannie forgets she's married! But this just emphasizes her inability to mature & take responsibility for herself.

(in contrast, look how conservatively dressed her daughter is!)

 

I've always really enjoyed Bette Davis in these WB melodramas- Mr Skeffington, Now Voyager, Dark Victory, etc. These are great little morality tales we can recognise elements of ourselves in. I think Bette Davis' personality & acting is one of the reasons why they are so compelling 70 years later.

 

*all photos courtesy of Wikipedia

Excellent post Tiki :)

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I believe that Bette Davis was an attractive woman and her features lent themselves well to period hairstyles and costumes; her large eyes, fair skin, and hourglass figure certainly have more of a turn-of-the-century quality than the features of most of the 30s and 40s sirens.  Even in The Little Foxes, where she's playing older, it's assumed she's a handsome woman.  However, part of the point of Mr. Skeffington is Fanny's artificiality, and as she grows older, more of her beauty is dependent on creating and projecting a certain image.  I actually think Davis and Rains are perfect, and this film is among my favorites for both those actors.  

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I believe that Bette Davis was an attractive woman and her features lent themselves well to period hairstyles and costumes; her large eyes, fair skin, and hourglass figure certainly have more of a turn-of-the-century quality than the features of most of the 30s and 40s sirens.  Even in The Little Foxes, where she's playing older, it's assumed she's a handsome woman.  However, part of the point of Mr. Skeffington is Fanny's artificiality, and as she grows older, more of her beauty is dependent on creating and projecting a certain image.  I actually think Davis and Rains are perfect, and this film is among my favorites for both those actors.  

 

I also believe Davis was an attractive women as well as really cute in her 30s films,  but in Skeffington there is this artificiality even in the character's younger days.    As TB noted a degree of 'play-acting'.    You're saying this was part of the character.    No way to know for sure of course,  but I do wonder how the make-up department would have handled the character if an actress like Leigh or Bergman had played the part.  

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I also believe Davis was an attractive women as well as really cute in her 30s films,  but in Skeffington there is this artificiality even in the character's younger days.    As TB noted a degree of 'play-acting'.    You're saying this was part of the character.    No way to know for sure of course,  but I do wonder how the make-up department would have handled the character if an actress like Leigh or Bergman had played the part.  

Or would Leigh or Bergman have the courage and vulnerability to allow make up to reveal that level of deterioration....

 

I think Leigh perhaps might be up to the part because Scarlett has a good deal of artifice in her character, but I can't see Bergman doing it.  Her beauty is so natural and luminous.  I think the key to Fanny's character is that she is completely superficial, her beauty is truly only skin deep.

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Thanks for that OP DickLindsay, I feel the same way.

I for one am glad Bette played the part, it needed her over-the-top drama skills to make it work. All her jerkiness & gesturing is perfect for a vain self centered charactor, making it more believable.

 

As for Bette's "looks" I thought she did just fine. In fact I think it was Robert Osborne that said in an intro (or interview) about this movie "Bette Davis was a good enough actor, she makes you believe she is beautiful." That's my favorite observations/opinions of Bette Davis acting.

 

Great comments, TikiSoo.

These comments remind me of the first line of the novel GONE WITH THE WIND, which the movie was adapted from: "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm." 

Bette Davis epitomizes this kind of beauty in her performance in MR. SKEFFINGTON.

Based on the description of Scarlett in the novel, Vivien Leigh was actually miscast in that part.

 

Acting teacher Stella Adller once told Cybill Shepherd that she wasn't beautiful but that she acted as if she was. 

Cybill Shephered has said that when she started modeling she would pretend that she was the most beautiful woman in the world.

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I believe that Bette Davis was an attractive woman and her features lent themselves well to period hairstyles and costumes; her large eyes, fair skin, and hourglass figure certainly have more of a turn-of-the-century quality than the features of most of the 30s and 40s sirens.  Even in The Little Foxes, where she's playing older, it's assumed she's a handsome woman.  However, part of the point of Mr. Skeffington is Fanny's artificiality, and as she grows older, more of her beauty is dependent on creating and projecting a certain image.  I actually think Davis and Rains are perfect, and this film is among my favorites for both those actors.  

 

Rosebette, you got it!!! I was waiting for someone to say that, in fact you stole my thunder. A less than beautiful woman who struggles to maintain her appearance is commensurate with her vanity. In this respect, Janet Leigh or Gene Tierney wouldn't have worked so well. Bette is perfect. Her less-than-beautiful looks plays into that artificiality. We would look at Gene and say, well, she IS beautiful which would undermine the vanity aspect.

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Cybill Shepar

 

Great comments, TikiSoo.

These comments remind me of the first line of the novel GONE WITH THE WIND, which the movie was adapted from: "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm." 

Bette Davis epitomizes this kind of beauty in her performance in MR. SKEFFINGTON.

Based on the description of Scarlett in the novel, Vivien Leigh was actually miscast in that part.

 

Acting teacher Stella Adller once told Cybill Shepherd that she wasn't beautiful but that she acted as if she was. 

Cybill Shephered has said that when she started modeling she would pretend that she was the most beautiful woman in the world.

Cybill Shepherd not beautiful!  Adler must have had cataracts.  I remember my dad watching the old show Moonlighting with me and having heart arrhythmia every time she appeared.

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Cybill Shepar

 

Cybill Shepherd not beautiful!  Adler must have had cataracts.  I remember my dad watching the old show Moonlighting with me and having heart arrhythmia every time she appeared.

 

To me Cybill Shepherd is very beautiful.    LAFF TV is showing her late 90s sit-com Cybill and while I don't recall ever watching the show back in the 90s,  I find it very funny and entertaining.   Cybill plays a character that is similar to her real life;  an actress but a very unsuccessful one (e.g. a lot of cheesy horror films or low budget T.V. Shows),   who is in her late 40s and experiencing how that impact a women,  beautiful or not.     It handles this topic in a very funny but open manner.      Christine Baranski plays here rich best friend and the two have great comic timing.    Baranski won the 1995 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role.

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Cybill Shepherd not beautiful!  Adler must have had cataracts.  I remember my dad watching the old show Moonlighting with me and having heart arrhythmia every time she appeared.

 

Stella Adler probably meant that Cybill Shepherd was not classically beautiful.

But I agree that she is beautiful in a very real way and she certainly projects beauty.

I think she is especially beautiful in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW.

When the movie was originally  released Peter Bogadanovich cut the a shot where her bare breasts were visible.

When Bogdanovich was putting together his director's cut of the movie, Cybill Shepherd told him to put the shot of her breasts back in.

She also advised her daughter to do a nude scene if she was comfortable with it.

 

 

tumblr_l8hp7ieC9j1qzi99bo1_1280.jpg

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To me Cybill Shepherd is very beautiful.    LAFF TV is showing her late 90s sit-com Cybill and while I don't recall ever watching the show back in the 90s,  I find it very funny and entertaining.

 

Glad you've discovered this show-better late than never!

 

I thought it was an EXCELLENT sitcom, kind of an inside view of Hollywood. Always stuntmen around. The gal who played her daughter was great too.

 

I have always been a Cybill Shepherd fan & have an old LP with her as the cover model!

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To me Cybill Shepherd is very beautiful.    LAFF TV is showing her late 90s sit-com Cybill and while I don't recall ever watching the show back in the 90s,  I find it very funny and entertaining.

 

Glad you've discovered this show-better late than never!

 

I thought it was an EXCELLENT sitcom, kind of an inside view of Hollywood. Always stuntmen around. The gal who played her daughter was great too.

 

I have always been a Cybill Shepherd fan & have an old LP with her as the cover model!

 

Yes,  Alicia Witt as Cybill's younger daughter was great in the show,  and she really is playing the piano since she is an accomplished musician.     

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Cybill Shepar

 

Cybill Shepherd not beautiful!  Adler must have had cataracts.  I remember my dad watching the old show Moonlighting with me and having heart arrhythmia every time she appeared.

 

That bad. Well, at least you had a response from the heart.

 

Me too, but in a different way. And when she was younger, TLPS kind of young.

 

The pics that Holden posted shows her off pretty well.

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