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THOSE BETTE DAVIS EYES WILL GET YOU EVERY TIME...
on October 2, 2001
Based upon Rachel Field's wonderful novel of the same name, this film is a triumph. It is a fictionalized account of a notorious true crime that shocked Paris to its core in the mid nineteenth century.
A governess, Henriette Deluzy, magnificently played by Bette Davis, returns to France, having accepted a position to teach the four children of the Duc and Duchesse De Praslin. The Duc, played with intense, restrained passion by the debonair Charles Boyer, is unhappily married to a self absorbed harpy who cares not a whit for her children, but is obsessed with her husband. Her obsession is such, that she appears to be mentally unbalanced.
When Ms. Deluzy joins the household, the Duchesse resents her children's growing fondness of her, as well as her husband's attentions to the children and the governess. Though clearly falling in love, the Duc and the governess maintain a completely platonic relationship at all times. Yet, the obsession of the Duchesse is such that she imagines the worst sort of affair is taking place right under her very nose. She is consumed by jealously and loses no time in making all in that household miserable.
Many months after Ms. Deluzy is forced to leave the household, the Duchesse is found murdered, and suspicion falls upon the Duc and the former governess. What happens to them will keep the viewer riveted to the screen. This is a beautifully acted film.
Bette Davis, the great doyenne of film and theatre, plays the governess in an uncharacteristally restrained fashion, using those famous orbs of hers to convey all the emotion that she feels but cannot express. She succeeds, brilliantly. Charles Boyer is a superb casting choice for the handsome, angst ridden Duc, saddled with a histrionic wife bent on making the entire family miserable. Barbara O'Neil, as the Duchesse, gives an over the top, but effective, performance that is a good counterfoil to that of Ms. Davis. The supporting cast is likewise excellent and contributes to the success of this marvelous screen gem.
This tragic story is brought to life under the very able direction of Anatole Litvak and rightly earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. It is a true film classic that should be seen by all who love a great movie.