This 1941 film release is a superlative melodrama with a classic cast. The stellar ensemble of Bette Davis, George Brent, Mary Astor, Hattie McDaniel, and Lucille Watson lights up the screen in this story of true love. It is Mary Astor, however, who sends it soaring and leaves little doubt as to why she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
Mary Astor plays the role of Sandra, a temperamental concert pianist, who marries Peter (George Brent), the on again, off again beau of Sandra's rival, Maggie (Bette Davis). They get married while Peter is in an alcoholic stupor in New York. After spending the night together, it turns out that their marriage was not legal, as Sandra's divorce from her first husband was not final. When Sandra is faced with the choice of marrying him on the day the divorce is final or playing a concert, she makes a choice that leaves Peter free to marry Maggie.
Shortly after their marriage, Peter, an experienced aviator and cartographer, is called away on a governmental mission. In the interim, Sandra tells Maggie that she is carrying Peter's child and vows to use that fact to get him back. Peter's plane, however, is reported missing over a remote area of the Amazon jungle, and he is presumed dead. This, of course, throws a monkey wrench into Sandra's plans, as she does not want the baby without Peter. Maggie, who is not pregnant and has no hope now of ever having a child by Peter, strikes a deal with Sandra that will allow Maggie to pass off Sandra's and Peter's baby, as if it were hers and Peter's. It is like making a pact with the devil, as Maggie will soon find out.
This is an enormously entertaining film with great dialogue between the two protagonists, Sandra and Maggie. Ms. Astor does a decided star turn as the temperamental and brilliant, world acclaimed concert pianist. Ms. Astor plays her as a diva of the first order, and she deservedly won an Academy Award for her performance. The role of Maggie, who is the good girl from the south, has its moments in the hands of such an accomplished actress as Ms. Davis. The dialogue between the two is always crisp and interesting. George Brent is perfectly cast in the role of Peter, a wealthy chap who is desired by two gloriously different women. Lucille Watson has a small part as Maggie's aunt, and Hattie McDaniel plays Maggie's ever present mammy. The film is topped of by the powerful music of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto.
This is a film that lovers of classic melodramas will enjoy, as will lovers of classical music.