Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Old Maid (1939).

The Old Maid (1939). Director: Edmund Goulding. The screenplay by Casey Robinson is based on the 1935 Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same title by Zoë Akins, which was adapted from the 1924 Edith Wharton novella The Old Maid: the fifties.

On the day of Delia Lovell's wedding to socially prominent Jim Ralston, Clem Spender, to who Delia had once been engaged, reappears after being gone for two-years. Delia's cousin Charlotte, who was also in love with Clem, slips away to console him, coming home very late that night.

The next day Clem enlists in the Union army and dies on the battlefield.

Four years later, Charlotte has made a home for war orphans. Tina, Charlotte and Clem's own daughter comes to live with her. Charlotte lives with her secret until the day she is to marry Jim's brother Joe. Delia, who still loves Clem, decides to destroy Charlotte's chance to marry Joe and Charlotte goes into seclusion.

She reappears several months after Jim has died in a riding accident, and accepts Delia's invitation to move into the Ralston mansion with Tina.

Over the years Tina, considers Delia to be her mother, while Charlotte has become a miserable woman. Delia adopts Tina legally to provide her with a name.

On the eve of her wedding, Charlotte insists on telling Tina her true identity. Will Charlotte be able to keep her secret forever hidden?

I thought both Davis and Hopkins were amazing in this passionate film with many pull on your heart string scenes. Davis is wonderful in her transformation from beautiful debutante to embittered old maid. This movie reminded me of what a good actress Miriam Hopkins really was.

Miriam Hopkins (October 18, 1902 – October 9, 1972). At the age of 20, she became a chorus girl in New York City. In 1930, she signed with Paramount Pictures, and made her official film debut in, Fast and Loose.

Her first great success was in, Trouble in Paradise (1932). During the remainder of the decade, she appeared in such films as: The Smiling Lieutenant and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (both 1931), Design for Living (1933), Becky Sharp (1935), for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, Barbary Coast (1935), These Three (1936) (the first of four films with director William Wyler) and The Old Maid (1939).

Hopkins had well-publicized fights with Bette Davis (Davis was having an affair with Hopkins' husband at the time, Anatole Litvak), when they co-starred in their two films: The Old Maid (1939) and Old Acquaintance(1943). Davis admitted to enjoying very much a scene in Old Acquaintance in which she shakes Hopkins. After Old Acquaintance, she did not work again in films until The Heiress (1949).

In The Mating Season, she gave a comic performance as Gene Tierney's character's mother. She also acted in The Children's Hour, which is a remake of her film These Three (1936). In the remake, she played the aunt to Shirley MacLaine, while MacLaine took Hopkins' original role.


  1. Such a perfect teaser/film review! I have just added this to my list of wintery film viewing! Please pardon my ignorance, but a while back, you posted a great review about a film that I SO MUCH wanted to find online, but could not locate. The producer's daughter then provided follow-up commentary. I wanted to reply, but I have since misplaced the film's title. Could you please link me to it? Thank you so much! x x x

  2. Nicole, Thank you. The film you are referring to is, One Way Passage (1932).

  3. I've heard a lot of good things about this one and your review might just be the tipping point to get me to finally sit down and watch it. Can't wait to see Davis and Hopkins duking it out. I sure don't envy their director, though!

  4. This morning was a real Miriam Hopkins-fest on TCM. "The Old Maid" and "Old Acquaintance" are great pairings of Davis vs. Hopkins. I like Hopkins best in her earlier films before her onscreen persona became so chilly. I did record two of her films today that I haven't seen yet - "Wise Girl" and "Woman Chases Man." One I'd love to see again is "The Story of Temple Drake," a Pre-Code classic.

  5. I love this movie, Dawn -- you are quite right about both Bette and Miriam doing superb performances. I remember reading about the famous shaking scene -- I can imagine Bette loving that! Very nice article!

  6. Rachel, I know that you are really going to enjoy this movie as much as I did.

    Nicole Marie Story, Your welcome. :)

    The Lady Eve, I believe it was Miriam Hopkins, birthday that TCM was celebrating. I have been too busy lately to keep up with the classic stars birthdays. Hopefully, I will be able to post them up again soon.

    I also saw the classic film.. "Wise Girl" for the first time and I'm just finishing up a movie review.

    Becky, Thank you.. Bette's expression, is worth watching the whole movie for.. :)

  7. OMG, really? Davis was having an affair with Hopkins' husband at the time??? I knew they didn't get along, but I never knew that was the source of the bad blood. And fair enough too! Thanks for this post - it was an education!

  8. Martin Turnbull (the Garden of Allah novels), Yes, you can see why Hopkins and Davis did not like each other..


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