Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mr. Skeffington (1944)

Lately I've been on this Betty Davis and Joan Crawford kick! Now even saying those two names in the same sentence seems like a betrayal to each actress because as you see, they both violently hated each other. Their feud was one of the biggest Hollywood has ever known. Reading the quotes that each made of the other, I find to be wildly humourous. So thus begins 2 days, 1 devoted to each actress. Today I begin with Betty Davis and her masterpiece Mr. Skeffington.
I had known nothing of this film prior to watching; I did not know the subject matter or even that it's based on a novel. I always enjoy this; it as if you are going in to see something with a fresh pair of eyes.
The picture starts out just at the break of World War 1. Davis' character Miss. Fanny Trellis is a social belle of the city in which she lives (Manhattan). Being a social butterfly has its great advantages, money and the ever growing interest of elligible men. Fanny isn't truly interested in any of them, in fact Fanny's sole interest is really herself...well that and one for her troubled and complicated brother Trippy. Life for Fanny changes forever once she meets Mr. Skeffington played by the immensely talented Claude Rains. Mr. Skeffington instantly falls in love with the charming and beautiful Fanny.
But does Fanny fall in love with Mr. Skeffington? How can one fall for someone else when they are so intently devoted to another? This of course being Fanny's love, obsession for herself. Fanny is not crudely selfish, just so self-absorbed that her life's employment is one that involves displaying, enhancing and fretting about her youthful looks and beauty. Not even when Fanny gives birth to a young daughter, does she stray from her love for herself.
Time goes by, new decades emerge and we slowly see the transformation of Fanny's looks. Her behaviours change little from her time as a young girl. Her marriage to Skeffington and the relationship she has with her daughter eventually deteriorates because of it, if it was even really there to begin with. Fanny's life as she knows it becomes greatly challenged and what she holds most dear (her looks) is compromised. The way Davis portrays this is simply brilliant; her acting talents shine through and as the viewer, you cannot help but be captivated with her performance in every scene. Now without giving away any more, we see a transformation in Fanny and a new direction taken at the film's conclusion. Its a movie that will stick with me as I grow and age in this world.
The acting overall is so very well done. Rains and Davis have this interesting chemistry that just seems to work. In fact, when asked later on in her life, Davis exclaimed that Claude Rains was her favourite actor she ever worked with. Mr. Skeffington, I believe should be a staple in the collection of any classic film fan.

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