Old Acquaintance [1943]

Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins--a pair of actresses who hated each other--re-mix their chemistry from The Old Maid in Old Acquaintance, an entertaining adaptation of John Van Druten's play. The action begins with Davis, a semi-famous author, returning to her small town and the home of old friend Hopkins. The later has opted for the settled life of husband and pregnancy, and she doesn't much hide her envy of Davis's success. Then the tables turn, as Hopkins pens a series of potboilers that sell much better than her friend-rival's. The movie keeps checking up on these two as the years pass, each wanting what the other has. It kicks around such staples as career vs. family, but what comes across most memorably in Old Acquaintance is the friendship between the two characters despite their rivalry; in that sense, the best scene in the film is the last scene. Hopkins has the flashy role, a silly ninny who seemingly never stops screeching, and Davis takes the more centered, self-effacing part. (By the way, Davis said that a scene in which she wears men's pajama tops caused a bit of a vogue at the time.) The men are in the background, although John Loder does a nice job of layering a gentle humor to Hopkins' long-suffering husband. Gig Young, in one of his earliest roles, is almost unrecognizable as a Davis paramour. Vincent Sherman (Mr. Skeffington) directed this example of the "women's picture," the kind of movie that kept Bette Davis the queen of the Warner Bros. lot. It was nicely remade by director George Cukor in 1981 as Rich and Famous, with Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen. --Robert Horton

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