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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Great Lie (1941)

When a pilot (George Brent) discovers his quick elopement to a high living concert pianist (Mary Astor) isn't legal, he has second thoughts and marries his old flame (Bette Davis). Shortly after he disappears during a flight through the Brazilian jungles. When the pianist discovers she's pregnant with his child, his wife proposes she take the child and raise him and pass the child off as her own. But how long can this "great lie" last? A restrained Davis was never interesting in these suffering Irene Dunne type roles and cast against type as the nice wife, she practically hands the movie over to Astor's condescending bitch. It's a muddled soap opera and not very good but Davis and Astor make their scenes together crackle! Astor won an Oscar for her work here but I suspect it was her terrific unnominated performance in the same year's THE MALTESE FALCON that helped her win. The director Edmund Goulding (GRAND HOTEL) can't do much but stay out of his leading ladies' way and let them do their stuff. The male lead, George Brent, hardly seems worth fighting over. With Hattie McDaniel, Lucile Watson and Jerome Cowan.

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