Decided to do a fun little project and start watching through the filmography of Bette Davis. This drama from 1931 was her debut and she’s got a good part. The story is of a family somewhere in middle America. Sidney Fox is the older sister; she’s the bad one. Bette Davis is the younger; she’s the good one. So, it’s interesting to see Davis in a kind of atypical role – just a few years down the line and she would almost certainly be playing the bad sister.
Anyway, there’s a ton of drama around the bad sister; she’s keeping two beaus dangling and then suddenly, there’s a third when a rakish, and freakishly young, Humphrey Bogart blows into town. It’s a pretty typical plot, but the performances are good. Sidney Fox is actually really good, nice and despicable. Davis nurses a broken heart through a lot of the film and does so really, really well. There’s a wonderful scene between her and her younger brother, also played really well by David Durand. It’s a really serious and genuinely effecting scene, but the younger brother is typically used for comic relief and, somewhat surprisingly, he’s actually very funny rather than annoying. Charles Winninger is also really good as the long-suffering patriarch, trying to hold together a fracturing family and a business on the down-swing. Anyway, you never know with these super old movies; sometimes when you watch an obscure one you discover that it’s obscure for a reason and a lot of early Davis films are very obscure. But this one is really, really good actually; the ending is . . . a little pat, but I’ll take it. Very good. 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – early family drama features surprisingly natural performances and quite a few genuinely effecting moments. 3 ½ stars.