U.S.A.| 1941. BLACK AND WHITE. 115 MIN.

This supreme example of filmed theatre (from a Lillian Hellman play) centres on the family machinations that ensue when Regina Giddens’s estranged husband refuses on principle to help finance the construction of a cotton mill whose profits will primarily accrue from the exploitation of cheap labour. Bette Davis is Regina; Herbert Marshall is her invalided husband whose death she deliberately precipitates on one of director William Wyler’s most dramatic staircases. It is well known that Davis and Wyler clashed over how her part should be played, but the performance nevertheless has all the wit, shrewdness and ruthlessness required: note, for example, the way she sticks pins in her hat like daggers as she relishes the revenge she can wreak on her greedy partners. Wyler was incomparable at scenes of domestic cruelty and conflict.

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