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This film is thought by many fans to be one of the most romantic films ever made. It stars Bette Davies as Charlotte Vale, a lonely, depressed woman, who is dominated by her (frankly, horrible) mother (Gladys Cooper). Psychiatrist Doctor Jaquith (Claude Rains) encourages her to stay at his sanatorium, where she gains confidence and changes from a frumpy old-before-her-time woman, to a glamorous lady. On a cruise, Charlotte meets Jerry Durrance (Paul Henried), and the two fall in love. Jerry is married with two daughters, but although he is desperately unhappy with his manipulative wife, he cannot leave her. Has Charlotte swapped one kind of unhappiness for another?

I had high hopes for this film – it is classed as a great romance, and a hugely popular movie from Hollywood’s golden era. And….I was slightly disappointed. I do think Bette Davis was superb, and Paul Henried was fine, but it all felt slightly flat. There was also a sub-plot with one of Jerry’s daughters, which seemed a bit pointless, and even sat slightly uncomfortable to me.

Also, I thought that Charlotte’s transformation from frump to fabulous was all very sudden, which made it hard to believe. Furthermore, her oppressive mother was so horrible that she came across as a pantomime villain! That said, I did like Charlotte’s sister-in-law Lisa Ilka Chase, and Claude Rains was as wonderful as ever as Doctor Asquith (I would actually have liked to have seen Charlotte and the doctor end up together).

As with all my reviews, this is purely my own opinion, and certainly this film is highly rated, and regarded as a classic. So don’t let me put you off watching it – it just wasn’t a film for me, I’m afraid.

Year of release: 1942

Director: Irving Rapper

Producer: Hal B. Wallis

Writers: Olive Higgins Prouty (novel), Casey Robinson

Main cast: Bette Davis, Paul Heinreid, Gladys Cooper, Claude Rains, John Loder, Ilka Chase, Bonita Granville

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