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In This Our Life (1942)

In This Our Life. Feature film. (1942, 97 mins) IMDB

...At least it's not another war propaganda film....

P

ay close attention to the first twenty minutes because we meet a lot of characters and there are many things going on.

We meet Asa Timberlake--a father of two grown daughters, a husband and one-time partner with William Fitzroy, his brother-in-law, in a tobacco company. Timberlake has lost his stake in the company and family mansion. It happens so fast you'd easily miss it.

One of his daughter is Roy. She's beautiful and charming and married to Pete. She just wants to move out of the house and have her own family.

The other daughter is Stanley. (What's with the men names for women?). She's engaged to Craig but has her eyes on her brother-in-law. She's irresponsible and perhaps a little deranged. Manic depressive in the modern vernacular.

Pete is a surgeon at the local hospital.

Craig is a lawyer with clients who are the down-trodden--something Uncle William derides.

William, the brother-in-law to Asa and uncle to the girls, is a talk-a-minute businessman who stole the business from Asa. He has a sweet spot for Stanley. He gives her a large sum of money just before her planned marriage to Craig and seems to want something more as if romantically inclined towards her.

There's McDaniel again as the house maid and her illiterate talk except this time she has a son, Perry, who does various household chores, but is hard at work to become a lawyer. He knows it's the only way he can get ahead in life.

And that's not all the players, but these are the key ones.

They are all gathered at the Timberlake house where the first big event takes place. Pete leaves his wife. He says he's going away on business, but instead goes to get married with her sister Stanley. Maybe I missed it, but at a time when divorce was difficult & lengthy, the two of them get married in a flash. Nothing about the divorce, but wham they're married. I guess it's what was required for the story.

Imagine. Your sister runs off with your husband, somehow there is a divorce and they are married. That's what is happening in this story.

The marriage isn't much of one. She's busy being manic or depressed and he's drinking himself silly. It's just not working and the next thing we know he's killed himself. As a result, she returns home.

While she was gone, her sister hooked up with her former fiancé. It's now Craig and Roy and Stanley is even more miserable. She tries to win him back, steal him back, but it fails. And here's Act III.

While waiting at a bar for him to show up, she drinks and drinks and listens to music. Realizing he won't show, she drives off, speeding as we learnt before she was a reckless driver, and crashes into a mother and daughter crossing the street. She knows she has hit them, slows, but decides to speed away.

Later she blames it all on Parry, the black boy studying to be a lawyer. The police arrest him even though he's innocent. We watch as she spins her web of deceit. Watch how her mother backs her up, lying to do so, how her sister and Craig doubt her story. Her saviour in the past has been her uncle who knowing he's going to die, sits impotent, unwilling to do anything.

The truth does come out. She admits her guilt, but still wants Parry to take the fall. Since her only hope, Uncle William, won't or can't do anything, she races away from his house driving her car as fast as she always has and misses a corner, goes through a fence, down a hill. The car rolls, she's thrown and killed.

Davis's character isn't the least bit likeable in this film. She behaves like a child. Why would she want to play this role? Probably because she was under contract with Warner Bros and had little choice. Maybe. The role is more like the Mary Astor character Sandra Novak in THE GREAT LIE. Someone you don't have any sympathies for.

I was surprised John Huston directed this film--given his credits, this film does not stand out at the top of the list. All the aspects of this film, directing, story, sets etc. are workmanlike--professional, competent--but there is nothing special about it all, yet, given the Davis movies from the forties I've seen, this stands out and it's not yet another war propaganda film.

Posted 2009/01/31 at 13h29ET in Movie Commentary.

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