Sunday, July 02, 2017

Tonight's Movie: A Stolen Life (1946) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Bette Davis stars in a dual role in A STOLEN LIFE (1946), an engrossing romantic melodrama available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Davis stars as identical twins Katie and Pat Bosworth. Quiet Katie, an artist, visits her family's cottage off the coast of New England and falls head over heels for Bill (Glenn Ford), who works at a nearby lighthouse.

Bill and Katie get along famously and a romance seems to be developing, but suddenly Katie's sister Pat turns up. The more glamorous and enticing Pat quickly sweeps Bill away from her sister, just because she can, quickly followed by their wedding.

The wounded, heartbroken Katie tries to bury herself in her art, mentored by a dictatorial fellow artist (Dane Clark), but she never stops yearning for Bill.

Considerable time passes and the sisters are reunited and go sailing together, but a storm comes up and Pat drowns. By chance the surviving Katie is mistaken for Pat and assumes her identity, thinking it's her chance to be "married" to Bill at long last. Little does she know what a miserable marriage Bill and Pat have had or how awful Pat has been to him...

This was quite an enjoyable film, thanks largely to fine performances by Davis, directed by Curtis Bernhardt. The special effects are outstanding, but beyond that Davis's portrayal of the twins is low-key and persuasive. She "sells" their differences largely via their speaking patterns -- Pat speaks more rapidly and sarcastically -- and Pat's arch attitudes, compared to Katie's quiet sincerity. Although the women are identical, Davis also subtly convinces us that Katie is a plain Jane and Pat more glamorous, beyond the help provided by Orry-Kelly's wardrobes.

Ford was eight years younger than Davis and looks it, but the matchup works as his character is meant to be rather naive and trusting. He is thus quite believable as the man who's toyed with by the unfaithful Pat and loved by wholesome Katie.

Charlie Ruggles is an asset to any film, and he has a good role as the twins' perceptive guardian. The supporting cast also includes Bruce Bennett (underused with a single scene), Walter Brennan, Peggy Knudsen, Esther Dale, and Clara Blandick.

The film's biggest flaw is that it's too long at 109 minutes. Dane Clark's role is extraneous to the story; his character goes nowhere plotwise and could easily have been excised to make the film a more maneageable length.

The film has the typically strong production values for a '40s Bette Davis film made by Warner Bros., including black and white photography by Ernest Haller and Sol Polito and a score by Max Steiner.

It's always fun to spot nearby Long Beach Airport in films from this era; there are nice shots of both the front and the back of the airport.

Film buffs may be interested to note that Davis's former fellow Warner Bros. contract actress Olivia de Havilland would play identical twins the very same year, with DARK MIRROR (1946) released by Universal Pictures three months after A STOLEN LIFE debuted.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print, and the disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


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