THE OLD MAID (1939) B/W 95m dir: Edmund Goulding
w/Bette Davis, Miriam Hopkins, George Brent, Donald Crisp, Jane Bryan, James Stephenson
This film is pure soap opera, but it's still an awesomely effective tea-jerker. As an added attraction, Davis personally hated Hopkins so much (on a par with her much publicized loathing of Joan Crawford) that you can almost smell the napalm during their scenes together.
From Variety's contemporary review of the film: "Film version of the Pulitzer Prize play [by Zoe Atkins from a novel by Edith Wharton, adapted for the screen by Casey Robinson] sticks pretty close to the original development and dialog. Therein lies a handicap to success of the piece on the screen. It's stagey, somber and generally confusing fare.
"Story opens during the Civil War days. Miriam Hopkins loves George Brent, but when he fails to return after two years, prepares to marry rich James Stephenson. Brent arrives on the wedding day and is comforted by Bette Davis, younger cousin of Hopkins. Brent goes to war and is killed, leaving Davis with a child.
"Skipping over 15 years, household is presented in complex antagonism between the two cousins, now matronly.
"Davis provides a strong portrayal in the title role. Hopkins provides a strong contrast as the motherly matron."