The Golden Arrow (1936)


A newspaper reporter (George Brent, Dark Victory) is assigned to interview a wealthy socialite (Bette Davis) only to find out that she might not be who she says she is.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“I’ll kill the first reporter that comes aboard.”

The Golden Arrow was clearly inspired by the enormous critical and financial success of Frank Capra’s 1934 classic It Happened One Night. However, nothing here is near the quality of Capra’s immortal screwball comedy. This knock-off turns out badly due to a nothing storyline and cheap production values.

Directed by Alfred E. Green (The Girl from 10th Avenue) and written by Charles Kenyon (The Petrified Forest), The Golden Arrow is a perfect example of Warner Bros. Studio’s old practice of using its most popular stars to sell nonsensical material. Bette Davis referred to the film as “the beginning of the end, temporarily, of my contract with Warners.” She apparently found the experience insulting, to say the least.

Davis tried to beat some sense into the material but it was really a lost cause. There is a particularly unfunny and embarrassing moment where Davis appears with a black eye — one of the lowest points of her career. No wonder Davis nearly lost her mind when Warners used her hard-earned Oscar (for Dangerous) to promote the film. Alas, nothing helped — The Golden Arrow was both a critical and commercial failure.

Despite being photographed by acclaimed cameraman Arthur Edeson (The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca), the film looks cheap. As a matter of fact, costumes, sets, everything reeks cheap programmer. The fine supporting cast — Eugene Pallette (Bordertown), Dick Foran (The Petrified Forest), Hobart Cavanaugh (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Craig Reynolds (The Lost Weekend), etc. — is wasted.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

It’s hard for me to find anything good to say about this trite romantic comedy. It’s a pretty anemic effort by the folks at Warner Bros. The Golden Arrow has one simple problem: It’s just not funny. The good chemistry between Bette Davis and George Brent can’t save it — this is the worst of the pair’s many films together. B&W, 68 minutes, Not Rated.

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