The Bette Davis Project: Old Acquaintance (1943)

Old Acquaintance (1943)


The film revolves around the tumultuous relationship between two childhood friends. Kit Marlowe, played by Bette Davis, is a critically acclaimed author of books that don’t sell well. Kit’s best friend Millie Drake, played by Miriam Hopkins (Trouble in Paradise), has exactly the opposite problem; Millie’s best-selling books are ridiculed by the critical mass. The authoresses fight each other and the elements over a period of almost two decades.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Old Acquaintance reunited the stars of The Old Maid (1939) for another acting match and — just like in the first movie — there is something irresistible about seeing these two actors interact together.

Directed by Vincent Sherman (Adventures of Don Juan and The Young Philadelphians) from a screenplay by John Van Druten and Lenore J. Coffee, based on Druten’s 1941 Broadway play of the same name, Old Acquaintance is a story of choices, love, guilt, remorse, unfulfilled dreams, and, of course, friendship. Now that I’m a middle-aged man — and I’ve experienced many ups and down, decisions, resolutions, disappointments — I have a better understanding of the characters’ many problems. The film is full of life’s truthisms.

What I particularly liked about the movie is that the drama is built around the really interesting and complex relationship of two friends.

Thanks to sharp writing and good characterizations you understand why these two very different people remain friends for such a long time. Being a man, I also liked the idea of seeing success and failure through women’s eyes, bringing attention to issues that don’t normally affect me  — you can always learn from other people when you try to see things from their perspectives.

Considering the fact that Davis and Hopkins disliked each other, the movie is full of warmth and humor. You don’t doubt for a second that they are life-long friends, and that’s great acting in itself. The ladies have different acting styles that complement each other and that makes the whole thing kinda tantalizing, enticing, and compelling to watch.

Davis is very good. She later said that Kit was very much like herself. In one scene she appears to wear nothing but (male) pajama tops — it shocked ’40s audiences! Hopkins gives a brilliant performance. She brings a gorgeous self-absurdness to the part of the novelist of trashy books. Interestingly, this is Hopkins’s very last starring role; she went to Broadway and returned to the big screen in supporting roles. The cast also includes John Loder (How Green Was My Valley), Gig Young (They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?), Dolores Moran (Silver Lode), and Anne Revere (National Velvet).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Davis’s Kit says, “there comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne.” And sometimes the only thing that helps fight the doldrums is a good, intelligent, fun movie like this one. Remade as Rich and Famous (1981). B&W, 110 minutes, Not Rated.


5 responses to “The Bette Davis Project: Old Acquaintance (1943)

  1. I agree that Davis and Hopkins give you every indication they’re lifelong friends. They’re both fabulous in this film and, like you said, they play well off each other.

    I really enjoyed your thoughtful review. You’ve made me want to see this one again!

    Liked by 1 person

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