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Mr. Skeffington

Bette Davis , Claude Rains , Vincent Sherman    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Fanny Skeffington, an incorrigible society flirt of the WWI era, was one of the meatiest roles and most exasperating women Bette Davis ever played. Flighty Fanny loves the attention of her male suitors, but marries the steadfast Jewish financier Job Skeffington (Claude Rains) for security; long after their wedding day, she still enjoys receiving gentlemen callers. Time catches up with Fanny, of course, and the bills are due by the time World War II rolls around.

Mr. Skeffington is a vintage Warner Bros. workout for Davis, who never shied away from playing unsympathetic or physically unappealing roles. (Her main worry here was looking pretty enough in the early reels to justify Fanny's reputation.) Her theatrical performance and Rains's impeccable work carry the handsomely dressed story through its many melodramatic shifts. The dialogue by Julius and Philip Epstein (who were doing Casablanca around this time) has the sprung rhythm of screwball comedy, although director Vincent Sherman and the cast don't always seem to have noticed this. There's also the growing issue of anti-Semitism--a subject rare in Hollywood prior to this--especially as it concerns Fanny and Job's daughter. But mostly the film has Bette Davis, who strides headfirst into the gray areas (her indifferent treatment of her daughter is especially unappetizing), a fearless attitude that looks like the polar opposite of Fanny Skeffington's vanity. --Robert Horton


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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Performances, Nauseating Message Aug. 20 2002
Format:VHS Tape
From her first appearance as Fanny Trellis Skeffington, Bette Davis--never pretty--completely persuades the viewer that she is a great beauty. Claude Rains is patient and endearing as her beleaguered husband. But the movie is simply too long and suffers from seemingly endless repetition of its heavy-handed and offensive message: "A woman is only beautiful when she is loved."
At the end, when Fanny's beauty has at last eroded (due to illness, not a lack of affection from suitors, which seems to be something of a contradiction), she at last finds love for her long-suffering husband. But it's awfully convenient that she develops an appreciation for him only after he is blinded, and cannot what she looks like.
The Holocaust figures briefly but significantly in the movie. Although its horrors are never seen directly, the mention of concentration camps and Nazi brutality is noteworthy in a movie made in 1944. Apparently _somebody_ knew what was happening in Europe, and knew well enough to include it in a movie before the war had ended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Skeffington: Blindness is the Theme July 6 2002
Format:VHS Tape
Fanny is a young and beautiful woman of the early 1920s who possesses enormous qualities of face and figure much admired by her many suitors. Unfortunately, she also possesses a gigantic ego matched only by a blind spot to the feelings of others, a lack of basic empathy of which she is readily aware. Bette Davis, in MR. SKEFFINGTON, cuts a stark image of the vain and silly socialite wanna-be who knows that her looks are the means to climb to the top of the social eating chain. This movie is more than a female version of the then popular 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' story. The bootstraps that Fanny uses are a formidable array of beauty aids, which when allied to a perfect pitch of tone and voice, make her irresistable to nearly every man she meets. She dates many who see her only as the image she so carefully nurtures. She turns down all of them except for an aging and wealthy financier, Mr. Skeffington, played superbly by Claude Rains, an actor who has made a career of playing the educated and glib second banana to the lead. Here Rains is under no illusions about Fanny. He is well aware that she is a totally unreliable flirt who seeks flattery the way most others seek food and drink. Yet, there is something that he does see within her that he likes, enough at any rate to fall in love with her and propose. Fanny sees a rich old man whom she can control at will, so she accepts. They marry and the marriage goes pretty much the way that he thought. She continues her affairs, often right under his nose, yet he waits patiently for the loving woman he feels sure lurks somewhere in her soul. He also waits for some affirmation of his own worth. He gets none. The years pass, they have a daughter, also called Fanny, whom he adores, but she ignores. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars Eerie Foreshadowing of Bette's Future Dec 20 2001
Format:VHS Tape
I had seen "Mr. Skeffington" quite a few times as a child--it was on Sunday afternoons every once in a while--but it was only when I saw it again as an adult in a revival house only a couple of years ago that I knew it to be an ironic look into Bette's fate, at least appearance-wise.
Bette plays the vain famous beauty Fanny Skeffington, who never develops her interior life because she is fixated on her own good looks. Her NY mansion is crowded with portraits of her beauty and of course, mirrors--lots and lots of mirrors. As the years go by, she has a sort of Dorian Gray (or Dick Clark?) experience of looking youthful even when she actually no longer is young. But then, she contracts diptheria, and loses her looks overnight. From being a beauty, she is transformed into an old lady, older looking than she really is, even.
Now here is where I find the Eerie Foreshadowing. There is a scene of Fanny in her bedroom after the illness, sans any of the makeup and wigs she has had to order and slather on herself. Son of a gun, if she didn't look just like Bette Davis did eventually look towards the end of her life! But that's where the comparison between role and real life end. Whereas Fanny is crushed by the loss of her beauty and can barely look her old husband and suitors in the face, Bette Davis proved to be made of stronger stuff. Facially disfiguring stoke and ravaging breast cancer notwithstanding, Bette didn't hide from the camera and the world; she came right out on Academy Award night for all the world to see. A truly gutsy lady. Interestingly enough, it was Marlene Dietrich who was more like Fanny, granting Maxmillian Schell's request to interview her for a documentary on the condition that she not be filmed to reveal what she looked like as an old woman.
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5.0 out of 5 stars EPIC DRAMA AT ITS FINEST... Dec 3 2001
By Lawyeraau TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:VHS Tape
A pre World War I society beauty, self absorbed and shallow Fanny Trellis (Bette Davis), enjoys being besieged by besotted suitors. She simply cannot make up her mind whom to marry. She finally ends up choosing one of the unlikeliest of men, one who was not even aa avowed suitor, the enormously wealthy Job Skeffington (Claude Rains). Her reasons for marrying the enormously wealthy and jewish Mr. Skeffington are linked to something disgraceful her ne'er do well brother did.
Mr. Skeffington provides Fanny with a good life and simply adores her, tolerating her flirtations with other men as simply something Fanny's vanity requires. They have a child, a daughter, also named Fanny, whom Mr. Skeffington adores. Fanny, however, loves only herself. When Fanny's brother, who had objected to her marriage and had run off to fight in World War I, is killed in action, Fanny blames her marriage to Mr. Skeffington as the catalyst for his death. From that point on, the marriage takes a nosedive.
Fanny proceeds to take her flirtations beyond the bounds of propriety, and Mr. Skeffington also looks for greener pastures elsewhere, as his is a loveless home. They end up having an open marriage that ultimately ends up in divorce. Mr. Skeffington takes custody of their daughter, when Fanny voluntarily seeks to relinquish custody, as she does not want the responsibility. Fanny proceeds to spend her life charming new suitors and having love affairs. She tries to turn back the hands of time, lavishing much time and effort in remaining youthful in her appearance. Meanwhile, Mr. Skeffington and their daughter spend years living abroad in Europe, until he sends their now grown daughter to live with Fanny just before the outbreak of World War II due to the growing Nazi menace, while he stays behind in Berlin.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars OLD MOVIE BUT WITH A MESSAGE FOR TODAY
This is a good old movie, in black and white. Bette Davis is very good as Mrs. Skeffington. She is incredibly beautiful and men are flocking all around her continually, but this... Read more
Published 5 months ago by caseygirl
5.0 out of 5 stars "Mr. Skeffiington (1944) ... Bette Davis & Claude Rains ... Vincent...
Warner Bros. Pictures presents "MR. SKEFFINGTON" (1944) (145 min/B&W) -- Starring: Bette Davis, Claude Rains, Walter Abel, George Coulouris, Richard Waring, Marjorie Riordan,... Read more
Published on Aug. 28 2011 by J. Lovins
3.0 out of 5 stars looking back at the inimitable claude rains
this is basically a soap opera and the divine bitchy ms davis as usual plays the divine bitchy ms davis. Read more
Published on July 4 2004 by ageofanxiety
3.0 out of 5 stars Claude Rains Helps To Salvage It
Whether you are going to enjoy or get into this film depends on a few factors. First of all, you must believe that every man is tripping over himself to win the hand of the woman... Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2003 by James L.
4.0 out of 5 stars BETTE BERNHARDT
A lengthy, classy, highly enjoyable soap opera of the first calibre. Bette Davis was indeed a phenomenal performer! Read more
Published on Oct. 10 2001 by "scotsladdie"
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing for such a gifted cast
watching this movie i expected a five star rating (at least!) for such a distingushed cast, but instead its a jumble of bad story lines mixed into one. Read more
Published on Sept. 7 2001 by patrick butler
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful movie!
I am a big fan of Bette Davis films,and this in my opinion is one of her best. She gives a wonderful and memorable performance. Read more
Published on July 22 2001 by Rosella Ann Myles
5.0 out of 5 stars Bette's Best!
Bette Davis shines in this movie, which in my opinion is the greatest work that she has ever done. She plays a great roll, the whole way through, while never letting her audience... Read more
Published on June 4 2001 by Mr. X
4.0 out of 5 stars Bette and Rains are superb
This is an overly long melodrama, utterly dated and in desperate need of an editor's scissors. Yet the performances of Bette Davis and the incomparable Claude Rains transform it... Read more
Published on July 22 2000 by Candace Scott
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