Bette Davis plays a washed up Hollywood movie queen with abandon, and her terrific performance earned her a ninth Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. In the role of Margaret Elliot, Bette infuses it with all the angst and self-doubt that a true has been might undergo.
Margaret Elliot, dead broke, down and out, can't get a role in tinseltown. Drowning her sorrows in alcohol and self pity, Margaret is in serious denial about herself. As she spirals downward, both personally and professionally, a handsome man (Sterling Hayden), whom she had given a break to many years before, comes to her rescue.
When her agent manages to get Margaret a test for the part of an older woman, and it looks like she may have a serious shot at it, Margaret, preferring to play the role of the ingenue, lets her ego take over, and she flubs the test. When she realizes what she has done, her world comes crashing down on her, and self realization sets in. She comes to a crossroad in her life. What decision she comes to remains for the viewer to discover.
This is a nineteen fifties style melodrama, stark and grim. Bette has no qualms about appearing as a woman who is aging, as she appears with bags and circles under her eyes and has a somewhat jowly and bitter look. The wardrobe is mostly drab, and the sets are pedestrian. This all works to effect, as these accouterments are symbolic of Margaret Elliot's new reality. Sterling Hayden gives a credible performance as Mr. Nice Guy, though there is a scene in which a moment of politically incorrect domestic violence is interjected. A teenage Natalie Wood appears in the role of Margaret's daughter and is perfectly adorable in the role.
This is a film that Bette Davis fans are sure to enjoy.