Thursday, July 3, 2014

Another Man's Poison (1951)

Another Man's Poison (1951) - Bette Davis (Janet Frobisher), Gary Merrill (George Bates), Emlyn Williams (Dr. Henderson), Anthony Steele (Larry Stevens), Barbara Murray (Chris Dale)

Emlyn Williams and Bette Davis

Bette Davis plays author Janet Frobisher, a woman who hates her husband and killed him with rat poison.  One day a man shows up and pretends to be her husband.  Gary Merrill plays this man, George Bates.  He was the partner of Davis's husband in a bank heist.  Bates figures out Janet killed her husband, so he takes his place, and the cover up begins.

Bette Davis and Gary Merrill

Janet seems like a devious woman - killing her husband, trying to steal her secretary's boyfriend, and just being plain old mean.  Davis plays it to perfection.  You couldn't ask for a more "Bette Davis" role.  Janet is the definition of one.  

Bette Davis, horse lover

At first it seems like possibly Janet and George could have some kind of love affair.  This goes to heck when George has to put her horse down.  Janet seems to have an intense obsession with her horse.  Basically, it seems to be the only thing she cares about.  Clearly, the horse is the only thing she loves.  George is basically a goner once he messes with her horse.  

Gary Merrill and Bette Davis

Eventually, people begin catching on to the husband switch.  Dr. Henderson, played by Emlyn Williams, an actor Davis loved working with (according to TCM host Robert Osborne) begins to suspect Bates.  He's the only one who gets the London papers so he's the only one who has seen pictures of the men who robbed the bank.  He recognizes Bates, and even confronts it with the newspaper.  Bates does not admit to it, but claims only a similarity.

Bette Davis

Janet is getting tired of her new blackmail husband, so she decides to poison him too.   In the meantime, her real husband's body turns up to throw a wrench in the whole process.  

Bette Davis and Anthony Steele

Spoiler Alert - The ending is quite shocking.  Bette Davis is at her best in the throws of her ultimate punishment.  In fact, all that happens is the screen goes blurry, hinting at the fact she is dying from the same poison she used on her husband.  I suppose, she could have been resuscitated, but the assumption is that she plays the ultimate price.  Davis does play death scenes to perfection.

Gary Merrill and Bette Davis at their wedding.  Source

Fun trivia, Bette Davis and her costar Gary Merrill were married at the time they made this film.  Davis and Merrill were married from July 28, 1950 to July 6, 1960.  In fact, being newly married is part of the reason they made this film.  The newlyweds wanted to act together again.  They were both in the classic film, All About Eve.  Davis also wanted to act with Emlyn Williams.  This came together in this British film.  I didn't feel like Davis and Merrill had good chemistry.  They really seemed to hate each other.  I'm not sure if this is really good acting or a sign of things to come.  It was a very tumultuous marriage.  According to all accounts, they fought constantly.  After their divorce, neither would marry again.  Apparently this marriage spoiled both of them on the institution.

Bette Davis, Gary Merrill, and their children; 1954; Source

Side note, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. produced this film.  He found it quite difficult.  Bette Davis had a strong will and a strong opinion.  Apparently she found the script inadequate and constantly wanted changes.  No one ever claimed Davis was easy to work with, but aren't all geniuses difficult?

Emlyn Williams and Bette Davis

This is a fun film to see.  Bette Davis is at her best as a conniving woman who is willing to do anything to get what she wants.  This is the definition of a Bette Davis role.  A must for any Davis fan.  8 out of 10.

1 comment:

danyulengelke said...

Great review!

We're linking to your article for Bette Davis Wednesday at

Keep up the good work!


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