In the 2012 biography “Barack Obama: The Story” by Davis Maraniss, the author reports that Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro, was named “Stanley” not after her own father, Stanley Dunham, but after Bette Davis’ character in this film. Maraniss says that Obama’s maternal grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, saw the movie while pregnant with Obama’s mother, and she thought the name sounded sophisticated for a girl.
Warner Bros. was named to the Honor Roll of Race Relations of 1942 because of its dignified portrayal of African-Americans in this film. However, scenes in which Ernest Anderson’s character was treated in a friendly fashion were cut for showings in the strictly segregated American South to avoid offending those viewers.
This (ahead of its time in MANY regards) film focuses on the Timberlakes, a prominent family based in Richmond, Virginia. The laid-back patriarch, Asa (Frank Craven), is not as clever or ambitious as his gregarious brother-in-law, William (Charles Coburn). Asa’s wife, Lavinia (Billie Burke), is in a fragile state, so she keeps to her room most of the time. However, we’re not told what exactly is the physical issue. William is head of the Fitzroy lumber business, while Asa is the manager and owner of some shares. Best Supporting Actress winner for Gone with the Wind, Hattie McDaniel, plays their long-time housekeeper- Minerva.
The Timberlake girls (Roy and Stanley) are front and center in this tale; Davis plays the younger sister though she was 8 years older than de Havilland. Asa complains that Stanley drives too fast. Minerva is sure that THIS time, Stanley will finally go through w/ her planned marriage, though Roy doesn’t look too hopeful. Uncle William doesn’t fully approve of her fiancé, who gives legal aid to the poor.
Without any warning, Stanley and Roy’s handsome surgeon husband, Peter (Dennis Morgan) run away together. Roy and Stanley’s lawyer fiance, Craig (George Brent) are left behind to deal w/ the shock and scandal. (Brent and Davis made MANY movies together over the years.) However, the honeymoon is VERY short for Stanley and Peter; we see that they are ill-suited to live together.
Stanley considers herself to be beautiful, though the way Davis is dressed and made-up give off a different image. While live tweeting (@TCMParty) last week w/ some viewers, many noticed that Davis’ mouth was drawn differently than usual and a few of her dresses had loud patterns. But de Havilland looks lovely and is dressed in demure (yet graceful) styles. I’m sure this was done purposefully by director John Huston, who was having an affair with de Havilland during this time. Jack Warner (head of Warner Bros) said: “Anyone could see that . . . it was Valentine’s Day on the set . . . When I saw the rushes I said to myself, ‘Oh-oh, Bette has the lines, but Livvy is getting the best camera shots’.” Seriously, Davis DOES have the best lines!