Of Human Bondage (1934)

Bette Davis arrived in Hollywood in 1930. After Universal dropped her, she went to Warner and began a life-long struggle for better, more challenging roles. She pleaded Jack Warner to loan her out to RKO for John Cromwell's screen adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage, with Leslie Howard, then at the height of his career.

Davis plays Mildred, a slatternly Cockney waitress who torments a crippled intellectual, played by Leslie Howard.

The critics thought Davis was a most exciting new dramatic actress. For example, “Life” magazine wrote: “Bette Davis gave the best performance ever recorded on the screen by an American actress.”

Author Mangham praised her performance publicly, but the film failed box-office, probably due to its harsh, downbeat tone.

Remake Alert

“Of Human Bondage” was remade twice. First remake was in 1946 by Edmund Goulding with Eleanor Parker in the lead, and second remake was in 1964 by British helmer Ken Hughes with Kim Novak. Neither version is as satisfying as the 1935 one.

Oscar Alert

Oscar Nomination: 1

Actress (Bette Davis (Write-in candidate)

Oscar Context

In 1934, Frank Capra's comedy “It Happened One Night” swept the important Oscars, including Picture, Director Actor for Gable and Actress for Claudette Colbert. Davis would win her first Best Actress the following year, for the melodrama, “Dangerous.”

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