This entry is for the Bette Davis Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old days of Classic Hollywood in honor of the actress’ 108 birthday. Click the banner to read more!
My entry to honor Bette is for one of her lesser known but career proving roles as Valarie Purvis in the 1936 film Satan Met a Lady.
Today, we know Satan Met a Lady as the second of three versions of The Maltese Falcon. And if you didn’t know there were three versions, this one hardly counts- Sam Spade is not “Sam Spade”, he’s Ted Shane, (the blonde Satan, played by Warren William) and the only plot point that is similar is the coveted MacGuffin, which isn’t even a falcon- its a ram’s horn filled with gems.
Right from the start, Bette herself knew the picture was to be a dud- and she was particularly upset about having to do the role, especially as she just came off from The Petrified Forest (1936). She didn’t want to do the part and even refused to show up on set. The only thing that kept her going was the salary- as she needed funds to care for her mother and ill sister.
However, despite Bette’s reservations the one good thing that came out of this film was it cemented her potential as a rising star. As this part was a step back, audiences knew Bette was capable of so much more and that she was truly destined to be a star. One critic even pointed out there ought to be a “Bette Davis Reclamation Project (BDRP)” to “prevent the waste of this gifted lady’s talents” (IMDB).
Personally, I believe Bette’s presence in this film keeps it from being forgotten. Sure people watch it to see the comparisons to the 1941 film (which is a major pull), but the real element that draws us in is Bette. Her character has some great one liners, such as “Would you mind taking off your hat in the presence of a lady with a gun?”
It proves just how powerful her star power is- even to this day. People just want to watch her performance no matter what the movie may be, all because of her ability to light up the silver screen.
In the end I say it was a good thing Ms. Davis was in this production as sometimes flops and undesired projects are needed in order to get the good ones. So what if this film isn’t, “the stuff that dreams are made of”, its still a fun watch, for any role with Bette Davis is a real feast for the eyes.