Old Acquaintance (1943)

Old Acquaintance
Kit Marlowe (Bette Davis) arrives in her hometown a bit chaotically (via msmeganmcgurk.tumblr)

Kit Marlowe (Bette Davis) has become a big-shot writer with the critical success of her new novel. She decides to make a visit to her hometown to give a lecture, and plans to stay with her old best friend Millie (Miriam Hopkins) and Millie’s husband Preston (John Loder).

Things get off to a rocky start when Kit is “kidnapped” by her fan club just after arriving in town, and as the film carries on it becomes apparent that Kit and Millie are very, very different people. It’s a wonder they’ve even been able to remain friends so long; they have very different personalities and attitudes. Kit is a bit more spontaneous and holds less of an emphasis on perfection, where Millie is high-maintenance, lofty and melodramatic.

Flash forward in time a bit, and Millie has also become a big-time writer with more financial success than Kit but much less critical acclaim. Preston and Millie have had a daughter, Dierdre (Dolores Moran), but the family is troubled. Both Preston and Dierdre seem to enjoy Kit’s company much more than Millie’s. Jealousy, an overabundance of snide remarks and high drama ensue.

Old Acquaintance strikes the viewer as a very performance-driven film. The tension between Millie and Kit is palpable at times, and Hopkins gives such a convincing  performance as the wealthier, cockier of the two friends that the viewer can’t help but dislike her.

Old Acquaintance poster
(via dvdbeaver.com)

Davis is just as believable in her much more likable character. It’s easy to see why Millie’s family likes to spend time with her. She seems to have a good moral compass as well, and cares about her old friend despite all of their differences. It’s an interesting role for Davis, as she’s playing the “nice” woman for once, but she still gives a hint of the biting wit that she is known for.

The story itself is familiar: two catty old friends pitted against each other in a mix of mutual admiration and mutual jealousy. It’s a plot with the potential to be too familiar to the point of blandness, but in this case, with such solid performances, it works.

The story is also very full and complete in this film, which further sets it apart from other films with a similar premise. The viewer is left with no questions as to where anyone ends up, and how life works out for the two women. The film covers quite a large span of their lives, giving the viewer a very full view of their experiences.

All in all, Old Acquaintance is simply a great drama. The score: 4/5

This review marks the end of Part III of my Through the Library series. I plan on (hopefully, in the midst of studying for finals) picking up some DVDs from the library this weekend, so be on the lookout for P, Q, R, S and T in Part IV. Will I actually be able to find a classic film beginning with the letter ‘Q’ at my library? The suspense is killing us all!

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