Sadly, this advertisement is more interesting than the film. "Housewife," a Warner Brothers factory product of 1934, is pretty much a stinker (but not, as Bette Davis referred to it years later, "a horror"). Bette probably hated it because her part, as the vampish bachelor-career girl, was about as cliched as they come. And Ann Dvorak, once again, got the better role. If you remember, Ann also got the plum role of bored and coked up socialite Vivian Revere in 1932's "Three on a Match" and pretty much acted everyone in the film (including Davis, Joan Blondell and Humphrey Bogart) off the screen.
So why bother with "Housewife"? It is one of the few films where Ann Dvorak gets to shine and shine she does (brighter than poor Bette, who is all big eyes and carnal grins). Ann plays Nan Reynolds, wife of underachiever Bill Reynolds (George Brent, who always looks as though he has a short man's head on a tall man's body). Bill is a rather meek and passive office manager at an advertising firm. Nan, efficient home engineer that she is, manages to make do on his meager salary and makes a comfy home for Bill and son Buddy (played by an extremely annoying child actor by the name of Ronnie Cosby).
|the happy home of the housewife before the home-wrecker shows up|
|Meek Man/Mad Man|
|Pat makes goo-goo eyes at Bill|
Meanwhile, Nan has a bright idea, encouraging Bill to pinch a client from his boss and start his own firm. Amazingly, it works, and now Bill is the big cheese and he has brought that little rat, Pat, along to help him. Not only does she help him in business, she helps herself to him after hours.
|Nan knows those "honey, I have to work late again" calls are bunk|
Buddy slowly heals and Bill feels more and more like a heel with every passing day. Finally, at the court testimony for her divorce, Nan shows herself to still be in love with Bill and Bill just goes back to being that pile of mush that he was before Pat showed up. Cue Pat to slink into the sunset.
Pretty awful, no? Aside from being a modern woman's nightmare and Warners' nightmare wasting Bette Davis after "Of Human Bondage," this film does have a few things to offer:
1. Ann Dvorak
For a brief moment, Ann Dvorak out-juiced Bette Davis at Warner Brothers, which meant that they thought she had just as much star power, ability and appeal as Davis. Sadly, it was a career that never fulfilled its promise. Ann Dvorak was not as driven or determined as Bette Davis (few were or are), and her star quickly faded. She is a rare treat, and she can be well savored here.
There are some lovely dresses and gowns by Orry-Kelly, that are always a pleasure to watch. Those Warner gals had some swanky wardrobes!
3. Bette Davis
We all know she hated these kind of parts, but she had to serve her apprenticeship and man, was she a cutie!
So, this was really just an excuse to spend some time with Ann Dvorak in more than a supporting or trivial part. For those who are Ann enthusiasts, a long-awaited biography of her will be published in November. The book, by Christina Rice, is titled "Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel."
I've pre-ordered mine!