7.6/10
3,121
40 user 15 critic

The Old Maid (1939)

Approved | | Drama | 2 September 1939 (USA)
The arrival of an ex-lover on a young woman's wedding day sets in motion a chain of events which will alter her and her cousin's lives forever.

Director:

Edmund Goulding

Writers:

Casey Robinson (screen play), Zoe Akins (based on the play by: Pulitzer Prize) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
1 win. See more awards »

Photos

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Bette Davis ... Charlotte Lovell
Miriam Hopkins ... Delia Lovell
George Brent ... Clem Spender
Donald Crisp ... Dr. Lanskell
Jane Bryan ... Tina
Louise Fazenda ... Dora
James Stephenson ... Jim Ralston
Jerome Cowan ... Joe Ralston
William Lundigan ... Lanning Halsey
Cecilia Loftus ... Grandmother Lovell
Rand Brooks ... Jim
Janet Shaw ... Dee
William Hopper ... John (as DeWolf Hopper)
Rod Cameron ... Undetermined Secondary Role (scenes deleted)
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Storyline

After a two-year absence, Clem Spender returns home on the very day that his former fiancée, Delia, is marrying another man. Clem enlists in the Union army and dies on the battlefield, but not before finding comfort in the arms of Delia's cousin, Charlotte Lovell. The years pass and Charlotte establishes an orphanage and eventually confesses to Delia that her dearest young charge, Tina, is an fact her own child by Clem. Jealousy and family secrets threaten to tear the cousins apart. Written by L. Hamre

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Vividly, unforgettably, a woman's love starved soul is revealed. All those strange secrets she locks in her heart ... moments of rapture and of heartbreak ... longings that no man can fathom. Of these has the year's finest picture been woven!

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

There was a lot of bad blood between Miriam Hopkins and Bette Davis. Davis had won an Oscar For "Jezebel", a role that Hopkins had played on Broadway and had expected to play in the movie. To make things worse, Davis had had an affair with Anatole Litvak, Hopkins' husband, while making "The Sisters". See more »

Goofs

At about 1:09, when Tina is standing at the staircase after returning from the ball, as Charlotte is eavesdropping, the shadow of a boom mic passes across the carpet, just after Tina says "What sort of things?" This is especially puzzling because there is no further dialogue in the shot and no reason for the mic to follow Tina. See more »

Quotes

Delia Lovell Ralston: Let me look at you. My own daughter. Oh, I can't realize it. My own daughter grown up and married. Oh, it is beautiful but it's awful too.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening credits are shown on facsimiles of wedding invitation cards. See more »

Connections

Spoofed in The Film Fan (1939) See more »

Soundtracks

Yankee Doodle
(uncredited)
Traditional 18th century tune
Played in the score for the first scene
See more »

User Reviews

Bette is wonderful in period soap opera from Edith Wharton novel...
14 May 2001 | by DoylenfSee all my reviews

Bette Davis vies with Miriam Hopkins for the affection of George Brent in this film version of Edith Wharton's 'The Old Maid'. As hard as Hopkins tries, she can't steal the film from Bette -- nor Bette's daughter (Jane Bryan), the love child being brought up by Delia (Hopkins). Basically the story of Bette being unable to tell her daughter that she's her real mother.

There are some odd peculiarities about the film itself. George Brent makes a few brief appearances early in the film and then is suddenly killed off after going to fight in the Civil War. A montage shows the passage of time and suddenly we're given an abrupt change of scene and events before still another time transition. The continuity is choppy and leaves an unsatisfying impression of the film as a whole. It's as if events that should have been shown are compressed because of time constraints.

Bette Davis gives one of her more restrained portrayals, aging rather realistically, showing the loneliness of the embittered woman who is cheated out of marrying another man when her cousin Delia (Miriam Hopkins) discovers that she bore Brent's child.

The soap suds are pretty thick, all of them backed by a nice Max Steiner score and handsome sets and period costumes. Miriam Hopkins plays the selfish bitch with her customary skill and makes Davis seem even more sympathetic by comparison. I have seen this movie praised to the skies by some who consider it a work of art--but there are too many flaws, including a false and abrupt ending involving Bette Davis and daughter Jane Bryan, and time changes that seem more like a case of bad editing.

There are fine performances in supporting roles by Donald Crisp, James Stephenson, William Lundigan and Jerome Cowan under Edmund Goulding's tasteful direction.

A tear-jerker, 1930s style--but one that doesn't date too well.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 September 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Old Maid See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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