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Mr Skeffington [VHS]
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Product Description

Fanny Skeffington, an incorrigible society flirt of the WWI era, was one of the meatiest roles and most exasperating women Bette Davis ever played. Flighty Fanny loves the attention of her male suitors, but marries the steadfast Jewish financier Job Skeffington (Claude Rains) for security; long after their wedding day, she still enjoys receiving gentlemen callers. Time catches up with Fanny, of course, and the bills are due by the time World War II rolls around.

Mr. Skeffington is a vintage Warner Bros. workout for Davis, who never shied away from playing unsympathetic or physically unappealing roles. (Her main worry here was looking pretty enough in the early reels to justify Fanny's reputation.) Her theatrical performance and Rains's impeccable work carry the handsomely dressed story through its many melodramatic shifts. The dialogue by Julius and Philip Epstein (who were doing Casablanca around this time) has the sprung rhythm of screwball comedy, although director Vincent Sherman and the cast don't always seem to have noticed this. There's also the growing issue of anti-Semitism--a subject rare in Hollywood prior to this--especially as it concerns Fanny and Job's daughter. But mostly the film has Bette Davis, who strides headfirst into the gray areas (her indifferent treatment of her daughter is especially unappetizing), a fearless attitude that looks like the polar opposite of Fanny Skeffington's vanity. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews:

  • MR. (& MRS) SKEFFINGTON.....
    There was only one Bette Davis and this fine old film proves it: a splendid story of a Gramercy Park beauty who learns almost too late what love really is and how truly selfless it can be. Davis' performance is matched by Claude Rains as "Mr.Skeffington", a self made Jewish man of wealth whom the vain and beautiful Fanny Trellis marries for security, not love. Of course, Skeffington loves Fanny with all his heart and is constantly hurt by her patronizing affection for him. The story begins in 1914 New York and chronicles in epic form their marriage and the changing times around them, including WW1, until the present(1944). Davis does look beautiful as the young Fanny who holds her looks (and suitors whom Skeffington amusingly tolerates) over the years until divorce and tragedy strike and everything (including Fanny) changes. A very demanding role for Davis but she is amazing throughout and Orry-Kelly does wonders with her costumes. They're stunning, especially in the early years. A first class film all the way with first class performances and many funny sequences to offset the drama which never quite becomes maudlin. Rains and Davis are superb. The DVD is a fine print too which only heightens the enjoyment of this b&w classic. Directed by Vincent Sherman who helmed several films for Davis in the 40's and Joan Crawford. A collector's item, "Mr.Skeffington" is a welcome addition to the Davis films finally seeing DVD release....more info
  • Ms. Davis yet again isn't afraid to play a flawed, less than admirable character
    A vivid, sprawling, involving story about a woman who takes her beauty and charm for granted, reveling in the superficial benefits they attract while letting genuine opportunities for love and meaning pass her by. I think we all have met people like this, sharp and attractive and clever in their teens, twenties, and thirties, but then lonely and a bit paunchy as they enter their forties, because- way back when- they couldn't bring themselves to settle down with just one of the cute and charming people in their circle when they had the chance, because there were just too darn many of them to enjoy. Of course, the tragedy of people like Bette Davis' Mrs. Skeffington character is that, even if they did have a moment of clarity while still young and alluring, many still would choose the sweet, momentary pleasures instead of taking the time to build something more meaningful.

    Warner Home Video's DVD of "Mr. Skeffington" features sharp picture and sound, a brief but illuminating featurette about the movie, and a couple of short subjects that might have been shown with the film during its original release....more info
  • Grand entertainment
    A beautiful film with an extraordinary score by Franz Waxman, composer of "Sunset Boulevard", "A Place in the Sun" and "Peyton Place". The score is now available in an outstanding new digital recording via the Marco Polo label. Order it from Amazon.com!!!!...more info
  • What an interesting movie!
    If you like old classic movies...

    I love it when the ending is unpredictable. The acting was great, the movie kept my attention and it had some good life lessons illustrated.
    The only thing was...one has to suspend disbelief to accept that Bette Davis was the most beautiful woman in New York. She did such a great job of acting - as always - that one may not mind that. I didn't....more info
  • There's Only One Kind Of Beauty
    Normally I don't review a lot of movies but this one I couldn't resist. Mr. Skeffington stars none other then the great Bette Davis in one her finest performances (she had many many more). The subject matter is also important because of it's important message,which still holds up strong in todays world where looks and youth often seem to matter more then even morality. Davis is Fanny Trellis,a tragic character if I ever saw one. This epic drama begins in 1914 just before the start of WW1 as Fanny,a New York social climber seeks the romantic attention of her swindling brother's boss Job Skeffington (Clause Rains),a wealthy banker who happens to be Jewish in order to get her brothers name cleared. Through the war the couple have a child and,while Skeffington himself is always aware she's not truely in love with him she dismisses it as him "laughing at her" on the inside. Skeffington is a likeable and a very sympathetic man who goes all out to show Fanny and their daughter,also named Fanny all the love and kindness he can. When Fanny's brother dies in the war,having gone because of her selfish ways,she blames-resulting in bitterness and6 infidenlity on both sides.In the end the couple seek divorce. As with most cases like this,the daughter is torn but ends up traveling overseas to Europe with her father following the war. Of course once she is gone the elder Fanny is back to to her selfish,and frankly rather disrepretable ways.She only views her looks as a significant asset. When one such date results in diptheria Fanny's years catches up with her and she is left with an aged face. By this time it is during the second world war and Fanny is left to contend not only with her haunted memories of Job Skeffington but finaly by the man himself,blinded and in financial ruin after time in a Nazi concentration camp. The only thing is,while he still loves Fanny,the next part is where the movie gets reallllly interesting:Fanny's faded looks have deflated her ego and she finds she too really does love Mr.Skeffington and decides to be there for him. Yes,small justice for her ammoral behavior over the years but a fitting conclusion. This is a great story with tremendous acting on the part of everyone participating. In the end Claude Rains brilliant performance,reserved yet very warm makes you really like Job Skeffington.Even when,after Fanny's betrayal of his effections he resorts to extra marital affairs-it's only only time I ever sympathized with a movie character who did that.After all Fanny had been having "suiters" all through her marriage:men literally lined up to share her affections. At first one doesn't emphathize with Bette Davis's Fanny until the end,when you realize your dealing with a character who has become so consumed with her appearance that she forgot how to really love. At any rate this is a wonderful black & white Bette Davis classic that everyone interested in classic cinema should see....more info
  • Some kind of wonderful
    You can't get better than Bette Davis in my opinion. Claude Rains is a wonderful male lead, portraying a calm, long-suffering Mr. Skeffington to Bette's selfish, manic Mrs. Skeffington. You won't want to miss a minute....more info
  • A wonderful movie!
    I am a big fan of Bette Davis films,and this in my opinion is one of her best. She gives a wonderful and memorable performance. If you like old films like I do, this is one of the best....more info
  • Trippy Trellis and the rest of them
    Vincent Sherman is generally underrated and people seem to prefer William Wyler as a director, but to me Sherman gives you the real 100 proof Bette Davis (as well as many other actresses he worked with during a very up and down career). Wyler seems so labored next to Sherman's X-Ray intensity, like he's shooting the film lit only by occasional flashes of lightning. MR SKEFFINGTON, with its teasing title, is one of his very best pictures.

    Bette Davis evidently persuades about half the people watching the movie that she is or was a great beauty. That's a sign of good acting, even if she can't sway the other fifty percent from thinking her a fraud. Fanny is one of Davis' great creations, even if you don't buy into her beauty, for she makes you believe in her self-absorption, and the exquisite narcissism which draws men toward her like moths. And yet Fanny has an Achilles heel of her own--two really, if you count the way her self-worth is totally indexed into her good looks, so it must inevitably suffer with the passing of time. But her real weakness is her crazy love for her brother, the indolent character played by Richard Waring in this film, with the Cockettes-style name of "Trippy Trellis." As many have noted, it's hard to take a guy seriously in the movie if his name is "Trippy Trellis." Waring is good in the part, and I wonder why his US career was so curtailed. Maybe it was the curse of that tremulous name.

    As for Claude Rains, he lives up to the title role every bit as splendidly as he filled the shoes of "The Invisible Man." There's a bit of the invisible in his performance, isn't there, in the way he retreats towards the wallpaper when Fanny takes every inch of air in the room. And in fact he completely disappears off the screen while the death camps get a grip on him, only for him to make a fantastic Monte Cristo re-appearance at the end. They don't make actors like that any more, do they? Well, they do, but they don't give them their heads the way Vincent Sherman encourages Rains and Davis at every turn. "More, more, more!" And also, of course, we don't have Franz Waxman working in Hollywood any more. His delirious score for MR SKEFFINGTON makes "Trippy Trellis" seem almost reasonable. Put this film on DVD now!...more info
  • A Hollywood Classic!
    Bette always says that making "Mr. Skeffington" was sheer hell. She refers mostly to the second half when she has lost her great beauty to diptheria and resembles an old hag. Whatever the hell, Bette and cast members and the crew created a must-see classic. One can watch this movie repeatedly and appreciate all the great care that went into the costumes, from the turn of the century up to the early forties. The beautiful Franz Waxman score, the wonderful photography, sets, and performances by all makes this a tear-jerker supreme, especially in the final sequence. Davis proved once more than she could play any role--which is why her movies are watched more than any other female star of Hollywood's golden era--and this includes Hepburn, Crawford, and God knows, Jane Wyman and Rosalind Russell....more info
  • Mr. Skeffington
    Although the packaging showed signs of wear (not surprising given it's age), the video was in very good condition. And what a film! Bette Davis at her best - I have loved this film for years and the ending still makes me cry!...more info
  • A good but not great Bette Davis vehicle
    Usually it was the acting of Bette Davis that made most of those melodramatic soapers she appeared in watchable, but she's not quite up to par in this one. She plays a narcisstic woman in love with her own beauty; every eligible bachelor around is after her. But she meets the rich (and Jewish) Caude Rains when he is about to prosecute her brother for defrauding him; Davis convinces him not to. Eventually they marry.

    But it's a loveless match from the start, and they each find affection in the company of others. After years of this Davis decides to divorce him; Rains settles handsomely and goes to Europe - just in time to fall into the net of the Nazis. Davis flits around wherever her money will take her, until she contracts diphtheria and overnight turns into a Medussa. She's a lonely old hag now, but Rains comes back, blinded in a concentration camp - and because he can't see her, he thinks she's still beautiful. They reconcile.

    A lot of the scenes and much of the dialogue are pretty snappy, especially early on. But Davis is just so cloying here and she so over-does that high-pitched, whiny voice that you just want to strangle her. The messages are loud and clear (life is a serious business, physical beauty isn't everything), and even the timely reminder that Hitler's Nazi's were brutal, especially to the Jews, is befitting and commendable in a 1944 movie. And Claude Rains is excellent. I just think the movie could have been better. ...more info
  • Touching movie with many strong messages
    Spoilers
    This movie is just excellent. Bette Davis stars as a cold woman who lives with her brother who she loves. She gets all of her self esteem from men trying to marry or get with her. Thats her only focus in life. She doesn't have the ability to love or really be loved. But, theres more to the story then this, she does marry Mr Skeffington and he ends up going to fight in the Holocoust. Bette ages a lot in the movie and she starts to realize her priorities were off. Theres much more to it but this is a classic. They just don't make movies like this anymore. ...more info
  • Hooray for Claude Rains!!!
    I have seen Mr. Skeffington several times, and each time it amazes me. I am really amazed that the Jew's place in society is addressed at all in a Hollywood movie, let alone so truthfully. It does not blare trumpets and call great attention to itself as does Gentleman's Agreement. As a Jew, I find Gentleman's Agreement embarrassing for that reason; I find Mr. Skeffington revelatory and truthful. There is not one false note.

    In the same manner, Mr. Skeffington deals with several other difficult and complex subjects: a marriage that has to fail because Mrs. Skeffington is very narcissistic and self-involved; in addition, she has an underlying (perhaps subconscious) mild contempt for her husband because he is Jewish. She is also an uninvolved mother. As her husband says, she seems unable to love, and in the movie she is obsessed with being the object of love.

    There is also a lovely child whose source of unconditional love and nurturance comes almost exclusively from her father. During her parents' divorce, she very narrowly escapes being put into the custody of her un-caring parent and is raised by her father.

    In addition to the first-class screenplay, directing, casting, and acting, I am very, pleased to see Claude Rains (one of my favorite actors, and someone whom I would like to champion because he has been underrated) play totally against type, showing us a side of hims never seen in any other role (as far as I am aware). He plays a warm, sensitive, loving and nurturing husband and--and this is the most delightful--father. He is wonderful on screen with his daughter, and totally believable as a man with a warm, caring heart. In all Raines's roles there has been a tremendous vulnerability, and for once, in this role the vulnerability is sensitivity, warmth, and affection, There is also courage. It is a relief to see him shed the scabrous mantle of stunted growth, frustration, freakiness, neurosis, depravity and decadence....more info
  • DAVIS at her greatest!
    Bette Davis plays a beautiful New York socialite with "every man in New York at her feet". Many, many men are interested in marrying her.

    And what does she do? She marries a rich, Jewish stockbroker, Job Skeffington (Claude Rains) for his money. It is only at the end of the film (after thirty years of countless beaus) that she realizes that Mr. Skeffington was the only man that really and truly ever loved her.

    There is a much humor in the film including a wonderful running joke about one of Fanny's best friends whom we never meet because Fanny always cancels lunch dates with her.

    The script was brilliantly written by the Epstein brothers who co-wrote an earlier Davis hit, MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER as well as one of the greatest films of all time-CASABLANCA.

    The film begins in the year 1914 just before the beginning of World War I and ends during the midst of World War II. We see Claude Rains after returning from a German concentration camp and this was one of the first time American audiences were able to get just an inkling of the horrors of the Nazis and their anti-semitic practices.

    The fade-out scene is one you'll not forget easily. Be sure to have that box of tissues handy.

    You WILL enjoy this film!...more info

  • Love is blind in this classic tearjerker--4 1/2 stars
    Bette Davis and Claude Rains provide strong performances in this soap opera with comedic touches. Like many movies of its era, "Mr. Skeffington" tells the story of a "bad woman" redeemed by the love of a good man.

    Bette Davis plays Fanny Trellis, a beautiful young woman whose sole purpose in life is to surround herself with as many adoring young men as possible. Vain and self-centered, she can't really love anyone except herself and her brother Trippy (an unlikely name if ever there was one) . One of her conquests is Trippy's boss, Job Skeffington, (Claude Rains), a rich Jewish businessman who loves Fanny deeply and unselfishly in spite of her shallowness. When Trippy is caught embezzling, Fanny marries Skeffington to save her brother. Trippy reacts with outrage at her selling herself for money (he never mentions the "J" word, but it's implied) and goes off to fight in World War I. Although now a wife, Fanny continues her conquests as a tolerant but none-too-pleased Skeffington watches. His unease is offest by the birth of their daughter, young Fanny--her love makes up for her mother's actions. But this delicate arrangement is upset when Trippy is killed in action and Fanny admits that she only married Skeffington for his money. The marriage disintegrates rapidly until--in a delicious irony-- Fanny and her current flame encounter Skeffington with his secretary at a speakeasy and indignantly divorces him. All but abandoned by her mother, young Fanny goes to Germany with her father to return years later as an adult. Fanny, meanwhile, continues being the Belle of the Ball, acting the girlish coquette even as she grows older. But this ends when diphtheria destroys her beauty and Fanny is abandoned by all her former conquests. This is brought home to her she invites them to a party and they come, balding and with their wives. All that remains to Fanny is the old woman she sees in mirror, and even her daughter leaves to marry one of her mother's former and younger beaus. Fanny is finally forced to contemplate her life and values and realizes the worth of her former husband and his adage, "A woman is only beautiful when she's loved." Today, that might have been the end of the movie, but in 1944 audiences wanted a happy ending . Skeffington returns from a Nazi concentration camp, blind and broken both financially and physically. Fanny, in the only selfless act of her life, takes him in and--the viewer is left to expect--showers upon him the love that he once showered upon her.

    This story is vintage soap opera and very much a period piece. Production values are high in "Mr Skeffington," and it's fun to track the passing years through Davis' costume changes. There are a few subtleties in the movie, but by and large it paints with broad strokes. Davis plays the flirtatious society heartbreaker with remarkable style and is much less restrained than Rains'. But Rains' role calls for less flamboyance and his long-suffering Skeffington provides just the right warmth and humanity to counter Davis. There are some wonderfully comic scenes in the first half of the movie. Skeffington's amused resignation as Fanny's rejected beaus leave the house with broken hearts is beautifully played by Rains. There are also moments of pure pathos--among them Skeffington's attempts to explain European anti-Semitism to his young daughter and why she must stay with her mother instead of going with him. "Mr. Skeffington" is a classic example of how films can be dated in terms of their stories and themes and yet retain their ability to enthrall.
    ...more info
  • Bette and Rains are superb
    This is an overly long melodrama, utterly dated and in desperate need of an editor's scissors. Yet the performances of Bette Davis and the incomparable Claude Rains transform it into quite a good film, worth buying.

    Bette is perfectly cast as the vain and self-absorbed heroine who eventually loses her looks and learns some humility as old ages crashes in on her. Rains is pathetically sad as her hen-pecked husband who adores her in vain. Their scenes together are brilliant. For anyone who thinks today's crop of stars is anything special, do yourself a favor and sample Bette Davis and Claude Rains, two masters!...more info

  • one of my favorite bette movies
    I heard Bette Davis had to fight for this role, as the producers wanted someone who was a "great beauty" for the star(for some reason they did not think Ms.Davis fit this description!) Anyhow, we are all very lucky that she got the part, as this is one of my favorite Bette movies. It is funny and engaging. The only thing I thought was odd was the bit about how her husband was in a cond=centration camp and comes back all destroyed. This is simply glossed over, as if one is supposed to see being in a concentration camp as an ordinary event....more info
  • "A woman is beautiful when she's loved, and only then..."
    Earning an eighth Oscar nomination, Bette Davis boldly owns this captivating "women's picture". Playing a vain and self-centered beauty, Davis commands the screen in every possible way.

    Fanny Trellis (Bette Davis), the darling of New York society, is penniless thanks to her weak-willed brother but enjoys a neverending string of male admirers traipsing through her Gramercy Park mansion. When marriage finally comes, it's more of a business arrangement. Although she's very fond of Job Skeffington (Claude Rains), Fanny will never settle down as the devoted little wife and mother. Only after a middle-aged Fanny has suffered the ravages of diphtheria will she discover the true value of love over appearances.

    Bette Davis was never afraid in playing unsympathetic characters, and in Fanny she found the perfect meaty role. Layered with many shades, moods and colours, Fanny Skeffington wins hearts on and off the screen, despite her more tempestuous moments. Not the most conventional screen beauty, Davis was concerned about playing a woman famous for her looks (Irene Dunne, Merle Oberon and Hedy Lamarr were all briefly considered for Fanny). I can't imagine any of them being better than Davis.

    I absolutely adore everything about MR. SKEFFINGTON, from it's lush period design to the bravura performance of Bette Davis, in what must have surely been one of her favourite roles.

    The DVD includes the new documentary "Mr. Skeffington: A Picture of Strength", audio commentary with director Vincent Sherman, and the trailer. (Single-sided, dual-layer disc)....more info
  • Bette Davis is Outstanding
    Bette Davis is extremely versatile, vibrant and outrageously melodramatic is this impressive film. Bette Davis gives a very believable over the top performance as opposed to Caude Rains' endearingly restrained and noble of heart presence as her husband ineffective to check her outlandish behavior. Davis' obsessive vanity and escapades consume her body, mind and soul to a devastating end of shocking reality. This is a good one. ...more info
  • Bette's Best!
    Bette Davis shines in this movie, which in my opinion is the greatest work that she has ever done. She plays a great roll, the whole way through, while never letting her audience down. She's witty, talented, flutatious, funny, beautiful, critising, and over all magical in this film. You won't regret having this classic in your home forever....more info
  • one of bette's best
    One of the best performences of one of the best most enchanting legends of 20th century film.. Miss davis really grasps all she is known for in this work of Sherman's through speech, mannerisms and of course those infamous glares that only this star can display with such force.. A most modern epic for it's time and a true collectors piece for any davis fan!...more info
  • Worth Viewing For Several Reasons
    "Mr. Skeffington" is slow moving, especially if you are viewing the restored version with almost a full half hour added to what was shown in theaters.

    The opening scene of Fanny Trellis' suitors kibbutzing in a receiving room seems to go on forever, with far too much dead air between the genuinely funny witticisms.

    Too, Fanny and her suitors are too old to really capture the script's sense of a lusty crowd of marriageable-age aristocrats fighting over a prime beauty and her fortune. And Davis never really conveys that she *is* a great beauty. I've seen British actresses who aren't great beauties carry this off, but Davis doesn't.

    But this film is still worth a look for mature film goers.

    Claude Rains gives another tremendous, and understated, performance, the film's themes of sacrifice and inner v. outer beauty are genuinely poignant, and "Mr. Skeffington" is of historical interest because it was one of the first films to address anti-Semitism.

    It is fascinating for a film-goer of our more "let-it-all-hang-out" era to see the trepidation with which anti-Semitism is discussed -- or, rather, *not* discussed. Whenever someone comes close to saying a word like "Jew" his or her line is cut short. When Claude Rains informs his daughter that it would be better for her to be raised by her unloving, but Gentile, mother, rather than her adoring, but Jewish, father, this viewer was moved to tears.

    Too, the themes of inner beauty v. outer beauty are profound. They are echoed in the themes of anti-Semitism and of classism. The true "gentleman" of the piece is Job Skeffington, a short, coarse, low-born Jew. He brings out the beauty in his high-born wife.

    His sacrifice in supporting her, and her sacrifice to save her brother, are also moving plot elements.

    Davis is, as ever, flamboyant, and it is wonderful to watch Rains never, ever rise to her invitation to overact, especially in the scene in Skeffington's office, where Davis flutters away in fright from a stuffed eagle. Both the character, Fannie Trellis, and the actor, Bette Davis, in this scene are begging Job Skeffington / Claude Rains to overact, to be as histrionic and artificial as she is, but Rains never takes the bait. He depicts a hard-headed businessman with hard-headed acting chops that require no italics.

    His lines on the boat after the wedding are also quite moving. He talks about why he married Fannie, and what his hopes are.

    Finally this film is poignant because the plot is, as they say "isomorphic to context." Many Movie Moguls were low-born Jewish men who went out their way to capture high-born, beautiful, aristocratic, Gentile wives; they handed their children over to these wives and boarding schools and the wider culture in the hopes that their Americanized children would never experience the anti-Semitism that they had experienced.

    If nothing else, this film can be enjoyed as a soap opera with high production values. The sets are lavish, and the plot moves through several decades, so one gets to enjoy the fashions of the teens through to the forties. ...more info