Marked Woman

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Marked Woman
Marked woman movie poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byLloyd Bacon
Michael Curtiz (uncredited)
Written byRobert Rossen
Abem Finkel
Seton I. Miller (uncredited)
StarringBette Davis
Humphrey Bogart
Music byScore:
Bernhard Kaun
Heinz Roemheld
David Raksin
(all uncredited)
Songs:
Harry Warren
Al Dubin
CinematographyGeorge Barnes
Edited byJack Killifer
Production
company
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • April 10, 1937 (1937-04-10)
Running time
84 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Marked Woman is a 1937 American dramatic crime film released by Warner Bros. It was directed by Lloyd Bacon, and stars Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, with featured performances by Lola Lane, Isabel Jewell, Rosalind Marquis, Mayo Methot, Jane Bryan, Eduardo Ciannelli, and Allen Jenkins. Set in the underworld of Manhattan, Marked Woman tells the story of a woman who dares to stand up to one of the city's most powerful gangsters.

The film was a major success for Warner Brothers, and was one of Davis' most important early pictures. Davis had recently filed a lawsuit against Warners, with part of her protest being the inferior quality of scripts she was expected to play. Although she lost the lawsuit, she garnered considerable press coverage, and Marked Woman was the first script she filmed upon returning to Hollywood. She was reported to be very pleased with the script and the dramatic possibilities it afforded her. Jack L. Warner was said to be equally pleased by the huge public reaction in favour of Davis, which he was said to have rightly predicted would increase the appeal and profitability of her films.

Co-stars Humphrey Bogart and Mayo Methot were reported to have met on the set of Marked Woman and were married in 1938.[1]

Background[edit]

Despite the disclaimer at the beginning of the film that asserts that the story is fictitious, Marked Woman is loosely based on the real-life crime-fighting exploits of Thomas E. Dewey, a District Attorney for Manhattan who became a national celebrity in the 1930s, and two-time Republican Party presidential nominee in the 1940s, due to his fight against organized crime in New York City. Dewey indicted and convicted several prominent gangsters; his greatest achievement was the conviction of Lucky Luciano, the organized crime boss of the entire city. Dewey used the testimony of numerous call girls and madams to convict Luciano of being a pimp who ran one of the largest prostitution rings in American history. Dewey's dramatic achievements led Hollywood film studios to make several films about his exploits; Marked Woman was one of the most prominent. Humphrey Bogart's character, David Graham, is based on Dewey.

Warner Bros. purchased the rights from a Liberty series on Luciano, but was forced to make alterations in the story, such as changing the women's profession from prostitutes to "nightclub hostesses", because of censorship concerns.[1][2]

Plot[edit]

The notorious underworld czar Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Ciannelli) becomes the owner of a gaudy New York night club and re-names it Club Intimate. He exploits and mistreats the club's "hostesses" - Mary (Bette Davis), Gabby (Lola Lane), Emmy Lou (Isabel Jewell), Florrie (Rosalind Marquis), and Estelle (Mayo Methot) - in order to ensure their loyalty and obedience. At the club, as part of her job, Mary entices a young man (Damian O'Flynn) into betting and losing more money than he can afford. On the way home, he confides in her that he does not have the money to repay the gambling debt. He feels that it is all a game, but Mary warns him that he is in real danger and to get out of town quickly. She is shocked, but not surprised, to learn soon after that he has been murdered, by Vanning's henchman Charlie Delaney (Ben Welden). District Attorney David Graham (Humphrey Bogart) brings Vanning to trial, feeling he has a clear-cut case against him. But, Mary and the other women refuse to implicate Vanning, fearing his retribution.

Mary's younger sister Betty (Jane Bryan) comes to visit, and, unaware of the dangerous situation she has entered, attends a party at Vanning's club at Emmy Lou's insistence. She is "picked-up" by one of Vanning's friends, Bob Crandall (William B. Davidson), and, after spending some time with him dancing, she goes back to the women's apartment. Mary admonishes her and, despite her wishes, Betty returns to the club. She meets up with Crandall again, but she resists his advances. Vanning intervenes, slaps her and she falls down a flight of stairs.

Mary threatens to testify against the gangster, but his thugs beat her and scar her face, knifing a cross onto her cheek after she falls unconscious. She becomes the "marked woman" of the film's title, but rather than silencing her, it strengthens her resolve to testify. Aware that they can only be free of the gangster if they find the strength to stand against him, the other women agree to testify also. They turn state's evidence and implicate Vanning, breaking up his vice ring. As Graham is congratulated by the press, the five girls walk off into the foggy night

Cast[edit]

Bette Davis as Mary
Lobby card

Uncredited Cast[3]

  • Alan Davis as Henchman
  • Allen Mathews as Henchman
  • Guy Usher as Detective Ferguson
  • Gordon Hart as Judge at 1st trial
  • Pierre Watkin as Judge at 2nd trial
  • Herman Marks as Joe
  • Ralph Dunn as Court Clerk at 1st trial
Cast notes
  • Eduardo Ciannelli bears a physical resemblance to Lucky Luciano.[4]
  • Hymie Marks, who played the bit part of a gangster named Joe in the film, attracted the attention of executive producer Hal B. Wallis, who felt that he did not look menacing enough – despite the fact that Marks was a former gangster and henchman of Lucky Luciano, who had been specifically cast by director Lloyd Bacon because of this connection.[5]
  • Warners originally had cast Jane Wyman as Florrie.[1]

Production[edit]

The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), formed by the film industry in 1922, regulated the content of films by reviewing scripts using the 1930 Motion Picture Production Code, which had been strictly enforced beginning in 1934, and prohibited plots involving brothels or prostitution. As a result, in the film the prostitutes from the Luciano trial became nightclub hostesses, the gangster's racket became illegal gambling, and the crime a murder.[2]

Marked Woman went into production on December 9, 1936[6] at the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank[7] under the working title "The Men Behind".[1] Director Michael Curtiz stood in for Lloyd Bacon while Bacon was on his honeymoon.[1]

When Davis was made-up for the scene in the hospital room, she was unhappy with the minimal bandaging that had been used, so on her lunch break she drove to her personal doctor, described the injuries that the script called her character to have, and had him bandage her accordingly. When she returned to the studio, a guard at the gate saw her bandages and called executive producer Hal B. Wallis to tell him that Davis had been in an accident.[5]

Warners re-released Marked Woman in 1947.[1]

Reception[edit]

Writing for Night and Day in 1937, Graham Greene gave the film a good review, noting that as a noir film "it's been done before, of course, [...] but it has never been done better than in some of these scenes". Greene praised the acting of Ciannelli who was able to "convey not only corruption but the sadness of corruption", however he expressed disappointment with Davis' acting which he claimed "plugs the emotions with dreadful abandonment".[8]

Awards and honors[edit]

Bette Davis won the Venice Film Festival's Volpi Cup for Best Actress in 1937. Director Lloyd Bacon was nominated for the 1937 Mussolini Cup.[9]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f TCM Notes
  2. ^ a b Campbell, Russell (1997). "Prostitution and Film Censorship in the USA". Screening the Past (2): 11. Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  3. ^ McCarty, Clifford (1965). Bogey - The Films of Humphrey Bogart. Cadillac Publishing Co., Inc. p. 42.
  4. ^ Allmovie Overview
  5. ^ a b Landazuri, Margarita "Marked Woman" (TCM article)
  6. ^ TCM Overview
  7. ^ IMDB Filming locations
  8. ^ Greene, Graham (9 September 1937). "Marked Woman". Night and Day. (reprinted in: Taylor, John Russell, ed. (1980). The Pleasure Dome. Oxford University Press. pp. 166, 168–169. ISBN 0192812866.)
  9. ^ IMDB Awards

External links[edit]