That Certain Woman

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That Certain Woman
That Certain Woman.jpg
Original poster
Directed by Edmund Goulding
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Jack L. Warner
Written by Edmund Goulding
Starring Bette Davis
Henry Fonda
Anita Louise
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Ernest Haller
Edited by Jack Killifer
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • September 18, 1937 (1937-09-18)
Running time
93 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1 million

That Certain Woman is a 1937 American drama film written and directed by Edmund Goulding. It is a remake of Goulding's 1929 film The Trespasser, Gloria Swanson's first sound film.


The soap opera-like plot of the Warner Bros. release focuses on Mary Donnell (Bette Davis), a naive young woman married to Al Haines, a bootlegger who is killed during the St. Valentine's Day massacre. In order to support herself she takes a job as a secretary to married attorney Lloyd Rogers (Ian Hunter), who finds himself attracted to her but keeps his feelings secret out of respect for his wife. Jack Merrick, Jr. (Henry Fonda), the playboy son of a wealthy client, elopes with Mary, but his disapproving father (Donald Crisp) interferes and has the marriage annulled.

Soon after Mary discovers she is pregnant and decides to have the child without informing Jack, who marries Florence Carson (Anita Louise), a woman of his own social class. She later is left crippled by an automobile accident.

When Lloyd dies, he leaves Mary the bulk of his estate, but his wife, believing Mary's son is her husband's illegitimate child, attempts to overturn the will.

When Jack and his father learn the boy is his, the elder Merrick institutes proceedings to have Mary declared unfit and the child removed from her custody. Unable to withstand the stress of the legal proceedings, to her surprise, Mary finds Florence kind and sympathetic. She allows Jack and Florence to have the child and leaves for Europe. When Florence dies, Jack follows Mary in the hope he'll find her and reunite her with their son.

Principal cast[edit]

Principal production credits[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

In his review in the New York Times, Frank S. Nugent declared, "For all the heaviness of its theme, for the hopeless monotony of its heroine's ill-fortune, the picture has dramatic value . . . Miss Davis performs valiantly as usual, giving color to a role which, in lesser hands, might have been colorless." [1]

Time described it as "what is known as a players' picture; everyone gets the call, and everyone responds with all the theatrical craft he can summon up." [2]

Variety said, "The production has class and atmosphere . . . a finely made picture which deserves and will get extended first runs and which shoves Bette Davis a round or two higher as box office lure . . . [It] demands more of her talent than any film in which she has appeared . . . She displays screen acting of the highest order." [3]

Of the film, Bette Davis herself said it "was certainly not one of my favorite scripts. There was a falseness to the whole project. But I did meet and work with Edmund Goulding for the first time. He concentrated on attractive shots of me - in other words, gave me the star treatment. It was the first time I had this. I was always a member of the cast - a leading member - but not made special in the way Goulding made me special in this film." [3] The two went on to collaborate on three more films: Dark Victory (1939), The Old Maid (1939), and The Great Lie (1941).


External links[edit]