(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June. She’s trying to get it all done by the end of July 11th! Will she make it!? Keep visiting the site to find out!)
The 37th film on my DVR was the 1940 film, All This, And Heaven Too. It originally aired on June 21st on TCM.
All This, and Heaven Too is one of the many melodramatic historical romances in which Bette Davis appeared in the late 30s and early 40s. These films usually featured Bette as a strong-willed woman who was often condemned for not conforming to the rules of society. Typically, she would end up falling in love with a man who society said she could not have. Bette almost always seemed to end up alone, which I guess was the way women who thought for themselves were punished back then.
In this one, Bette plays Henriette Deluzy, a French woman who ends up in America in the 1850s. When she shows up to start teaching at a private, all-girls school, her students immediately start gossiping about her. It seems that Henriette was at the center of some sort of European scandal and everyone is speculating about what happened. Finally, at the start of class, Henriette tells her students that she’s going to tell them the true story of what happened back in France.
It turns out that Henriette was a governess. She took care of the four children of the Duc de Praslin (Charles Boyer) and his wife, the Duchesse (Barbara O’Neil). The Duchesse was mentally unstable and soon came to suspect that her husband had fallen in love with Henriette. Though she may have been insane, it turned out that the Duchesse was correct. When the Duchesse fired Henriette and then lied to her husband about it, the Duc flew into a rage and murdered his wife.
Under the laws of the time, the Duc could only be judged by his fellow noblemen. He was told that if he simply confessed and said that Henriette was the one who drove him to commit the murder, he would be set free. (As opposed to the characters that Bette Davis played in The Letter and The Little Foxes, Henriette was totally innocent.) Would the Duc confess and allow Henriette to be blamed or would he deny his love for her and sacrifice his life as a result?
All This, And Heaven Too is a rather slow movie and it’s hard not to be disappointed that Henriette is such a boring character. She’s so innocent and victimized that the role almost seems like a waste of Bette Davis’s talents. A big production that featured lavish (though black-and-white) recreations of 19th Century France, All This, And Heaven Too was probably a big deal for contemporary audiences and, if you’re a Bette Davis or Charles Boyer completist, you might enjoy it. But otherwise, it’s really nothing special.
All This, And Heaven Too was among the 10 films nominated for Best Picture of 1940. However, it lost to Rebecca.