Marked Woman (1937)

Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Lola Lane, Isabel Jewell,
Marked Woman is a movie starring Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, and Lola Lane. A crusading district attorney persuades a clip joint hostess to testify against her mobster boss after her innocent sister is accidentally murdered during...
  • 7.2 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Robert Rossen, Abem Finkel, Seton I. Miller, Writer:
  • Lloyd Bacon, Michael Curtiz, Director:
  • Producer:

Trailer:

8 / 10

Hostesses and Gangsters

In New York, the powerful and ruthless mobster Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Ciannelli) acquires the Club Intimate and presses the hostesses to entertain the men with dance and drinks and then taking them to gamble to spend money. The party girl Mary "Dwight" Strauber (Bette Davis) and her roommates Dorothy 'Gabby' Marvin (Lola Lane), Emmy Lou Eagan (Isabel Jewell), Florrie Liggett (Rosalind Marquis) and Estelle Porter (Mayo Methot) entertain a group of Wardolf Astoria's guests and Mary's date loses a great amount of money in the casino and gives a bounced check to the thugs. Mary borrows some money for the cab to him but the mobsters follow him.

On the next morning, Mary's sister Betty Strauber (Jane Bryan), who is supported by Mary and does not know the real "profession" of her older sister, visits Mary and the girls. However, police detectives arrive in the apartment and arrest the women. In the precinct, they lean that Mary's costumer was found dead and her address was found in his pocket. The young and ambitious District Attorney David Graham (Humphrey Bogart) presses Mary to snitch Johnny Vanning, but his lawyer gives instructions to Mary to deceive David and Johnny escapes from justice.

When the naive Betty is invited by Emmy Lou to go to a private party promoted by Johnny Vanning, she has an incident with one costumer. Johnny hits Betty and she tumbles on the stairs and is seriously wounded. However Johnny orders his men to dump her body in the river. When Mary discovers that Johnny has murdered her sister, she seeks out David Graham and promises to put the criminal behind bars. But the task is not easy and the gangsters are violent.

"Marked Woman" is an attractive film of gangsters with and unusual theme – the hostesses in illegal nightclubs. The fantastic Betty Davis performs the lead role of a party girl ahead of time with her attitudes. The screenplay has witty and cynical dialogs with insinuations about the infamous profession of Mary and her roommates. The conclusion with the five hostesses vanishing in the mist after the trial while the spots are on the young district attorney is magnificent.

Betty Davis and Humphrey Bogart are my favorite actress and actor ever, and "Marked Woman" is an unforgettable chance to see them acting together. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Mulher Marcada" ("Marked Woman")

9 / 10

Fine Gangster Drama

Bette Davis looks as though she was rested (after her hiatus involving litigation) and raring to sink her teeth in a juicy part. Well, she got her wish in this finely directed Lloyd Bacon gangster drama.

Davis is alert, focused, and driven here, putting her all into the dance hall hostess. It's one of her best roles in a film unfamiliar to many movie goers.

The film is notable for some fine work by most talented character actors, and for an unusual "good guy" role for Humphrey Bogart. This crusading D.A. on a mission is skillfully etched by Mr. B. and his scenes with Davis are particularly engaging.

Everyone knows the true life basis for this drama, and the exclaimer at the start doesn't fool anyone. This is a mean expose of some very callus criminals, and has the feel of that period's current newspaper headlines.

A well made drama, worth checking out.

9 / 10

"Ripped From the Headlines"

This film moves swiftly in that wonderfully fast-paced,1930s no-holds- barred Warner Bros. manner. The storyline is based on the Lucky Luciano vice lord expose of the previous season, which would have been familiar to most film-goers. Warner Bros.melodramas thrived on the kind of gritty, working class stories that were "ripped from the headlines" during the Depression years. Until the Production Code clamp-down of 1934, the girls in the film would have been shown as more clearly identifiable prostitutes. Here it's all thinly veiled. Just what IS a "clip-joint hostess," one wonders. They obviously perform other business in the upstairs rooms. But the movie never goes there. The women are shown to be strong, independent, yet exploited. Though they are bordello babes, the audience sympathy is for them. The film was made the same year as "Stage Door," and it's got some similarities. These young ladies of the evening seem like they're staying in a sorority house for hookers.

For Bogart fans, this is a rather stilted, seemingly out-of-character performance for him. It's like watching Bogie's clone--the role doesn't quite seem to fit him.

This film also shows wonderful examples of the Art Deco style in the Club Intime nightclub sequences. The design is lustrous. Hollywood Deco always signified glamor, modernity, and sexual liberation.

Bette Davis insisted her make-up following the beating and slashing look horrific. If Joan Crawford had played this role, she might have sported a slight bruise. Here Davis is heavily bandaged--realistic and frightening.

This is an overblown melodrama but it shows Warner Bros. and Bette Davis doing what they did best--telling a fast-paced story with lots of scintillating, snappy dialogue. Jack Warner may not have been much different than Lucky Luciano in many ways, but his studio sure could churn out some gripping tales.

8 / 10

the violence surprises

Back to Hollywood and this is Warners 30s black & white highly dramatic fare starring Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart. Not much of Bogart's work from around this time is all that strong but here he almost already seems the big star he would become, most comfortable in the forthright and caring lawyer. He takes nothing away from Davis, of course, though who still shines through a film that is clearly centred around her. It is a very good performance throughout from the not quite dizzy blonde to the pioneering and ruthless dame. The film begins with great scenes inside the clip-joint where the girls work and money and drinks flow as the girls flirt and the gangsters prowl. The film doesn't exactly lose its way in the middle but it just seemed to me that it might be going to lapse into some moralising crusade. Not at all, this really gets into another gear and the violence surprises. Good low key ending too. Impressive with good script, stirring music and fine performances all round.

9 / 10

Banned here in Australia and Finland!

"Marked Woman" was banned on it's original release here in Australia then abruptly withdrawn at the last moment from it's initial television screening here in 1966. Why all the fuss? Well it's because of those female leads playing "hostesses" in a "clip joint" are obviously playing prostitutes! Shock! And in a film from 1937!

This film followed hot on the heels of the sensational and newsbreaking 1936 trial of mobster Lucky Luciano who was convicted on the evidence of the prostitutes who worked for him. This was the sort of material ("torn from the headlines") that was the staple and was very much a part of the house style of 1930's Warners - gritty, hard boiled, tough stories concerning the working person facing the depression. At the end of the opening credits there is a title card disclaiming any resemblance to persons real or otherwise in the film. This was rarely if ever stated so strongly in films of this period. Warners were obviously very conscious about being seen to be not capitalizing on such a headline event so soon after - which they were!

Simple sets abound reflecting the obsession that Warners had with economy - even the nightclub is rather plain with not too many long shots to expose too much. This nightclub over at RKO would have had a distinctly chic Art Deco look as per the trademark of that studios Art Director, and the whole production is also in stark contrast to the lavish Crawford and Shearer vehicles over at MGM.

This film is late in Davis' "early period" - one which I find fascinating with it's odd mix of narrative concerning women and crime. It is also a very interesting vehicle of Humphrey Bogart still years off from the super-stardom he found from "High Sierra" in 1941. His role is very much the reflection of the censors requirement from 1934 that the law makers be glorified and not the law breakers as was very much the case and staple of pre-1934 Warners output. His speech as District Attorney in court has an abundance of force and conviction.

Other players in the film to my mind fit like a glove. Eduardo Ciannelli is suitably creepy and sleazy as the crime boss. Lola Lane, Rosalind Marquis (both giving us two nice Warren and Dubin numbers in the nightclub), Mayo Methot (soon to be Mrs Bogart in real life in what was a very stormy union) and Isabel Jewell (the perfect little gold-digger) portray with the toughness required and as the other "marked women" trapped in a life on the wrong side of the law. Costuming reflects perfectly their "class" in spite of their lucrative profession.

"Marked Woman" also closely followed the landmark court case between a very unhappy Davis (trapped in what was very much a man's studio) and Warners over the crummy scripts she was repeatedly presented in spite of her landmark performances in "Of Human Bondage" ('34) at RKO and "The Petrified Forest" ('35). After being off the screen for almost a year she lost the case and came back humbly with the studio relieved to have their "upcoming" leading female star back in action (tempramental star Kay Francis career at Warners was winding down by this stage) and eventually giving her more meaty and suitable parts like "Marked Women" with their really coming to the party in giving her "Jezebel" in 1938.

"Jezebel" was the doorway for Davis' "mature" phase for it was the director of "Jezebel" (and subsequent vehicles "The Letter" (40) and "The Little Foxes" (41)) William Wyler was able to tame her and provide much assistance in maturing her performances. Simultaneously Warners became a outfit turning out extremely polished vehicles and one of the champions of the "Womens Picture" through the 1940's.

We are very fortunate in the Australian National Film and Sound Archive having a good 16mm copy of the film which we will be screening at our film society this year. There's nothing like seeing a film like this in it's intended environment - the big screen!

Enter a suspended state of disbelief and enjoy this entertaining and gritty melodrama from Hollywood's golden age!