Insomniac Theatre: “Marked Woman”

16 Oct

Aaaaaaannnnd……… I’m back! 

And Caroline the Netbook’s keyboard is acting up once more.  Or, to be generous, dear Caroline: the touchpad is exceedingly touchy tonight.  This will make blogging fun.

I’ve had Jeremy the IV, Part One (also known as Jeremy, Episode IV: A New Hope) set up for approximately three weeks.  And in that time, I’ve become addicted to Go On, The New Normal, and TCM once more.  I have seven movies on my DVR’d list, and the list is already up to 60%.

I have a problem.

I’m sorry – I also have to take a moment of digression.  As I’m writing the preamble to this, my return to Insomniac Theatre, I’m watching last Wednesday’s episode of The Daily Show, and being totally lazy and not fast-forwarding through the commercials.  I just saw a commercial for Patron Tequila, and they’re talking about how Patron conserves water, and recycles glass, and creates renewable compost, and I get that they’re trying to make us like them even more because they’re being all environmentally responsible, but I’m all … I don’t always drink Patron.  But when I do, it’s because a rich frat guy is trying to impress me.


So let’s return to Insomniac Theatre with what is sure to become a Bette Davis Classic, Marked Woman:


A crusading DA persuades a clip joint “party girl” to testify against her mobster boss after her innocent sister is accidentally murdered during one of his unsavory “parties.”

Here’s why I’m excited: it stars Humphrey Bogart AND Bette Davis.  The last time the two were in the same movie, she slapped the shit out of him.  And Bogey don’t take no shit.  The dialogue’s going to be fast and witty, and pretty much awesome, right?

Also, I’m using this as my return to the Mvoies Alaina’s Never Seen stage because it’s an hour and a half long.  Woo hoo short movies!

Hm.  According to Robert Osborne, this movie is the Law & Order of the 1930s: “ripped from the headlines,” and the mobster is loosely based upon Lucky Luciano.  More fun facts: Bogey plays a good guy, whose character is based upon that of Thomas Dewey.  The SAME Thomas Dewey who went on to defeat Harry Truman for one newspaper headline.  (Did I do a history?)

Also: due to the Hayes Code, Lucky Luciano’s prostitutes are here known as “party girls,” or “hostesses.”  Damn you, Hayes Code.

Huh, this is interesting.  It starts with the credits, but then it also goes through a roll-call of sorts, with a few frames of each actor and the character they’re playing.  Whoa, and Mayo Methot is not a looker.  And she was Bogey’s wife before he married Lauren Baccall?  Jeez, Bogey, what was she, funny?

The story, all names, characters, incidents and institutions portrayed in this production are fictitious.  No identification with actual persons, living or deceased, is intended or should be inferred.

But … Robert Osborne just said … ?

A bunch of policemen are hanging out around a place called “Club Intime.”  Jeez, I wonder what *that* could be a front for.  Say “Obvious, much” much?  While the police stay outside, a bunch of goons head downstairs and look at the cocktail bar and talk about turning the private dining room into the gambling room.  Oh, I get it — it’s a mook with his interior decorators.

One of whom is carrying … a spaniel?  Or, a … shit, I don’t know what kind of dog that is.  It’s a lap dog, with longer hair — the kind that old ladies usually tie up in a bow on the top of their head?  A Shi-Tzu?  Crossed with a spaniel of some sort?  Damn.  You know what I need?  Shazam for dogs.  Honest-to-god, I could use Shazam for a lot of things.  ANYWAY.  The Lead Mook pets the dog and then tells the Dog Lackey to take her for a walk, as it’s “too stuffy in here.”  …. What?  What kind of mook takes his dog to his brothel?

The mook’s name is apparently Mr. Vanning.  He tells his decorator he wants a different type of chandelier for the nightclub.  He takes a tour of his ‘party girls,’ one of whom is the lovely Bette Davis.  He then gives a speech about how he’s turning this nightclub into something called a ‘clip joint,’ which must be code for something that in turn was code for brothel.  Again: stupid Hayes code. 

The girls all pile out, told to come back tomorrow.  Vanning stops one girl and pretty much tries to fire her for being too old.  Ouch — first you’re told you’re a whore, then you’re told that you’re too old to be a whore?  That’s gotta smart.  Bette jumps in and tells Vanning to give her a chance, as he’s only just bought the bar and can’t be sure how she’ll work out.  He agrees, taken with Bette’s outspokenness.  He invites her up to his place, but she wisely declines, as she’s got an inkling as to what he’s all about, and since he’s her boss now, that’s as far as it will go.  As she leaves, he tells his decorator mook friends that she’s a smart girl; one of them says that it’s possible she’s too smart.  Uh oh.

The girls all go home to their shared apartment and kvetch about their lovely life.  /sarcasm.  Meanwhile, Vanning has renamed Club Intime into the duh-doi name “Club Intimate.”  I detest idiots with no sense of subtlety.  A woman sings about a silver dollar man of hers, and a group of men call over Bette, her friend Old Estelle, and the nightclub singer. 

Can I just say, without fear of remorse or shaming from anyone I know, that being a whore in that type of joint seems like a swanky job?  The women get to dress up in gorgeous gowns, men fawn over them and buy them champagne, yours is watered down so you maintain your sobriety, but you keep funneling booze down their throat and get to dance and the next night it’s another dude, and sure your wages are cut a little bit by your boss, but come on! 

Bette’s mark is down on the dice table by $1800.  He writes a check and then takes Bette home.  When he tells her he doesn’t have a dime, she tells him to hightail it out of town as soon as possible.  Except the mooks catch him at the Waldorf and beat him up a bit. 

The next day Bette’s kid sister shows up at the girls’ apartment, but the kid sister doesn’t know what Bette and the girls do for a living.  Apparently Kid Sister goes to college – I’ll bet Bette sends what funds she can to help out Kid Sister.  Anyway, two guys come up to the apartment and ask Bette if she knew some guy named Ralph Crawford.  Turns out, Ralph was the guy Bette was out with last night, and also the guy that Vanning’s mooks killed. 

Holy SHIT, Bogey’s young in this movie!  There aren’t any wrinkles!  His voice isn’t as craggy or deep!  Even his five o’clock shadow is somewhat sexy!  I mean, I’ve loved him in Sabrina, and I’ve seen Casablanca and The Big Sleep, but … dayum, Bogey.  I was not expecting that.

The girls are doing a line-up, including the Kid Sister.  Bogey is trying to figure out what happened to Crawford.  He throws Bette in jail for being an accessory to murder, but he really knows that she’s not involved.  Vanning’s lawyer visits Bette in jail and tells her to play ball to protect Vanning, and if she doesn’t she’ll end up like Isobel Flemming, who ended up in the river.  Bette ends up in Bogey’s office again, and she pretty much has a breakdown in his office because she’s too young to die.

And THAT’S the part where I was going to make a reference to Buffy’s great scene in “Prophecy Girl,” where she overhears Giles and Angel talking about the prophecy, and how she’s going to march into the Master’s lair, and she will die.  She starts laughing and then starts throwing books at Giles, screaming “Read me the SIGNS!  Tell me my FORTUNE!” then she breaks down and in a very quiet voice, says, “I’m sixteen years old.  I’m too young to die.”  And I totally felt okay comparing the great Bette Davis to that, one of my favorite scenes ever in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but then I remembered that in this movie, Bette’s pretty much playing a watered-down version of a prostitute, and having her say that she’s sixteen years old is REALLY FUCKING ICKY.

Damn.  I really want to watch “Prophecy Girl” right now.

[Six minutes later…]

Jesus, thank god for Netflix, huh?  *sniff*  How can Sarah Michelle Gellar be so GOOD!?  And how can Giles KILL ME with a crinkling of his eyes?  No, I will not watch “Helpless” again.  Right now.  I’m still watching Marked Woman.

Anyway.  Jesus.  Bette agrees to testify against Vanning, according to the requisite spinning newspapers that movies from this time period are so fond of.  She identifies the perps in front of the entire court, which to me seems rather stupid.  Of course, in this day and age, we have our witnesses testify from behind the curtain of the Witness Protection Program.  So I guess my perception is colored.

Bette testifies, and then the defense calls a cop up who testifies that he had the two perps in custody for drunken driving at the time when Bette testified that they were taking care of the murdered dude.  Turns out, Bette was working with Vanning the entire time to ensure his innocence.  When she returns home, the Kid Sister is hiding from the world, devastated that her sister is a … ‘hostess.’  I swear to god, Hayes code…

Then Kid Sister tells Bette that she can’t go back to school, because she’s humiliated that her sister is a … ‘hostess.’  So she’s just going to hang around the girls’ apartment, waiting for … I don’t know.  Something to happen.  That part wasn’t made all that clear.  (Or, this could just be the fault of me not paying attention.  Hey look, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are going to host the Golden Globes!  Remember when the Golden Globes didn’t have a host?)

Emmy-Lou, one of the girls, comes home to change before going to another party and finds Kid Sister sitting in the dark.  She convinces Kid Sister to go to a party that Vanning’s throwing.  And by “convinces,” I mean “pretty much strong-arms her into going.”  She bribes her with a pretty silver dress, and they’re starting to get changed when the camera decently pans away from the two girls (if they couldn’t say “prostitutes” in 1937, they certainly couldn’t show two women undressing each other) and the camera lands on … holy SHIT.



I mean, JESUS CHRIST.  How can anyone SLEEP with that thing staring at them all night?!  Oh, PS, it’s ALSO A BOBBLEHEAD.

Anyway, Kid Sister goes to Vanning’s party with Emmy-Lou and ends up getting tons of cash from a guy.  She had the same idea that I had: that maybe that life ain’t so bad.  Bette wants to keep Kid Sister out of that type of racket, but Kid Sister does what Kid Sisters so often do: run and do the exact opposite of what Big Sister says she shouldn’t do.

And she runs right back into Vanning’s party, and the arms of the guy who gave her the money, but when he tries to put the moves on her she resists.  Vanning and Emmy-Lou show up, and even though she’s not an employee, Vanning sees money in her, so he hits her down a flight of stairs, where she must die, although it’s never actually said that she’s dead.

Bette yells at Emmy-Lou for taking Kid Sister to the party, though nobody tells Bette that Kid Sister’s dead.  Not Emmy-Lou, not Vanning … until she goes to Bogey’s office to try and get him to help her.  As he kicks her out, the coroner brings in reports, at which point he figures out that Case 3B42-A (or whatever) is actually Bette’s Kid Sister. 

After the funeral, Bogey goes to the girls’ apartment and tries to get the girls to help testify.  None of the girls are brave enough to be willing to testify against Vanning.  They all recognize that Vanning will kill them all, just as easily as Vanning killed Kid Sister.

And then Vanning shows up!  And he kicks all the women out of the room and lets Charlie knock Bette around a little bit.  Also, Emmy-Lou is conveniently missing. 

Cops swarm on Club Intimate, led by Bogey.  He’s looking for Emmy-Lou, trying to get the final piece in the Who Killed Bette’s Kid Sister? puzzle.  She was being strongholded in Vanning’s apartments or wherever.  When Bogey comes up in a raid, Emmy-Lou manages to get away – using the elevator, of all things!  She runs straight to Bette’s hospital room, and Bette really does look beaten. 

(Fun Fact!: The Makeup department at Warner Brothers gave Bette Davis very ‘pretty’ bandages for this scene – like a glamour girl’s version of being beaten.  Bette Davis went to her doctor and told the doctor to bandage her like a woman that had just been brutally beaten.  She then stormed back to Warner Brothers and demanded to be shot like that or not at all.  And THAT is why Bette Davis > You.)

Bette manages to convince all the girls to agree to testify against Vanning, so Bogey is finally successful in indicting and arresting Vanning.  The girls end up in jail, mostly for their own protection.  The case goes to trial, and all the girls testify, both to the innocent character of Kid Sister and to some of the deeds that Vanning and his men had done.  Bogey gives a stirring closing argument, calling out the five girls for testifying when men with more power refused.  The jury finds Vanning and his cohorts guilty on all counts.  And because this took place before the Witness Protection Program, the judge sentences them to at least 30 years in maximum lockup, and threatens them with more should anything ever happen to the five women who testified against him.

Bette was going to say something to Bogey, but he was being congratulated by the rest of his team.  So when she leaves, Bogey calls after her to thank her and congratulate her  and he offers her his assistance.  I think, in a roundabout way, he was asking her to go out with him, but she didn’t feel that she was part of his world.  He tells her that he’ll see her again, and she agrees.  The movie ends with reporters conglomerating around Bogey, taking pictures, and the five women walk into the night fog and disappear.

Hm.  Well.  That was … kind of a sad return for Insomniac Theatre, I guess.  I expected more face-slapping.  And yelling.  And sarcastic comments.  I mean, I think the movie was good, but … meh.  There should have been more jokes.

Sorry, guys.  That was lame.  I’ll pick a better one next time.

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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Insomniac Theatre


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