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Film / A Stolen Life

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That's not the right Bette, Glenn!

A Stolen Life is a 1946 Melodrama directed by Curtis Bernhardt, starring Bette Davis and Glenn Ford.

Kate Bosworth (Davis) is a shy Tomboy who falls for lighthouse maintenance worker, Bill Emerson (Ford). Although Kate is very much in love, her shy demeanour plays against her. But nothing is worse to highlight her deficiencies than her twin sister Pat (Davis in a Dual Role) who’s all confidence and sex appeal.

Subsequent meetings with the sisters show Bill the differences, and he falls for Pat instead. Heartbroken, Kate immerses herself in her painting, thinking she’d never be with Bill again. But she soon finds out that Pat and Bill’s relationship is not what it seems when she gains the opportunity to be Pat.

18 years later Bette Davis starred in a film called Dead Ringer which had a similar Dead Person Impersonation storyline with identical twins.

A Stolen Life shows the following tropes:

  • Always Identical Twins: Not only are Kate and Pat identical twins, but they arrange their hair in the same way which confuses Bill.
  • Bouquet Toss: Pat does this like any bride at her wedding, but she directly swings it at Kate, who steps to one side to avoid it.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Well, Kate isn't evil...but Pat's dog Mike is not fooled. Kate soon wins him over.
  • Evil Twin: Pat is the 1940s equivalent of the evil twin. She’s a slut with a capital “S”, and in 1940s that means you’re evil.
  • Extreme Doormat: Kate not only lets Pat walk all over her and steal her boyfriend, but she even attends their wedding.
    • Kate never blames Bill for choosing her sister over her. Her anger is directed mostly at Pat.
  • Girly Girl: Pat is what the 1940s thought a woman should look like (except for all the slutiness): make-up and dresses, non of those mannish slacks Kate always wears.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Pat is stylish and attractive and steps all over the bookish, quiet Kate. It’s pointed out by their cousin, Freddie (Charles Ruggles), that Pat has always walked over Kate, and Pat is too much of a doormat to do anything about it.
  • Impersonating the Evil Twin / Dead Person Impersonation: Kate is mistaken for Pat (as she acquired her wedding ring when trying to save her from drowning) and realizes that it's her opportunity to have a relationship with Bill. But as Kate soon finds out, Bill was filing for divorce because Pat was cheating on him.
  • Insufferable Genius: Karnock, the artist Kate picks up and asks to help her improve her painting. He’s talented, but is rude, crass, makes unwanted advances to Kate, and is all around a Jerkass.
  • Jerkass: Bill. He and Kate are obvious kindred spirits but since she doesn’t have the sultry sexiness or confidence of Pat, he chooses Pat instead.
  • Mistaken Identity: When Kate is found after the storm that takes Pat's life, everyone thinks she's Pat (the wedding ring). Kate keeps up the ruse in order to get close to Bill.
  • Never Found the Body: Pat is drowned and her body never turns up.
  • Old Money: The Bosworth sisters are from a rich New England family.
  • Sibling Triangle: Kate loves Bill but Bill loves Pat, and Pat doesn't care for either of them.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Kate takes a liking to Bill and connives her way to the lighthouse where he works with the pretense of painting its proprietor when in fact, she wanted to see more of Bill.
    • When Bill goes to Boston, Pat somehow finds herself on the same train, sitting right behind him.
  • Tomboy: Kate is always in slacks and sans make-up, coding her as not feminine enough for the men around her. Her coldness (i.e. not going beyond a kiss) is also treated as not "lady-like" behaviour.