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Film / In This Our Life

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Guess who's the heartless one.

In This Our Life (1942) is Warner Bros. drama film directed by John Huston, starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, George Brent, Dennis Morgan, and Charles Coburn. It was adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Ellen Glasgow.

The film begins with Stanley Timberlake (Davis) smooching with her own sister's husband Peter (Morgan), even though she herself is engaged to Craig Fleming (Brent). Stanley and Peter run away together, leaving Roy Timberlake (de Havilland) distraught, but things soon turn sour for the homewrecking pair.

As for Roy and Craig, they get very close due to their mutual loss and find themselves on the verge of marriage. Unfortunately, Stanley soon comes to ruin their happiness.

In This Our Life shows the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Personality Change: Roy's neediness and neurosis are less prominent in the film, and she's more of The Ingenue to reflect Olivia de Havilland's typecasting.
  • Adaptational Karma: Stanley in the film does not get away with framing Parry for her crimes and perishes in a fiery car crash.
  • Crusading Lawyer: Craig doesn’t make much money with his law firm, but he’s willing to help his clients even if they don't have the money. He rejects Uncle Fitzroy’s offer to help with the legal side of his business (something that would bring him a lot of money) because he disagrees with Fitzroy’s practices. He even gives Parry Clay, the son of the Timberlake’s African American housekeeper, a job as a clerk because he wants to become a lawyer.
  • Death of a Child: A little girl is killed in a drunk driving accident.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Stanley frames Parry for the Accidental Murder of a little girl, knowing that no one will question the word of a privileged white woman over a black man.
  • Drama Bomb: After ninety minutes of melodrama, the bomb is dropped when Stanley drunkenly runs over a little girl.
  • Driven to Suicide: Peter kills himself over the stress of providing for Stanley.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Stanley's car explodes as soon as she crashes it in the finale.
  • Extreme Doormat: Roy, though more so in the book where she has massive abandonment issues.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Stanley is the pretty sister and Roy is the smart sister.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Peter gets treated more sympathetically by the narrative than Stanley with the adultery - even though she's only jilting an admirer, and he's divorcing a faithful wife. Presumably because his Laser-Guided Karma is essentially having to put up with Stanley.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Stanley’s golden locks mean nothing. Completely Averted.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Uncle William offers to give Craig a share of his business if he stops representing poor (read: black) clients. Craig politely turns him down.
    • Parry refuses a bribe from Stanley to take the fall for her crime.
  • Impoverished Patrician: The Timberlakes were once well-to-do but are now working class, often relying on handouts from Uncle William.
  • Incest Subtext: It's a lot less subtext in the book, but there's a lot of it between Uncle William and Stanley. Towards the end he essentially propositions her into being his kept woman.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • What eventually happens to Stanley: Her reckless driving finally causes her to hit and kill a young girl and seriously injure her mother. She proceeds to blame it on her family's African American helper, Parry Clay, because she knows that she can get away with it. However, in the movie, she is found out and meets her death from speeding away from the police and failing to turn a sharp curb.
    • And Uncle William is given six months to live after being diagnosed with cancer.
  • Never My Fault: Stanley's irritating MO.
  • The Scapegoat: The ambitious Parry Clay is used as a scapegoat by Stanley to the manslaughter of a little girl, because she knows that a working-class black man would less likely to be believed than a privileged white woman.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Mostly felt by Stanley against Roy.
  • Sibling Triangle: Roy is madly in love with her husband, Peter, and Stanley is also completely smitten. So she steals him from Roy.
  • Southern Belle: Stanley is one during the Depression Era.
  • Spoiled Brat: Spoiled mostly by her uncle Fitzroy (Charles Coburn), Stanley gets away with everything she wants. She in turn is completely selfish.
  • Spurned into Suicide: Guess who regrets his hasty marriage? Peter. Stanley doesn’t care about him: she only cares about having fun, and she eventually admits to hating his guts.
  • Tomboyish Name: Both Roy and Stanley have very masculine sounding names. Roy makes sense because it’s taken from her mother’s surname; however, who knows where they got Stanley from.
  • Uncle Pennybags: Uncle William is rich and affluent, frequently doting on Stanley.
  • The Unapologetic: This is Stanley’s bread and butter. She doesn’t care that she stole Peter from her sister, that he killed himself, or that she’s trying to seduce her former fiancé, who’s now Roy’s fiancé.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Peter is driven to extremes with Stanley, and he hits her, regrettably.