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Trivia / Of Human Bondage

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The 1934 Bette Davis film:

  • Acclaimed Flop: The film actually lost Warner Bros $45,000 but was heaped with praise.
  • Actor-Inspired Element: Bette Davis designed Mildred's make-up for her varying stages of tuberculosis herself. Her intent was to make it look realistic as opposed to "as if a deb had missed her afternoon nap".
  • Actor-Inspired Heroism: In the book, Mildred is a Manipulative Bitch who makes Philip's life hell. Thanks to Bette Davis' performance, some of the time one gets the impression that Mildred could have loved Philip in her own twisted way. She says the line "you're the only one who ever treated me like a human" in a way that sounds quite sincere.
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  • Dawson Casting: Leslie Howard was in his forties playing the twentysomething Philip.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Leslie Howard was very frosty to Bette Davis at first, which she said helped her to be horrible to him in the scenes that required it.
  • Executive Meddling: Mildred dies of syphilis in the book, but the Hays Code had it changed to tuberculosis instead.
  • Fake Brit: Famously with Bette Davis playing Mildred. The mostly English cast were horrified at an American playing the part. Leslie Howard, however, was quickly won over with Bette's dedication to the role.
  • Hostility on the Set: Leslie Howard was cold and aloof to Bette Davis at first, annoyed at an American being in the film.
    "Mr. Howard would read a book off-stage, all the while throwing me his lines during my close-ups. He became a little less detached when he was informed that the kid was walking away with the picture."
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  • Star-Making Role: This turned Bette Davis into a star. Bette herself anticipated this and lobbied hard for the part of Mildred, sure it would be her breakout role.
  • What Could Have Been: Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, and Ann Sheridan all turned down the part of Mildred. Bette Davis was however the first choice - she just had to deal with Jack L Warner refusing to let her play the part.

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