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YMMV / Of Human Bondage

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  • Adaptation Displacement: The page image is from the film, not the book. Bette Davis' performance is iconic and probably more remembered. That being said, the book did get named as one of the most influential novels of the 20th century.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • With regards to whether Mildred actually feels anything for Philip. Part of it is down to Bette Davis' performance but the scenes in their initial dates point to Mildred being very playful, acting Tsundere towards Philip. When she lives with him, she does make a pass at him. Note that she essentially has her meal ticket, so why would she come onto him if she wasn't interested romantically? Then again, she definitely knows that Philip is weak-willed and follows her around like a lovesick puppy. Who's to say that Mildred isn't playing him to ensure her own comfort? After all, when he rejects her she abandons all pretense and goes on a furious rampage in his apartment. And it might have been the latter at first before growing into the former - notably Mildred's line "you're the only one who ever treated me like a human" seems somewhat sincere.
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    • When Philip says he's glad the baby died. Is it the Values Dissonance noted below? Or does he mean he's happy the girl is free from Mildred at last?
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: People were really unsure whether the film would be a success or not. Bette Davis' family members congratulated her on the performance at a preview screening, but weren't sure if the film would make or break her. Warner Bros. only let her out of her contract to star in the film because they were convinced it would sink without a trace. While it did lose the studio money, the publicity it got was more than enough to make up for it.
  • Award Snub: A famous example that led to a change in the Academy voting procedures. Jack L Warner campaigned against Bette Davis getting a Best Actress nomination and because he was on the committee, he was successful. But voters still petitioned to have her nominated anyway, and she was added as a write-in vote. She still lost to Claudette Colbert for It Happened One Night. But as a result of his meddling, the Academy changed its practices to have the votes to an independent accounting firm from then on.
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  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Leslie Howard really couldn't get enough of manipulative women throwing themselves at him. Hilariously a similar situation fell on the production of that to this; English actors were furious that an American was cast as Mildred, while Americans were furious that an English actress was cast as Scarlett O'Hara.
  • Narm: The studio heard unexpected laughter at a couple of screenings and decided to change the score to avoid it. It worked.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: It might be shocking to realise how influential Bette Davis' performance as Mildred was. Contractual Purity was a big deal for actresses at the time, and many noted stars had turned the part down. A Manipulative Bitch like her was not seen in films, especially the Beauty Inversion Bette Davis went through to accurately convey the ravages of tuberculosis. Many executives warned her not to take the part, fearing it would destroy her glamorous image. These days such a role is almost a shoe-in to get critical acclaim - and the likes of Monster, Requiem for a Dream etc. make such a thing look quite tame. Bette Davis would later be succeeded in this effort by Kathleen Byron in Black Narcissus. She would even outdo herself with later films such as What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Little Foxes.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • The discovery of Mildred slumped over the bed from tuberculosis (in the film anyway; it's syphilis in the book) and the casual way in which the landlady orders the body moved. It's very much an Alas, Poor Villain moment.
    • Mildred revealing that her baby died some point after they left Philip's. She says it in such a nonchalant way, and Philip gives her Brutal Honesty about it.
  • Tough Act to Follow: There were a couple of more adaptations, but none of them have had the same impact as the 1934 version. Subverted with Bette Davis' performance though - as she followed the film up with even more iconic performances in Now, Voyager, All About Eve, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and numerous others.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Philip at first, see below. Mildred pretty much makes it clear she's not interested and he spends his days pining over her. Although he becomes a victim of her drama soon enough, he essentially brings it on himself in the opening minutes.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Mildred's Bitch Alert moment is rebuffing Philip...after he reveals he's been spying on her, makes a lewd comment about her body and said "you should smile more". Were that scene played out today, it'd be used to show the customer as a Jerkass.
    • Philip says he's glad that Mildred's baby died. This is because she was illegitimate, and such children were still regarded as inferior around the time the book was written.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Philip is a young naive schoolboy who learns to grow up through his experiences. In the 1934 version they cast Leslie Howard who was in his forties!

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