Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

All This and Heaven Too


They don’t come much weepier than this one. Bette Davis, corseted to within an inch of her life, is hired as governess by the Duc de Something, played with smoldering eyes by Charles Boyer. (Who was also corseted to within an inch of his receding hairline. In real life the famous French lover was paunchy, short, and balding!) Bette is hired as governess to the Duc’s children, four of the most annoyingly sweet, sincere, loving movie kids in a cinematic era full of them. They grated on my nerves from their first appearance. The Duchess instantly hates her, because she is borderline insane and feels the woman is taking her husband away from her. And she is right, though the two never even touch, much less kiss.

Things decline to the point that Bette is fired without a reference and is unable to find more work. The Duc is not aware of this. The Duchess finally goes too far when she hurls this fact in his face, and he kills her. But because of the strange laws in France, a member of the nobility can only be tried by other nobles. He steadfastly refuses to admit his crime or to admit his love for Bette, because this would imply that she might have been complicit in a conspiracy to murder. So Bette is clapped in jail. Finally the Duc takes poison to prevent himself from confessing his love to his inquisitors. (According to the Wiki summary, anyway. I confess I can’t quite follow the reasoning. Maybe it was explained better in the novel. Here, he just looks like a selfish asshole to me.) Bette is released, but not because she has been proven innocent, merely from a lack of evidence. Which doesn’t do her reputation a hell of a lot of good. She moves to America, where she explains all this to the censorious little bitches in her class. They instantly adore her, and that’s about the end.

All this is based on a true story, one which for some reason resulted in the overthrow of King Louis Phillipe I in 1848, for reasons which again I don’t fully follow. Bottom line, the only reason I can find to watch this is to see Bette Davis in a restrained role. She’s always a delight, and almost makes the movie worth watching. But not quite, for me.