The Old Maid (1939)

Approved   |    |  Drama

The Old Maid (1939) Poster

The arrival of an ex-lover on a young woman's wedding day sets in motion a chain of events which will alter her and her cousin's lives forever.



  • Bette Davis in The Old Maid (1939)
  • Bette Davis in The Old Maid (1939)
  • Jane Bryan and Edmund Goulding in The Old Maid (1939)
  • Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins in The Old Maid (1939)
  • Bette Davis in The Old Maid (1939)
  • Miriam Hopkins Film Set / Warner Bros. Old Maid, The (1939) 0031750

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14 May 2001 | Doylenf
Bette is wonderful in period soap opera from Edith Wharton novel...
Bette Davis vies with Miriam Hopkins for the affection of George Brent in this film version of Edith Wharton's 'The Old Maid'. As hard as Hopkins tries, she can't steal the film from Bette -- nor Bette's daughter (Jane Bryan), the love child being brought up by Delia (Hopkins). Basically the story of Bette being unable to tell her daughter that she's her real mother.

There are some odd peculiarities about the film itself. George Brent makes a few brief appearances early in the film and then is suddenly killed off after going to fight in the Civil War. A montage shows the passage of time and suddenly we're given an abrupt change of scene and events before still another time transition. The continuity is choppy and leaves an unsatisfying impression of the film as a whole. It's as if events that should have been shown are compressed because of time constraints.

Bette Davis gives one of her more restrained portrayals, aging rather realistically, showing the loneliness of the embittered woman who is cheated out of marrying another man when her cousin Delia (Miriam Hopkins) discovers that she bore Brent's child.

The soap suds are pretty thick, all of them backed by a nice Max Steiner score and handsome sets and period costumes. Miriam Hopkins plays the selfish bitch with her customary skill and makes Davis seem even more sympathetic by comparison. I have seen this movie praised to the skies by some who consider it a work of art--but there are too many flaws, including a false and abrupt ending involving Bette Davis and daughter Jane Bryan, and time changes that seem more like a case of bad editing.

There are fine performances in supporting roles by Donald Crisp, James Stephenson, William Lundigan and Jerome Cowan under Edmund Goulding's tasteful direction.

A tear-jerker, 1930s style--but one that doesn't date too well.

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