Monday, June 13, 2011
Payment on Demand (3 stars)
For this classic movie gal, Bette Davis is the best actress that has ever lived. I totally love Bette and want to see all of her movies, so when TCM airs one that I've never seen before, I definitely set my DVR. One such movie that I recently discovered is Payment on Demand, from 1950. This movie, which also stars Barry Sullivan, was originally titled The Story of a Divorce; however, before it premiered, the title was changed to Payment on Demand. (Bette really hated the new title, because she thought it sounded cheap and demeaning.) Payment on Demand was actually made before All About Eve, but it wasn't released until afterwards, probably hoping to capitalize on the success of that movie.
Payment on Demand is the story of Joyce and David Ramsey, a 20-year-married couple, with two upper teenage daughters. As the movie begins, David informs Joyce that what they had is gone and that he wants a divorce. Thinking that because they are now wealthy and successful and have everything they ever wanted, Joyce is totally blindsided by David's request. She becomes introspective as she wonders what has brought David to this point, and through a series of flashbacks, the story is told of the manipulation and bossiness which have driven her husband away from her and into the arms of another woman.
Upon learning that David has been unfaithful to her, Joyce is furious and vows to make him pay dearly. She intends to take him to the cleaners financially, and if he doesn't give her what she wants, she vows that David's new love will find herself involved in a very public scandal. How the situation is resolved is the core of the movie.
Two pieces of trivia about this film, which I learned in Bette Davis, Larger Than Life, by Richard Schickel and George Perry:
First, the original film ending was changed at the very last moment before the film's premiere. Howard Hughes, owner of RKO, the studio producing Payment on Demand, felt the original ending was too bleak and that it would be unpopular.
Also, at the time of filming, Bette's marriage to William Grant Sherry was falling apart. Mr. Sherry was convinced that his wife and her co-star, Barry Sullivan, were involved in an affair, and although Sullivan denied it, when Bette learned of the altercation between them, she took the remaining steps to end her marriage.
Payment on Demand is a very solid 3-star movie, and Bette, as always, is very good. I've never discovered a film in which she didn't do a stellar job. Though this isn't a favorite Bette Davis movie by any means, it is definitely worth watching, especially if you are a Bette Davis fan.