Job Skeffington informs Fanny Trellis' that her brother Trippy has embezzled from the Skeffington bank. She marries Job to save Trippy who, angry with her, goes to World War I and is killed. She divorces Job and sends her daughter to live with him in Europe. She now takes up with host of lovers. As World War II rolls around her daughter rejoins her. After a bout of diphtheria she loses her fabulous beauty and her daughter runs off with Fanny's most recent lover. Job is returning to America, penniless and fortunately also blind.
Bette Davis ... Fanny Trellis
Claude Rains ... Job Skeffington
Walter Abel ... George Trellis
George Coulouris ... Doctor Byles
Richard Waring ... Trippy Trellis
Marjorie Riordan ... Frances Rachel Trellis aka Young Fanny
Robert Shayne ... MacMahon
John Alexander ... Jim Conderley
Jerome Cowan ... Edward Morrison
Johnny Mitchell ... Johnny Mitchell
Dorothy Peterson ... Manby
Peter Whitney ... Chester Forbish
Bill Kennedy ... Bill Thatcher
Tom Stevenson ... Reverend Miles Hyslup
Halliwell Hobbes ... Soames, first butler to Fanny
This is a great movie. Bette Davis and Claude Rains are magnificent together, just as they were in "Now, Voyager" two years before. Bette Davis stars as Fanny Skeffington, whose self-absorption leads to the destruction of her devoted husband, Job (Claude Rains). Fanny continues to entertain her beaux, despite her marriage to Job. After a few years, Job decides to leave, knowing that Fanny only married him for his money. This is a true act of love on his part. So Fanny floats through life without a care in the world, and her admirers left and right.
After many years, Fanny contracts diphtheria and is on the brink of death. She recovers, but begins to look not only her age, but many years older. In a desperate attempt to reassure herself of her youth and beauty, Fanny invites all of her old boyfriends to a party at her house. They all, as she puts it, "recoil" from her, because she is no longer beautiful. Fanny feels abandoned and lonely.
But then, fate lends its hand. Fanny's cousin, George, tells her that Job has returned. He has been in a concentration camp, and is not in good shape. He wants to see Fanny. Fanny however, doesn't want Job to see what's become of her. But with much pleading from George, she agrees to see him. When she reaches Job, she discovers that he is blind. So no matter how she looks, Job will always love her, and remember her for the beauty she had. But Fanny realizes that looks are not important, because of what Job said many years before: "A woman is beautiful only when she is loved".
"Mr. Skeffington" is a classic. It can be a little long at some parts, but it's worthwhile to see. It also features excellent performances by Walter Abel, George Coulouris, and Marjorie Riordan. I gave this movie a 9/10.
I have discovered as I have gotten older and have watched hundreds of classic film that for those of us who mock the people who watch soap operas or read romance novels, we have the classic melodrama to fall back on. More meaty but nevertheless still over the top, melodramas feed a craving for escapism without having to resort to bodice-ripper books or films or worse, the Lifetime Movie Network. "Mr. Skeffington", directed by Vincent Sherman and starring the incomparable Bette Davis and the always-charming Claude Rains, is one of those good, solid melodramas.
With a setting that begins during the inception of World War I and ends after World War II, "Mr. Skeffington" introduces us first to Fanny Trellis (Davis), the most sought-after debutante in New York who has so many suitors that she routinely has at least four men wooing her and proposing at a time. On the night of a big party she and her brother Trippy are hosting, a man named Job Skeffington (Rains) comes to the door asking to speak with Trippy. Trippy is an employee at Skeffington's bank, and after he refuses to see him, Fanny and her cousin George (Abel) arrange to talk to him. It turns out that Trippy has been swindling Skeffington, who is planning on talking to the District Attorney regarding the matter. George and Fanny convince him to wait, and Fanny, ever confident, avers that she will be receiving flowers from him the very next day. When no flowers arrive, curious, she goes to visit Skeffington at the office, and over the next several months a romance develops. When they suddenly marry, she breaks the hearts of her suitors as well as Trippy, who sees Skeffington as a constant reminder of what a mess he has made of his life, so he enlists in the army and goes off to the war in Europe. Over the next couple of decades, through various scenarios, we see the intense love that Skeffington has for Fanny, and the complete ambivalence she has for him, particularly when she gives birth to their only child, a daughter also named Fanny. The couple lives together but live their separate lives and have their flings until Fanny decides to sue Skeffington for divorce on grounds of adultery. He decides to take his daughter and travel to Europe where WWII has not yet begun, and in the meantime, Fanny is jet setting and dating men half her age because she has managed to keep her beauty. When the war begins and her now grown daughter comes home because of the persecution of Jews, Fanny's world begins to crumble. She develops diphtheria and while she comes out of it, the disease has wreaked havoc on her appearance and she now doesn't look 20 years younger than her real age, but more like 10 years older, a fact that shocks everyone who knows her. When she decides to try to gain her confidence back by hosting a party and inviting her former suitors, she is saddened when she realizes that they are all recoiling in horror when they see her, and has to endure the cattiness of their wives. The final blow to her ego comes when her daughter announces that she is marrying the young man that Fanny was seeing before she became ill, and is moving across the country. Fanny, realizing that she is alone, becomes despondent, until George shows up at her house, telling her that Skeffington is back from Europe and waiting for her. It is only then that she realizes that she does have a purpose in life, and that she always did love him, it just took a swift kick in the bustle to realize it.
"Mr. Skeffington" clocks in at two and a half hours, and the summary is only part of the entire storyline. There is a lot of plot to digest in that period of time, but Davis and Rains are the perfect choices for their roles. The film was made in 1944, when Davis was in her mid-30's, but she still looked stunning, as opposed to the makeup job they did on her for the later years (they made 50 years old look like 75) which was an eerie premonition of her role 20 years later in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" I always chuckle when someone is deemed to be "the most beautiful woman" or "the most wanted woman" because in reality you're kind of wondering what you're not seeing there, but with melodrama you do have to give a little leeway. Okay, in this case, a lot leeway. Claude Rains, one of my very favorite actors of all time, gave another fantastic performance as the cuckolded and heartbroken Skeffington. He always gives an element of reality with a touch of elegance that makes him very endearing. As stated earlier, the film is a bit long, but there were not a lot of pacing issues because the film carried itself from segment to segment relatively seamlessly.
Another in a long list of wonderful melodramas, "Mr. Skeffington" is a very good classic film that I fear has been forgotten throughout the years. Its performances and adequately compelling story are enough to recommend it to classic film lovers, particularly those who are fans of Bette Davis or Claude Rains. Since I fit into all three of those categories, I give the film a firm 7/10.
"Mr. Skeffington" is one of Bette Davis' best performances, and the best of the four teaming with Claude Rains ("Now Voyager" does not have as many sequences with both of them sharing scenes as "Skeffington"). It is the story of a silly, vain woman who marries a man for his money, and to protect her brother. She fails to protect her brother, but she does find that the man she married is a better man than she deserves.
It is also an over-the-years tale, beginning about 1914, and involving World War I, prohibition, the rise of Nazism and anti-Semitism, and ending in World War II. Job Skeffington is a successful stock dealer and banker on Wall Street, and he is a rarity: he's Jewish. Somehow he hires Fanny Trellis's brother Trippy, who returns the favor by embezzling some funds. As Fanny and Trippy are socialites they are used to their friends covering up for their errors. But Job can't simply allow this, because the money doesn't belong to him but to his customers. When he approaches Fanny (gently - he just wants Trippy to return the money) Fanny pulls out her stops to entice him. It works and they marry. Job puts the money back himself. But Trippy is an anti-Semite, and is furious that Fanny sold herself to that Jew. He leaves in high anger. Later Fanny hopes that he will return after he gets it out of his system, but Trippy is killed in the war. Although it is not Job's fault, Fanny does not quite forgive him for that.
She becomes more and more outspokenly unfaithful, much to Job's chagrin and pain. Eventually it leads to a divorce. They have a young daughter who lives mostly with Job, and only joins Fanny later. But that is after a shock hits Fanny's self-image...and sets the stage for a final reconciliation with Job.
All the performances in the film, Davis, Rains, Richard Waring, Walter Abel, Jerome Cowan, are excellent. But one of my favorites is the unexpected comic turn of George Coulouris as the popular psychologist, Dr. Byles. Coulouris usually was a humorless schemer in movies and television, but could rise to the occasion in comedy (witness his progressively increasing irritation as Walter Parkes Thatcher in "Citizen Kane"). Here he is ready to leave on a long planned, much needed vacation, when Fanny barges in to unload her misery and woe without so much as a scheduled appointment. By only showing the clock in the background to show the length she takes away from the boiling Dr. Byles, one is ready for the inevitable conclusion - when the good Doctor tells her off. And he is the first person to do so in the movie.