Music teacher Christine Radcliffe thought Karel Novak to have been killed in the war. She loves him more than ever and insists they marry. At their reception her benefactor and former lover offers Karel the chance to solo his new cello concerto. Hollenius torments Christine and she shoots him. The concert is a success and Karel promises to stand by Christine.
Bette Davis ... Christine Radcliffe
Paul Henreid ... Karel Novak
Claude Rains ... Alexander Hollenius
John Abbott ... Bertram Gribble
Benson Fong ... Jimmy, Hollenius\' Servant
Irving Rapper\'s \"Deception\" reunited the three stars of a much better Bette Davis\' vehicle: \"Now Voyager\". This is a film where all three stars shine equally. \"Deception\" was based on a play and the adaptation has opened it in unexpected ways. This satisfying melodrama has one thing going for it: the great music one hears throughout the movie, it\'s highlight being the Korngold Cello concerto, a rarity seldom heard, let alone in films. We are also treated to the beginning of Beethoven\'s Apassionata sonata as well.
Christine Radcliffe is a musician who gets separated from the love of her life, Karel Novak, one of the best cellist of Europe, before the advent of WWII. Christine comes back to New York, where she becomes the lover of a famous composer, Alexander Hollenius. One day, Christine discovers Karel\'s name playing in a second class venue in Manhattan, where they are reunited.
Christine doesn\'t have the nerve to tell Karel about what has happened in the intervening years. It\'s obvious Christine has done well for herself, as Karel discovers Christine lives in a great apartment, he finds closets full of elegant and expensive clothes, furs, jewelry, which doesn\'t make sense to him. Little does he know everything has come out of the generosity of Alexander Hollenius, a composer that fell in love with Christine and obviously, became her lover. Christine is coy in not revealing the truth, which keeps interfering with her happiness, until it comes to a head as Hollenius threatens Christine to tell it all to Karel after he plays the concert. It\'s at that point that Christine realizes she is cornered and must face reality and the fact that she will lose the man she really loves.
Bette Davis made a fine Christine, a woman she was born to play. Ms. Davis is amazing in the film, which unfortunately, is forgotten by all her admirers when comparing this role to her other great screen portraits. Claude Rains, who worked so well with Ms. Davis, gives an incredible performance as the egotistical composer who is afraid to lose his own creation. This has to be one of Mr. Rains\' best appearances in a film. Paul Henried is perfect as Karel, the European cellist madly in love with Christine, a woman he thought he had lost forever. Mr. Henried is an elegant figure in this film, something that he projected effortlessly.
Ernest Haller\'s cinematography greatly enhances all we see on the screen. Mr. Haller was one of the best photographers working in that period, as he clearly shows here. George James Hopkins\' sets not only are opulent, but he clearly knew how to get the most of his interior designs.
The film is an engrossing tale that will satisfy the fans of this genre.
On a recent Turner Classic Movies broadcast, I finally caught up with all of this one, having seen only snippets of it before. Everybody involved was obviously given free rein, from the lead actors all the way through to every behind-the-scenes artisan, the best that Warner Brothers could muster at the time. Claude Rains and Bette Davis spar in magnificent style, with Rains, stroking the fur of his pet Siamese cat, winning by default, since he was given a role which is so over-the-top that, in the hands of a lesser actor, it would have verged on outrageous camp. (Check out the rococo New York brownstone mansion in which he\'s ensconced, more magnificent than anything a lesser studio could provide for a monarch in a story involving royalty!)
Poor Paul Henreid has a particularly thankless role to play, swinging like an erratic pendulum between jealous tantrums and thoroughly deceived naïveté, but his simulations of the movements of a top-flight cello musician are convincing enough to allow all to be forgiven.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold\'s music is probably the film\'s chief asset and it probably sounded superb over the monophonic sound systems when this film was released, since Warners\' sound technicians were the best in Hollywood back then. (Unfortunately the soundtrack during the telecast I heard was very wobbly - a real disappointment. Wonder what the problem was, since this certainly isn\'t the case with many films dating even further into the past.)
While it may not be a delicacy fit for a cinematic gourmet, it\'s more than passably entertaining for its nearly two-hours running time.
One of the few actors of Bette Davis\' time who could match her screen intensity was Claude Rains. Paul Henreid is paired with Davis as her true love for another convincing romance. But, the script-stealing scene is between Davis and Rains. Matched penultimately perfect for the picture, Davis and Rains match each other\'s most intense acting skills during a major bedroom blow-out between them. I live to watch that scene over and again for its acting mastery.
Since Deception is about three classical music artists, the classical music score makes Deception\'s choice script musically enhanced to a classy degree. I love how Rains takes \"the 4th Warner Brother\'s\" acting intensity and levels it with his own. Even Bogie couldn\'t do that when staged with Davis! Don\'t miss this tightly wound triangulation with Henreid underplaying himself as his role calls for.