review for Deception on AllMovie

Deception (1946)
by Craig Butler review

Melodramas don't come much soapier than Deception. If that means the film doesn't qualify as art, it doesn't prevent it from being a rollicking good time -- provided one is willing to let oneself get in the right mood. That mood might be called "Bette Davis on the Loose," for Deception is one of those pictures in which Davis is called upon to suffer nobly and hints of glycerin tears in the eyes; to use halting body language to disguise her ill-concealed past; and to vent her wrath in a no-holds-barred manner that shakes the heavens. It's not one of Davis' great performances, but it has the sound and fury that is so rewarding. The same cannot be said of Paul Henreid, whose performance is lifeless and annoying. But Claude Rains is another matter. Whereas Davis is simply playing to the balcony, Rains gives a truly fine performance. He's a cold and manipulative monster, but the actor understands that a veneer of warmth, a tendency to underplay and an ability to keep the fires on the inside rather than belching out can add definite layers of interest to a character. Irving Rapper's direction is nowhere near as fine as in Now, Voyager, but he hits the high points in an audience-friendly manner. Ernest Haller's cinematography enhances the picture, but modern viewers are likely to find Erich Wolfgang Korngold's score a bit too much for their tastes.