The Great Lie (1941)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama  |   Release Date - Apr 12, 1941 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 107 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

Despite star Bette Davis's initial reluctance about the soap opera screenplay, she and co-star Mary Astor turned The Great Lie (1941) into a deliciously outrageous yet emotionally involving woman's melodrama. Bowing to the content restrictions of the Production Code while preserving the original novel's central struggle over George Brent's aviator Pete between Maggie, Davis's genteel Southern heiress, and Sandra, Astor's bitchy concert pianist, screenwriter Lenore Coffee justified Sandra's impregnation with a mistaken marriage. Allegedly displeased with the scripted interplay between Maggie and Sandra, Davis worked with Astor to devise a relationship that seethes with witty jealousy, yet reaches a twisted sisterhood in the central sequences in which Maggie looks after the pregnant Sandra as they await the birth in desert isolation. Smoothly directed by Edmund Goulding with the high style afforded Davis's Warner Bros. star vehicles, Davis has her signature moments of sweetness, grief, and steely strength, yet she also steps back to let Astor strut her histrionic stuff as the Tchaikovsky-playing, brandy-swilling diva. A box office success, The Great Lie earned Astor a much-deserved Supporting Actress Oscar.