Review: That Certain Woman (1937)

A woman’s attempt to overcome her shady past fails when circumstance turn her into a single mother and then “the other woman” in this melodrama featuring an excellent early performance by Bette Davis.

Mary Donnell has a hard time living down her past as a gangster’s young bride. He’s dead and she’s tried to move on, but eager newspaper men keep tracking her down and making her front page news. All of which doesn’t help her love life.

Her marriage to spineless millionaire’s son Jack Merrick (Henry Fonda) lasts only a few hours before his daddy storms the honeymoon cottage and drags Jack off to Europe and into a more socially acceptable union. When Mary learns she’s pregnant, rather than use the child to win Jack back, she steadfastly waits for him to return to her on his own–which of course, he doesn’t. Years later, a close relationship with her long-time employer, an unhappily married lawyer, puts her in a compromising position when Jack’s family learns of the child and threatens to take him from her, labeling her an unfit mother.

That Certain Woman is elevated from straight “women’s picture” by Bette’s performance as a strong woman trying to make the best of a difficult situation. Great supporting work from Henry Fonda and Donald Crisp. [*** 1/2 out of 5]

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