DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO (director: Anatole Litvak; screenwriters: Casey Robinson/based on the novel by Rachel Field; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Warren Low; music: Max Steiner; cast: Bette Davis (Henriette Deluzy Desportes), Charles Boyer (Duc de Praslin), Jeffrey Lynn (Rev. Henry Field), Barbara O'Neil (Duchesse de Praslin), Virginia Weidler (Louise de Praslin), Walter Hampden (Pasquier), Henry Daniell (Broussais), Harry Davenport (Pierre), George Coulouris (Charpentier), Richard Nichols (Reynald de Praslin), June Lockhart (Isabelle de Praslin), Ann E. Todd (Berthe de Praslin), Montagu Love (Marechal Sebastiani); Runtime: 143; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Hal B. Wallis/David Lewis; Warner Bros.; 1940)

 
"The film was critically acclaimed but because of its overlong 143 minutes and grim story line, it was not the blockbuster the studio hoped for."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It's based on the best-seller novel by Rachel Field, who based the book on the true story of her great aunt Henriette Deluzy Desportes, a French governess who fell in love with Duc de Praslin, her employer. When Praslin's wife, the Duchesse, was murdered, Henriette was implicated. It was a real-life scandal that brought down France's King Louis-Philippe in 1847. It's written by Casey Robinson. Warner Bros., in 1938,  paid $100,000 for the film rights and the studio tried to outdo Gone With The Wind, a film they lost out to in the bidding war to David Selznick, and produced "ATAHT" in a lustrous B&W at a cost of $1,370,000. Anatole Litvak ("Mayerling"/"Sorry, Wrong Number"/"The Snake Pit") directs this European scandal tragic sudser, and supposedly had a difficult time handling his temperamental star Bette Davis. She had caustic remarks for the director, and believes he was heavy-handed in his direction (I agree).

The film was critically acclaimed but because of its overlong 143 minutes and grim story line, it was not the blockbuster the studio hoped for.

At a New York girls' school, the Miss Haines School, the new French teacher is taunted by her students until she tells them the scandalous tale of the tragic European romance that gave her unwanted notoriety.

The present teacher was Henriette Deluzy Desportes (Bette Davis), who tells the tale in flashback and relates how she was unjustly imprisoned. In 1846 Henriette was the governess for nobleman Duc de Praslin (Charles Boyer), his cold and haughty wife the Duchesse de Praslin (Barbara O'Neil, who received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination), and their children Isabelle (June Lockhart), Berthe (Ann Todd), Louise (Virginia Weidler) and Reynald (Richard Nichols). Praslin fell in love with Henriette when he saw how warm-hearted and caring she was to the children. This caused gossip among their social set, and Praslin gave up the affair. But Praslin is unable to stay away from Henriette, and visits her at his family estate in Melan where she's caring for the children. His wife and her father (Montagu Love) unexpectedly appear and they give Henriette the sack, and furthermore the vengeful wife refuses to give her a letter of recommendation--therefore leaving her unemployed. Praslin becomes outraged at his vindicative wife and in a rage strikes her dead. Henriette is imprisoned as an accomplice. But Praslin commits suicide rather than implicate Henriette, and she's released for lack of evidence. The people revolted at the king for the injustice showed to the commoner. Henriette now has a chance at a fesh start in America, as the students are impressed with her story and reward her with their full support.

REVIEWED ON 5/6/2010       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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