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Of Human Bondage

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Overview

The first of three film versions of Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage stars Leslie Howard as sensitive, clubfooted artist-cum-med student Philip Carey. Despite his yearnings for the finer things in life, Carey cannot extricate himself from a mutually destructive relationship with sluttish waitress Mildred Rogers Bette Davis. After an incredible series of emotional disasters, Carey finally finds happiness in the arms of Sally Altheny Frances Dee. The industry buzz in 1934 indicated that Bette Davis was a shoe-in...
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Overview

The first of three film versions of Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage stars Leslie Howard as sensitive, clubfooted artist-cum-med student Philip Carey. Despite his yearnings for the finer things in life, Carey cannot extricate himself from a mutually destructive relationship with sluttish waitress Mildred Rogers Bette Davis. After an incredible series of emotional disasters, Carey finally finds happiness in the arms of Sally Altheny Frances Dee. The industry buzz in 1934 indicated that Bette Davis was a shoe-in for an Academy Award for her savage portrayal of Mildred, but her home studio Warner Bros. failed to mount an adequate publicity campaign on Davis' behalf, allegedly because she'd made the film on loan-out to RKO and Warners wasn't about to heap praise upon a rival. It is now generally conceded that Davis' Oscar win for 1935's Dangerous was consolation for her losing the statuette in 1934. Long out of circulation due to the 1946 remake, the 1934 Of Human Bondage has since slipped into the public domain, and is now seen more often than either of the subsequent remakes the last was in 1964.
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Special Features

Biographies; Filmographies; Photo gallery; Interactive menus; Jump to scene; Dolby sound; PC/MAC compatible
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Before one reads about John Cromwell's 1934 version of Of Human Bondage, one must first understand its history, which is also very much its curse, from a modern standpoint. One of the most acclaimed dramas of its period, the RKO-produced film put Bette Davis on the map and also added to Leslie Howard's formidable reputation. When Warner Bros. made its version of the story in 1946, however, the studio is reputed to have ordered the destruction of the original master elements of the RKO version; ironically, neither that remake, nor a later 1964 version came up to the standard achieved by the director or cast in the original, dramatically or cinematically. All editions of the 1934 movie -- which, technically, isn't even supposed to exist -- are mastered from substandard sources, mostly old circulating 35 mm or, seemingly more often, 16 mm prints that never looked all that good to start with and usually betray serious flaws. So it's next-to-impossible to appreciate Cromwell's Of Human Bondage properly, since it has been handed down to us in so degraded a form -- there are a few DVD editions in which the producers have made a serious effort to restore the quality of the image and sound, and have achieved impressive if not perfect results -- Avenue One's Region 2 DVD (intended for European viewers), issued in 2003, may be the best of them, with a surprisingly bright and detailed image and excellent sound, the release matching the standard that held for many '30s films from their official distributors in 1970s and '80s; among Region 1 discs (i.e., intended for the U.S.A.), The Roan Group has tried to do the best work, with mixed results. As to the movie, it flows better dramatically than just about any dramatic film of its era, the director moving us effortlessly into the tormented psyche of Leslie Howard's Philip Carey, a sensitive and highly cerebral medical student who is all-but-destroyed by his obsession with the slutty waitress Mildred (Bette Davis) -- the camera conducts us through what amount to internal visual dialogues within Carey, without ever breaking the forward momentum of the plot or the rhythm and intensity of the performances; it does drag a bit in the middle, but overall Cromwell's use of close-ups, dissolves, montage, and sound edits was about as good as movies got in 1934, and it all holds up remarkably well 60 years later -- certainly better than either of the later versions. By contrast, Davis' performance now seems mostly rooted in her mannerisms and Cockney accent, though she does undergo a hideous physical transformation in the course of the story, and when viewed in the context of the movie and the era, definitely represented a minor milestone in her career.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/2/2004
  • UPC: 798622311825
  • Original Release: 1934
  • Rating:

  • Source: Westlake Budget
  • Time: 1:23:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Leslie Howard Philip Carey
Bette Davis Mildred Rogers
Frances Dee Sally Athelny
Kay Johnson Norah
Reginald Denny Harry Griffiths
Alan Hale Emil Miller
Reginald Owen Thorpe Athelny
Reginald Sheffield Dunsford
Des Roberts Dr.Jacobs
Tempe Piggott Landlady
Technical Credits
John Cromwell Director
Pandro S. Berman Producer
Carroll Clark Art Director
Lester W. Cohen Screenwriter
Henry W. Gerrard Cinematographer
W. Somerset Maugham Source Author
William Morgan Editor
Walter Plunkett Costumes/Costume Designer
Van Nest Polglase Art Director
Max Steiner Score Composer
Vernon Walker Special Effects
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
2. Chapter 2 [1:21]
3. Chapter 3 [1:10]
4. Chapter 4 [3:07]
5. Chapter 5 [6:46]
6. Chapter 6 [4:04]
7. Chapter 7 [13:16]
8. Chapter 8 [5:42]
9. Chapter 9 [3:10]
10. Chapter 10 [10:28]
11. Chapter 11 [10:18]
12. Chapter 12 [18:43]
13. Chapter 13 [3:00]
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Play Movie
   Scene Index
   Extras
      Biographies
         Bette Davis
         Leslie Howard
         Alan Hale
      Filmographies
         Bette Davis
         Leslie Howard
         Alan Hale
      Photo Gallery
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2001

    Brilliant!

    This film stars Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. It's about a doctor (Leslie Howard) who develops a crush on a low class waitress (Bette Davis) and the eventual destruction of his life. This is a good film with excellent performances from its lead actors. Also starring is Reginald Denny, Frances Dee and Kay Johnson.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews