Directed by Kurt Bernhardt, A Stolen Life serves up a double helping, as it were of Bette Davis in this 1946 old classic movie that tells the story of twins Kate and Patricia Bosworth. Bette Davis starred in many movies but this one is a little different in that she produced it herself under B.D. Productions. She was well-known for standing up for herself and fighting the studios for what she wanted, be it better conditions, movie choices or pay. Just before this movie was made she’d argued with Warner Brothers and fallen out with them, hence the self produced A Stolen Life.
It has been slotted into the genre romantic melodrama, but it is much more than that. Yes, it tugs at your emotions and it is wonderfully dramatic. But for me it is an exciting story where I’m rooting for the protagonist from the very beginning. Let’s take a gleeful glance now.
Kate Bosworth arrives at New England port on her way to an island a few miles off to see her cousin Freddie (Charlie Ruggles) . She jumps out of the taxi and runs to catch the last boat of the day only to miss it by a few moments. She asks around to see if anyone can take her and Bill Emersion (Glenn Ford) is pointed out. He’s loading up his boat and tells her no, he can’t take passengers. But Kate tells him she’s only small and persuades him. On finding out that the journey is going to take at least a couple of hours Kate takes a piece of paper and starts to sketch Bill. Kate has never been to the island before and they start to talk about themselves. “Welcome to New England Yankee,” Bill says smiling at her, “I think you’ll like it.” Just before stepping off the boat she gives him the sketch, and he thinks it’s great.
Eban (Walter Brennan), the lighthouse keeper starts tying up Bill’s boat. Bill works with Eban and on seeing Kate getting out of the boat tells Bill he should not have had passengers! At that point a concerned Freddie turns up on the boardwalk to take her to his place, Craven Cottage.
Bill works for the lighthouse keeper Eban and Kate sees an opportunity to get closer to Bill. She strikes up a deal with the grumpy Eban and asks him to sit for an hour a day so that she can paint him. She offers the ship in the bottle she saw him unsuccessfully try to buy earlier that day for his collection and he eventually agrees.
“Fog, There’s Something So Terribly Lonely About It”
Whilst painting Eban one day at the lighthouse fog starts to envelop them and Kate has to stay there longer than usual. She explores the lighthouse and finds Bill working at the top of it. Staring out at the fog she says, “Fog, there’s something so terribly lonely about it.” “I don’t mind being alone but I don’t like to feel lonely.” Bill stops working and looks up at her, “There’s a difference…..isn’t there?” Bill explains that he loves being on the island and took the lighthouse job deliberately so that he could be alone. He tells her to not be afraid of the fog and go out and face it. They continue their conversation outside where the fog is whirling round them and the foghorn is blowing every few seconds with a flashing light to assist boats coming in. The imagery is perfect, it is as if Bill and Kate have been looking for each other and now they have. The fog is both symbolic and romantic at the same time.
A Perfect Night
Bill takes her to one of his favourite spots looking out to sea from the cliff tops and says she is the first person he has bought there. They’re both looking out when he asks her if she can capture the scene by painting it. It’s a magical evening and Katie is in love.
He then tells her he has to leave the island for a short while to do a job elsewhere but will back soon. Obviously a little disappointed with the thought of missing each other they decide to meet for lunch the next day to say goodbye.
Katie merrily swans in to Craven Cottage after her perfect evening with Bill and is met with a surprise voice in the cottage, “Hello Sis!”. Patricia, her twin sister has arrived and immediately it is obvious that Pat is more confident and assertive than Katie. Pat spots something is up with her twin and starts to tease her with questions and asking if there is a new man in her life. Katie tries to change the subject and Pat is relentless but eventually gives up.
Frosting On The Cake
It’s the day of Katie and Bill’s lunch date and Bill is walking down the boardwalk to meet Katie. Pat walks right past him and Bill jokes with her about her ignoring him. Pat quickly clicks as to what is happening. Unbeknownst to Bill, Pat goes on the lunch date with him and offers to take him to Craven Cottage. Bill is surprised and remarks that he thought she was trying to keep him away from there.
Glamorous Pat is being herself, flirty and super confident and it’s confusing the heck out of Bill, he reflects, “You got me going around in circles.” He then starts to use an analogy with cake and frosting to explain how he feels. It turns out that Bill likes a bit of frosting on his cake and today Katie (aka Pat) has frosting but he can’t understand why on previous days she (Katie) didn’t have that frosting. Mmmmmm? Anyhow, Katie turns up and Bill is doubly (ha, ha, ha, I couldn’t resist) startled. No Bill, you are not seeing things.
At this point everything is turned on its head as we are captivated by the story and the choices the characters now make.
Who Is Stealing Whose Life?
I’m going to go out on a limb here. I recommend giving A Stolen Life a watch even if you don’t particularly like melodramas. And if you don’t usually watch old classic movies. With superb acting as Bette Davis rises to the challenge of playing good twin and bad twin.
It may be a little unbelievable at times but it is definitely enjoyable. There’s some great scenery and it received an Oscar nomination for its special effects.
And after all don’t you want to know who is stealing whose life?
Steal some time and comment below.
If you going to watch the movie OR you watched it already, tell us what you think of it.
Respect to the Image Makers!
Identity Theft Poster by Victor Jeg (Wunderstock.com)