Marked Woman (1937)

Bette Davis plays Mary Strauber, a nightclub hostess working in club ‘Intime’ which gets taken over by a gangster Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Ciannelli) who soon changes the decor and the name to ‘Intimate’. Mary stands up to the gangster right from the start,defending a friend he tries to fire, and letting him know he won’t intimidate her. Her resolve is tested to the limit after her younger sister comes to stay, who unwittingly crosses Vanning’s path, leading to tragedy. Davis gives a commanding performance and Eduardo Ciannelli is effective as the ruthless gangster. Humphrey Bogart also puts in an appearance – cast against type as an earnest DA. They don’t make movies like this any more .

Hostesses and Gangsters

8/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2 September 2011

In New York, the powerful and ruthless mobster Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Ciannelli) acquires the Club Intimate and presses the hostesses to entertain the men with dance and drinks and then taking them to gamble to spend money. The party girl Mary “Dwight” Strauber (Bette Davis) and her roommates Dorothy ‘Gabby’ Marvin (Lola Lane), Emmy Lou Eagan (Isabel Jewell), Florrie Liggett (Rosalind Marquis) and Estelle Porter (Mayo Methot) entertain a group of Wardolf Astoria’s guests and Mary’s date loses a great amount of money in the casino and gives a bounced check to the thugs. Mary borrows some money for the cab to him but the mobsters follow him.

On the next morning, Mary’s sister Betty Strauber (Jane Bryan), who is supported by Mary and does not know the real “profession” of her older sister, visits Mary and the girls. However, police detectives arrive in the apartment and arrest the women. In the precinct, they lean that Mary’s costumer was found dead and her address was found in his pocket. The young and ambitious District Attorney David Graham (Humphrey Bogart) presses Mary to snitch Johnny Vanning, but his lawyer gives instructions to Mary to deceive David and Johnny escapes from justice.

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When the naive Betty is invited by Emmy Lou to go to a private party promoted by Johnny Vanning, she has an incident with one costumer. Johnny hits Betty and she tumbles on the stairs and is seriously wounded. However Johnny orders his men to dump her body in the river. When Mary discovers that Johnny has murdered her sister, she seeks out David Graham and promises to put the criminal behind bars. But the task is not easy and the gangsters are violent.

“Marked Woman” is an attractive film of gangsters with and unusual theme – the hostesses in illegal nightclubs. The fantastic Betty Davis performs the lead role of a party girl ahead of time with her attitudes. The screenplay has witty and cynical dialogs with insinuations about the infamous profession of Mary and her roommates. The conclusion with the five hostesses vanishing in the mist after the trial while the spots are on the young district attorney is magnificent.

Betty Davis and Humphrey Bogart are my favorite actress and actor ever, and “Marked Woman” is an unforgettable chance to see them acting together. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): “Mulher Marcada” (“Marked Woman”)

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Ripped From the Headlines”

9/10
Author: Doug Deuchler (deuchler@sbcglobal.net) from Chicago
4 August 2006

This film moves swiftly in that wonderfully fast-paced,1930s no-holds- barred Warner Bros. manner. The storyline is based on the Lucky Luciano vice lord expose of the previous season, which would have been familiar to most film-goers. Warner Bros.melodramas thrived on the kind of gritty, working class stories that were “ripped from the headlines” during the Depression years. Until the Production Code clamp-down of 1934, the girls in the film would have been shown as more clearly identifiable prostitutes. Here it’s all thinly veiled. Just what IS a “clip-joint hostess,” one wonders. They obviously perform other business in the upstairs rooms. But the movie never goes there. The women are shown to be strong, independent, yet exploited. Though they are bordello babes, the audience sympathy is for them. The film was made the same year as “Stage Door,” and it’s got some similarities. These young ladies of the evening seem like they’re staying in a sorority house for hookers.

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For Bogart fans, this is a rather stilted, seemingly out-of-character performance for him. It’s like watching Bogie’s clone–the role doesn’t quite seem to fit him.

This film also shows wonderful examples of the Art Deco style in the Club Intime nightclub sequences. The design is lustrous. Hollywood Deco always signified glamor, modernity, and sexual liberation.

Bette Davis insisted her make-up following the beating and slashing look horrific. If Joan Crawford had played this role, she might have sported a slight bruise. Here Davis is heavily bandaged–realistic and frightening.

This is an overblown melodrama but it shows Warner Bros. and Bette Davis doing what they did best–telling a fast-paced story with lots of scintillating, snappy dialogue. Jack Warner may not have been much different than Lucky Luciano in many ways, but his studio sure could churn out some gripping tales.

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Thomas E. Dewey vs Lucky Luciano

10/10
Author: gullwing592003 from United States
3 June 2010

Marked Woman is an extremely excellent gangster film by Warner Bros, torn from the headlines of 1935 depicting the sensationalized exploits of the notorious gangster Lucky Luciano who ran a prostitution ring & was finally brought to trial by the celebrated Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey. Thanks to the production code of 1934 the prostitutes had to be toned down for the movie & became clip joint “hostesses”.

Lucky Luciano’s screen counterpart is Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Ciannelli)who takes over a nightclub called the “Club Intime”.He tells his henchman (Ben Welden) several times while scoping the club out & looking the dames over, “make a note of it Charlie”. Bette Davis is Mary Dwight one of the hostesses & she just electrifies the screen from the first moment & she immediately stands up to the tough gangster & gets his respect when she talks him out of firing hostess Estelle (Mayo Methot), Vanning thought she was getting too old & wants young dames.

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Vanning closes the club temporarily to allow time to transform the club & rename it “The Club Intimate”. When the club reopens for business one of the suckers ( Damien O’Flynn) runs up a bill he can’t afford to pay & leaves the club with Mary Dwight. Charlie (Welden) sends a couple of the “boys” after him….pay or die! Later when the police find his body they also find a matchbook in his pocket with Marys address which leads to her arrest & is taken to the Dictrict Attorney’s office for questioning. Humphrey Bogart is superb in the Thomas E. Dewey role of the Special Prosecutor David Graham.

David Graham (Bogart) is a relentlessly driven crusader of justice determined to put crime boss Johnny Vanning & his henchman in jail & smash organized crime. Graham needs & tries to convince Mary & the other girls to testify against their gangster boss. Graham has a difficult time getting the girls cooperation for they are loyal to Vanning. It’s only after Mary’s sister Betty turns up (Jane Bryan) & is later killed accidentally by Johnny Vanning at a party does Mary retaliate & runs back to Graham & agrees to testify against Vanning along with the other girls.

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The chemistry between Bette Davis & Humphrey Bogart is fantastic & the scenes with Davis & Eduardo Ciannelli as the gangster is sizzling hot. Other reviewers haven’t given much praise to Bogart’s role of the Special Prosecutor & I don’t know why but I thought he was very convincing & believable as the crusading D.A. Marked Woman was following the trend of gangster movies shifting the emphasis from the forces of vice & crime over to the forces of justice. To satisfy the new production code, gangsters could no longer be glorified.

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Beginning in 1935 with James Cagney in G-Men, Cagney was an FBI agent, in 1936 came Bullets or Ballots with Edward G. Robinson playing a policeman posing as a gangster. In 1937 it was Marked Woman with Humphrey Bogart on the side of law & order. A clever Warner Bros trick to move these actors over to the side of law & order & also because Cagney, Robinson & Bogart wanted a break from gangster roles. All 3 actors hated being typecast & would always fight for better roles.

Because Cagney & Robinson were stars they could afford to say no & turn down roles they didn’t like, Bogart didn’t have enough leverage to say no yet so as a result he got stuck with the gangster roles more frequently. In Marked Woman when Bogart is first seen you can see the gangster written all over him but as the movie progresses Bogart grows into his role & really sinks his teeth into the Thomas E.Dewey character breaking the stereotype. Quite a contrast from Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest.

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In 1992 I found Marked Woman on VHS & when I watched it I was so blown away by this movie after rewinding the tape I immediately watched it again. I’ve never done that with any other movie. I couldn’t get enough of Davis & Bogart, they really set the screen on fire. Also Eduardo Ciannelli as the gangster is dynamite, frightening & memorable & it’s a rare treat to see Bogart as a good guy & hero for a change. Because of that this movie gets a 10 !!

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