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Released in October of 1932, when Bette Davis was only 24yo, "The First Lady of the American Screen" embodies the part of Madge Norwood, a wealthy plantation owner's privileged daughter.
Based mostly upon Harry Kroll's novel, director Michael Curtiz ("Casablanca") tries to tell Kroll's story without embellishing it. The plot is mainly about how Marvin Blake (Richard Barthelmess), a poor sharecropper's son, rises from being underprivileged to empower his peers.
However, the secondary thread of the script is about how Madge (Davis) and Marvin cross class lines to become involved in an unseemly romance. Madge's chief role is to sexually taunt Marvin while he's working for her father.
Bette Davis' favorite line for all her films came from this one as she taunts:
"I'd love to kiss you, but I just washed my hair." Davis was 23yo, still made blonde, too cute for words & bursting into the legendary American acting career of the 20th century.
Taunting Marvin places him in a double bind after he learns that Norwood (Berton Churchill) is stealing from the share-croppers who Norwood's accusing of stealing cotton from him.
That Kroll's story contends with US Southern classism, rather than racism, on plantations, makes for an unusual early film about rich and poor relations in the US South~