MOVIE REVIEW: Devotion

For the Ida Lupino blogathon over at Miss Ida Lupino, I am going to profile Devotion, a film that stars both Ida Lupino and my favorite lady Olivia de Havilland. I first saw the film last year, during TCM’s Olivia de Havilland “Summer Under the Stars” day, a day on which I had been taping every single movie that came on (I am a huge Olivia de Havilland fan). I thought it a travesty that I had never seen Devotion, so I rushed home from my summer class to see it live as it aired.

The film concerns itself with the true story of the Bronte sisters–their lives, loves, and writings. As they compete with each other over the affections of Reverend Arthur Nichols, their brother is struggling desperately with alcohol and they try to save him from its ravages. Ida Lupino plays Emily Bronte, Olivia de Havilland plays Charlotte, and Nancy Coleman plays Anne, in a film that has a magnificent subject–but somehow misses its target.

Despite a brilliant cast that I have just outlined, the film itself could not be totally saved. It runs very slowly, with a plot that doesn’t really seem to know where it’s going, and the very seasoned actors seem to be lost in the material. This is a film that could have been so amazingly done, à la Wuthering Heights, but it seems as though the heart of Warner Brothers wasn’t in this one. However, I think that Lupino and de Havilland can really do no wrong, so the film is worth watching if only to see them.

Devotion is notable in being the final film that Olivia de Havilland made at Warner Brothers before her famous 1943 challenge of the studio over her contract. The film was completed in February 1943, but its release was delayed until April 1946 due to concerns over how it would be received while de Havilland’s lawsuit was pending. She won her landmark suit against the studio in a unanimous decision by the court, allowing her to leave her contract without having to serve the six months probation she had incurred while on suspension. The case is now studied by law students in classes dealing with entertainment law, and it set a precedent in the industry, indicating the first rumblings of the eradication of the studio system.

In all, Devotion is a flawed film, but it is worth seeing because of its relevance in the business and because of the pairing of two of the screen’s most radiant stars.

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9 responses to “MOVIE REVIEW: Devotion

  1. I actually like Devotion, despite its tendency to play fast and loose with the history of the Brontes. I wonder what the film would have been like if Ida and Livvy had been able to switch roles like they had wanted to in the first place.

  2. Yeah, it’s not a BAD movie, just…flawed, like I said in the post. I’ll take Olivia in anything, so it’s not that I dislike the movie per se, it just pains me to think how much better it could have been.

  3. Ida and Olivia are definitely the best things about this movie. I agree that it is flawed, but its at least watchable. Great review!

    Thanks so much for participating in the blogathon!

  4. Thanks Jen!! Yeah it’s not a bad movie, I just think the studio sort of slacked on it and didn’t let it become the best movie it could be. I think around that time Olivia was sort of starting to make trouble, and they might have been afraid of her doing something that would decrease the profits! Just a theory, but I think they were starting to become a little bit afraid of her. And of course they had a right to be, she sued the pants off those moguls! :)

  5. Pingback: Remembering Ida Lupino: Blogathon Wrap-Up « Ida Lupino

  6. No matter how inferior the script or movie, I find both Lupino and DeHavilland watchable. I agree with your comments about the film and how it should have been so much better given the talent involved, but I still love watching it. I just bought the DVD and can’t wait to look at it!

  7. Oh definitely!! I love everything Olivia de Havilland does, and she did some stinkers early on in her career (Alibi Ike anyone? But I love that movie because she’s in it!). “Devotion” was one of the lesser movies in both of their careers, but it is nonetheless watchable because of them. Have fun with your DVD!!

  8. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this movie. Thanks for the review. I’ll know not to expected to much of it!

  9. Thanks for your comment! It’s worth seeing, it’s not a horrible movie, just not as good as it could have been, you know?

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