The course of one’s life can be tumultuous, rollercoasting through peaks and valleys. The highs can be intoxicating, while the lows can be crushing to one’s soul and spirit. These extremes of success and emotion are not a product of their own presence. Multiple factors mesh together to forge varying experiences. For example, the peaks can be a product of many years of tireless work or extensive spiritual clarity. The valleys may derive from economic downturn. “Dangerous” is a 1935 film directed by Alfred E. Green starring Bette Davis and Franchot Tone which examines these concepts from its onset.
Joyce Heath (played by the always formidable and outspoken Bette Davis) was once a prominent actress in the theatre world. However, she is now considered a “jinx”. A catastrophic correlation between Joyce’s love and men’s demises via devastating means led to sequestration from the theatre, poverty, and alcoholism. Don Bellows (played by the suave and charming Franchot Tone) was so greatly inspired by one of Joyce’s performances that it altered the course of his life to pursue architecture instead of business. Still, he is swept up in a world of social elitism propelled even further by his sweet yet spoiled fiancee Gail Armitage (Margaret Lindsay). One night, he crosses paths with Joyce who is inebriated at a local cafe. He feels as if he owes a great debt of gratitude to her, and cares for her at his country home for a period of time much to the dismay of his housekeeper, Mrs. Williams (Alison Skipworth). The juicy events unfolding from this supposed rehabilitation engrosses themes of jealousy, trust, lust, gullibility, failure, rejection, and masquerading.
Many would argue that Ms. Davis should not have won her first Oscar for this role. Some feel as if it was a consolation prize for not winning or even being nominated for her larger-than-life and magnetic performance in “Of Human Bondage” the year prior. I feel that this award was well-deserved. She displayed all the complexities of a woman who had lost in love and life through a magnificent screenplay. Her performance was complemented immensely by the on- and offscreen chemistry with Franchot Tone. His calm, unassuming, and naive character contrasted with the forlorn and tormented Joyce tremendously.
The spunky and devoted Mrs. Williams is intuitive and wise in many ways. On the one hand, she informs the earnest and conflicted Don that “turnips will make your chest hair grow”. Within the same breadth, she refers to Joyce Heath as “dangerous” due to her past and seeming hostility. Some individuals make less than ideal choices by society’s standards more often than others due to the sociopolitical and economic climate. Others are quite manipulative, outwardly infallible to the effects of their decisions on others’ journeys. As well, the existence, events, and uncertainty of life always creates an aura of potential danger. Our navigation and judgment throughout each day is impacted by many risks, benefits, opportunities, and challenges. One may characterize life itself as being “dangerous” due to various obstacles. However, these trials and tribulations shape our character and our ability to gain resiliency and coping mechanisms in the face of adversity.
I do not own the images in this post. As well, this post is part of the Franchot Tone Blogathon hosted by Finding Franchot! Please head over and have a look at other wonderful posts dedicated to this underrated leading man!