All This, and Heaven Too (1940)

<strong class="MovieTitle">All This, and Heaven Too</strong> (1940)

(On Cable TV, February 2019) There is, in many ways, something comforting in the kind of domestic costume melodrama that is All This, and Heaven Too: As the story of a French governess who ends up being at the centre of a rollicking story of lust and murder, it’s clearly meant to thrill audiences. It would have been significantly better if it had been shorter—there isn’t that much plot here, and the film clocks in at a punishing 141 minutes with plenty of repetition along the way. I’m also not entirely convinced about Bette Davis as a young innocent romantic heroine—she’s a terrific actress, but her uncanny ability to play evil characters is wasted here in a role meant to be almost angelic. The framing device isn’t too bad in allowing a Paris-based story to be literally told to an American audience, although it does add even more length to a film already overstuffed with tangents. (Including a gothic Halloween interlude that’s actually not too bad.) Even today, the expensive nature of All This, and Heaven Too’s production is obvious: the lavish sets, costumes and re-creation of late-Nineteenth century Paris is quite successful. Modern viewers will still have something to watch in between the increasingly lurid story, and Bette Davis in a strong (even if miscast) performance.

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