A good movie, I think, can be measured by the amount of emotion the viewer experiences while watching it. If the viewer really gets into it, they are so focused on that movie that they become part of it, in a sense.
Marked Woman, for me, is that kind of production.
Allegedly the film, directed by Lloyd Bacon, is loosely based on the case of Lucky Luciano, considered to be the first crime boss in America. Lucky was actually convicted of operating a very large prostitution ring, and his conviction was based on the testimony of several prostitutes and madams.
Now, this was Bette Davis' first film with Warner Brothers after her return. Bette had walked out on Warner Brothers and then was sued by them and lost, so she had to return to complete her contract. Knowing that she was one of their keys to success, they continued to give her good scripts despite her fear that she would be "punished" by being offered less than quality scripts after that legal issue.
She really enjoyed this part, and she even insisted on doing some boundary pushing herself where her role was concerned. At one point she actually had a physician wrap her in bandages rather than the make up and costuming people for a more realistic affect. This has to have been one of her best film roles, and she played it convincingly.
The story is basically about a crime boss, Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Ciannelli) who's many ventures include gambling and prostitution.
When the naïve, innocent sister of one of the prostitutes (Mary, played by Bette Davis) is murdered by Vanning, Mary decides to do the right thing by going against her fear of Vanning and testifying against him. In the process she talks the other girls into doing the same.
This film takes the viewer on the heart wrenching journey that led to that decision. As I watched the arrogance of Vanning and how abusive he was to those women, I was filled with anger. When the naïve sister was talked into attending a party by one of the prostitutes, I felt like a helpless mother. "No! Don't go with her!" I yelled at the screen. When Vanning slapped her and she fell down the stairs - I felt like throwing my bowl of popcorn at him and knocking him down the stairs ! When the DA (David Graham, played by Humphrey Bogart) told Mary that her sister had been found dead, I cried.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I give it a hearty round of applause plus a standing ovation just because of how caught up in it I was. Woo! I'm still reeling from it!
This movie is part of Warner Brothers' Home Entertainment's recently released Humphrey Bogart: The Essentials Collection, which I highly recommend. In addition to Bogie, the films in this collection also feature great stars such as Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson, Wayne Morris, and Harry Carey just to name a few.