In 1950, Bette Davis and Gary Merrill found not just box-office and critical success with All About Eve, but also love. One year later, the now husband and wife starred in the feature Another Man’s Poison. Lightning did not strike a second time in any regard.
This is a deeply artificial movie, essentially a play put on film and not opened up much beyond the cavernous living room of the one house where the majority of the action takes place. That’s odd, as this was filmed in the UK and there is some gorgeous footage of the countryside. One of this film’s problems is there isn’t enough of it.
That artificiality extends to the dialog and the performances. I am a big fan of Bette Davis, but she can be her own worst enemy. In movies like this, and Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, she runs roughshod over the other performers and even the film itself.
That said, this is overwhelmingly her film, starting from the first time we her, as she calls her lover from the phone box of a train station. We don’t know it yet, but she has just killed her husband.
Second billed is real-life husband Gary Merrill, a man wanted for a robbery he had committed with her deceased (though unbeknownst to him) husband. Curiously, he assumes the identity of the husband she offed. Fortunately for him, the locals apparently haven’t seen the dead man before, but Merrill doesn’t know that when he starts this ruse.
The driver of the plot is Davis trying to find a way to get rid of Merrill while keeping her murder of her husband a secret. Jeopardizing her efforts is the curious town doctor, played smugly by Emlyn Williams. He even happened to bump into her just as she was leaving that phone booth at the train station at the start of the picture, so he’s almost immediately clued into something being wrong.
Davis is also trying to separate her young lover (Anthony Steele) from his fiancée (Barbara Murray), who just happens to be Bette’s secretary. So there’s the opportunity for lots of melodrama.
There isn’t much I can say about the film without giving anything away, however little there is that develops from these plot threads. Another Man’s Poison is thin gruel, a very stagey affair that at least should have had great lines for its leading lady to say. As it does not have even that, this is slow going. Recommended only for Davis fans who enjoy watching her chew the scenery without restraint.
Dir: Irving Rapper
Starring Bette Davis, Gary Merrill, Emlyn Williams
Watched on ClassicFlix blu-ray