Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bette Davis in Payment on Demand (1951)

Obscurity factor: 8

Joyce and David Ramsey (Davis and Barry Sullivan) are married with two daughters almost grown. To Joyce's great surprise and dismay, one night David comes home and asks for a divorce. The story of their marriage is told in beautifully conceived and filmed flashbacks, while the story of their divorce unfolds in the present. Joyce is a scheming society climber with no sense of loyalty to friends or business associates. The flashbacks show her development and hint at contrition.

This film takes an unflinching look at divorce and some of the reasons for it, and though some aspects of the film are dated, most notably the notion that a divorced woman has no future, the subject matter is handled with honesty and tact. Look for a spicy performance as an established society matron by Jane Cowl.

This film has recently emerged from the shadows and can now be found on DVD, thanks to Warner's Archive collection. It was just aired on TCM last night where I saw it for the first time. The trailer above is from the TCM website and the poster is available at

Obscurity factor: 8 (available on DVD, occasionally screened on TCM, known as Bette's forgotten film)


  1. I noticed it was on TCM last night, but when I saw the listing it was already past the halfway point. Hopefully they will show it again soon.

  2. I'm sure they will... Once they air them, they frequently repeat films.

  3. I watched and reviewed this film and really enjoyed it. I'm surprised it's not better known as it's a very well-done film, including a creative presentation of the flashbacks, which made me think a bit of the classic play OUR TOWN.

    Hopefully now that it's on TCM and Warner Archive more people will be able to enjoy it.

    Enjoyed your post!

    Best wishes,

  4. Yes, the flashbacks are particularly well done - very artistic, but the art doesn't interfere with the storytelling - the craft of movie-making at its best.

    Thanks for dropping by Laura!