In 1942, Warner Brothers scored a huge hit with the tear-jerking, bittersweet romance Now, Voyager, which starred Bette Davis, Claude Rains, and Paul Henreid. In 1946, the studio decided to put this triumvirate together for another picture and this go round resulted in the film, Deception. Did any other actresses in Hollywood know how to […]
In 1942, Warner Brothers scored a huge hit with the tear-jerking, bittersweet romance Now, Voyager, which starred Bette Davis, Claude Rains, and Paul Henreid. In 1946, the studio decided to put this triumvirate together for another picture and this go round resulted in the film, Deception. Did any other actresses in Hollywood know how to wield a gun as well as Bette? Sorry for that spoiler, but not really!
Bette plays Christine Radcliffe, a promising pianist who happens to have been a student of the famous conductor and composer Alexander Hollenius(Claude Rains, having a great time with this role.) Christine is sitting high up in a concert hall, tears in her eyes, as she listens to the guest cellist playing his piece with an orchestra accompanying him. After the concert, she rushes backstage to see the cellist, Karol Novak(Paul Henreid). She is desperate to see him because before WWII struck, they had both been music students in Europe and had fallen in love. Christine got back to the USA before the War got worse but poor Karol spent the war in a concentration camp. He survived, but Christine thought he had been killed. She is joyful and deliriously happy to be reunited with Karol again and they soon make plans to marry.
Christine has one big secret and she decides to not tell Karol about it until after they are married, when she finds the right time to tell him. Big mistake! However, that would take away from movie's plot if Christine did the sensible and honest thing. During the wedding reception Christine realizes her decision to wait for the big secret reveal is a mistake when Alexander Holenius crash's the party at Christina's apartment. He saunters in, clearly realizing that his expectation to be alone with Christine was a mistake as he sees all the people and the wedding cake. It's pretty easy to figure out that Holenius and Christine had “something” going on and her marriage to Karol feels like a slap in the face to Holenius.
Karol is no dummy. He has an inkling that Christine and Holenius weren't just a student and a teacher. How did Christine afford her apartment and her fur coats, fancy dresses, pieces of art and jewelry? Christine tells him at first that Holenius just likes to give his favorite friends gifts. Then she finally tells him the truth and assures him that it is all over between her and Holenius. Karol is on the brink of classical music stardom and Holenius offers to let him audition to play the cello solo for an upcoming concert series. Christine makes some visits to Holenius to try and explain that she loves Karol and not him, that Holenius should respect that, and he better not do anything to destroy Karol's career. With that threat from Christine, there's a gleam in Holenius's eye to make it a difficult experience for Karol in the world of classical music in NYC.
Bette Davis is great as Christine. Passionate in her love for Karol, weary in spirit when she is dwelling on her relationship with Holenius. Paul Henreid is the strong, silent, handsome type but he does let a flicker of Karol's anger appear at times and it's scary. Henreid didn't actually know how to play the cello but mastered the hand movements and is very convincing in his musical scenes. For St. Louis Symphony fans, a bit of trivia: former conductor Leonard Slatkin's mother, Eleanor Aller, was the cellist for this movie, playing the parts that Henreid pretended to play. Of course it goes without saying that Claude Rains has a field day as the former teacher/lover of Christine, roiled with jealousy at Karol, and knowing he has the power to control this couple's future in the classical music world.
If you love classical music, this film has a lot of great pieces in it, arranged by the wonderful Erich W. Korngold. A musical prodigy in his youth in Austria, he began to help Hollywood movies with beautiful and rich musical scores, beginning with A Midsummer's Night Dream in 1935. In 1938, Hollywood called again asking him to return from Austria to create the score for a new film, The Adventures of Robin Hood. While Korngold was working on this film score, the Nazis were marching all over Europe and brutally establishing their regime. This caused Korngold to decide to stay in the US during the war, and he often said later that The Adventures of Robin Hood saved his life.
For a good drama, to see three actors performing their roles very well, and despite telling yourself as you watch, “Christine shouldn't have kept that secret from Karol…,” tune in to Deception. It is available on Amazon via their instant rent. TCM may show it again before this new year is over, so keep your eye out for it via their monthly schedules at their website.
Deception: Warner Brothers film, directed by Irving Rapper, produced by Henry Blanke, screenplay by John Collier and Joseph Than, based on a play Monsieur Lamberthier by Louis Verneuil. Good supporting cast members include John Abbott as Mr. Gribble, a competing cellist, and Benson Fong, as Jimmy, Holenius's servant. Fong, when in his senior citizen years, was often cast on the tv show, Kung-Fu.