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Of Human Bondage

Released Jul 20, 1934 1h 23m Drama List
87% Tomatometer 15 Reviews 69% Audience Score 2,500+ Ratings
Based on a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, this drama follows Philip Carey (Leslie Howard), an English medical student who abandons his artistic aspirations when he falls for Mildred Rogers (Bette Davis), a callous and manipulative waitress. Despite Mildred's abuse, Philip becomes completely obsessed with her as she walks into and out of his life. Whenever it seems that Philip is ready to move on, Mildred reappears, in a seemingly inescapable vicious cycle. Read More Read Less

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Of Human Bondage

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Critics Reviews

View All (15) Critics Reviews
Otis Ferguson The New Republic It becomes a little happier and (more regrettably) cleaner [compared to the book], but gains in quickening of speed, being one of the best examples of pure directing craft to be found. Jan 22, 2024 Full Review Dennis Schwartz Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews The film bombed at the box-office. Rated: B- Jul 19, 2021 Full Review Josh Larsen LarsenOnFilm What makes Of Human Bondage interesting is how unapologetic Davis is. Rated: 3/4 Mar 15, 2020 Full Review Ann Ross Maclean's Magazine Excellent dramatization of Somerset Maugham's fine novel. Aug 14, 2019 Full Review Helen Brown Norden Vanity Fair I think great credit should go to [Bette Davis] for attempting such a role, in the first place, and then for daring to carry it through with such a fierce consistency, extracting from it every last nuance of unpleasantness. May 31, 2019 Full Review Phil Hall Film Threat Strictly so-so on its own terms, but invaluable as Bette Davis' star-launching platform. Rated: 3/5 Jun 20, 2008 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (164) audience reviews
nick s A movie about unrequited love. It's slow paced and subtle so don't expect a lot of action. But it has a down to earth edginess to it - the relationships are anything but sappy. The production quality is great and so too the artistic editing. Betty Davis puts in a memorable performance. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 10/25/23 Full Review John E Of Human Bondage is a 1934 film forced the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to add a "write in" option for acting nominees. This was the result of incredible backlash when Bette's performance was not nominated. It is her performance that placed this movie on my 2023 must see list. The story is based upon the W. Somerset Maugham novel. It tells the tale of Philip Carey (Leslie Howard), a British man of some means, who abandons his hopes of being an artist and instead sets out to earn a degree in medicine. While in medical school he meets a lower-class waitress named Mildred Rogers (Bette Davis) and falls in love with her. After Philip expresses his interest in Mildred, she rebuffs him continually, giving him just enough attention to string him along as she also pursues other gentlemen. She's a mean, cold, self-serving, and manipulative woman and Davis has no problems leaning into these aspects with abandon. Despite Mildred's treatment, Philip proposes marriage. It's a proposal Mildred turns down so that she can marry someone else. Philip moves on with his life and finds a new girlfriend, but he ends up leaving her when Mildred returns… pregnant and abandoned by her husband. After providing Mildred with housing and seeing her through the birth of her child, Mildred again is nasty to Philip and destroys his career and finances. She leaves again, only to turn up later as a very sick woman who's child died, and who we are led to believe takes care of herself through prostitution. She's vile to Philip yet again and it is only after she finally dies that Philip seems able to move on with his life. Philip's bondage to Mildred is never really explained other than perhaps his incredibly low self-esteem, stemming from his club foot (a deformity which gets way too much attention in the story). It's hard to be happy for Philip in the end because of what a milquetoast he was throughout the movie. The film is very dated, the sound quality quite poor, and the filming still includes the dramatic too-close/overly lit facial close-up shots (used ad nauseum on Howard) that carry over from the days of silent films. The story-telling is quite incohesive, with characters appearing and disappearing as needed and with very little character development. Though the central character is Philip, Leslie Howard portrays him in such a stiff way that it only makes Bette Davis seem that much more interesting. Her performance was very bold for its time, allowing her to step outside just being "glamorous". However, her most climactic scene (where she wipes her mouth showing Philip how much she had despised ever kissing him) I had already seen in retrospectives of her career. Because of that it, it didn't provide quite the appreciation of the totality of the role I had hoped for. That said, her performance (shaky cockney accent and all) was by far superior to Claudette Colbert's in It Happened One Night. It Happened was a better produced film overall, but Bette should have taken home the acting award, not Colbert. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 04/06/23 Full Review Audience Member If Jack Warner had had his way, Bette Davis would have wound up playing all kinds of molls in various Warner Brothers gangster films. Of Human Bondage was a significant milestone in her career because she proved to everyone, including herself, that she was capable of so much more. Like Frank Sinatra with Angelo in From Here to Eternity, Davis knew she was born to play the slatternly amoral Mildred from W. Somerset Maugham's classic novel. Though she rarely used false accents in her movie career after this, she got the Cockney speech pattern down perfect. Davis will keep you riveted to your seat with her performance her. And what a scandal it was that she wasn't nominated. I suspect some intrigue was at work there, possibly the brothers Warner who didn't want her to get a swelled head. Also she'd gotten this break through role at another studio so they weren't going to make a dime on it. Two years later Leslie Howard and Bette Davis would team up again in The Petrified Forest. But what a contrast between the dreamy naive Gabby and Mildred. The same with the male leads. In The Petrified Forest, Leslie Howard is the world weary blasé Alan Squire. In Of Human Bondage, Howard's Philip Carey is a shy man with a deep inferiority complex because of his club foot. He clings to Mildred because even though she's degraded him, he feels he'll never find another attachment again. For both the leads Of Human Bondage represented a considerable stretching of considerable talents. The two later screen versions are markedly inferior to this one. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/08/23 Full Review georgan g I'm listening to the audio book right now and hope it is as good as this movie version. Hard to believe anyone could be so stupid as to be in love with someone who treats them so poorly but these actors make it more likely. Bette Davis is great! Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Luca D "Yes I'm afraid thats usually the case. There's usually one who loves, and one who is loved." I really like the camera angle where it stares dead in the character's eyes when they talk to each other. The story writing of this movie is flimsy, but the state of the art technological editing and dialogue writing is wonderful. This is an early rendition of the unconventional romance genre where two troubled souls meet and have a difficult relationship. Bette Davis is great in this movie but her English accent is not totally believable. Leslie Howard plays one of my new favorite film noir characters. His character is so realistic and unique, and perfect for this type of romance. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 08/16/21 Full Review Audience Member The best film of this novel! Rated 4 out of 5 stars 07/13/21 Full Review Read all reviews
Of Human Bondage

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Cast & Crew

We Live Again 80% 30% We Live Again Jezebel 96% 83% Jezebel Baby Face 100% 81% Baby Face Dangerous 86% 64% Dangerous Dodsworth 91% 86% Dodsworth Discover more movies and TV shows. View More

Movie Info

Synopsis Based on a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, this drama follows Philip Carey (Leslie Howard), an English medical student who abandons his artistic aspirations when he falls for Mildred Rogers (Bette Davis), a callous and manipulative waitress. Despite Mildred's abuse, Philip becomes completely obsessed with her as she walks into and out of his life. Whenever it seems that Philip is ready to move on, Mildred reappears, in a seemingly inescapable vicious cycle.
Director
John Cromwell
Producer
Pandro S. Berman
Screenwriter
Lester Cohen
Distributor
RKO Radio Pictures
Production Co
Radio Pictures
Genre
Drama
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
Jul 20, 1934, Original
Release Date (Streaming)
Aug 11, 2016
Runtime
1h 23m
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