Escape Me Never (British & Dominions). Cinemaddicts who, after Catherine the Great, still have any doubts about the capabilities of Elisabeth Bergner, should find them allayed by this picture. Purposely designed to exhibit her extraordinary versatility, it becomes a sort of steeplechase of the emotions in which, as Gemma, a strangely sophisticated yet completely unworldly waif married to a pompous, self-centred young musical genius, Actress Bergner is called upon to take more spiritual hurdles than occur in any normal lifetime. The hazards of Gemma's career are indicated in the first scene by the fantastic means she uses for walking in on a conventional British family having tea in a rented Venetian Palace. She arrives with a party of touring schoolchildren, runs upstairs to hide when the teacher calls the roll. From there on, her career with her musician (Hugh Sinclair) is a series of crises separated only by stretches in which Gemma is trying to straighten out the romance between the musician's more responsible brother and the girl whose parents she met in the palace. She quarrels bitterly with her lover on a hotel terrace in the Dolomites, archly deserts him at a mountain railway station, wistfully marries him in a London registry office and, in a scene bristling with angry understanding, advises his brother's silly inamorata not to poach on her preserves. The water jump in this extraordinary chronicle is reached when her preoccupied husband pushes her off the stage on which he is rehearsing the ballet she has slaved to enable him to write, just after her baby by a former marriage has died in a charity hospital.
Estheticians are fond of pointing out that one test of an actress' stature is her ability to seem superior to her roles. If this is true, Miss Bergner's performance in Escape Me Never goes far to justify the encomiums of critics who, after Catherine the Great, called her a cinematic Duse. In other respects, though it is a definite improvement on the wooden play written under the same title by Margaret Kennedy as a sequel to The Constant Nymph and performed by Elisabeth Bergner in London and Manhattan (TIME, Jan. 28). Escape Me Never is a cinematic mediocrity, which not even Director Paul Czinner's artful concentration on his wife's talents can turn into more than an extensive inventory of them. Good shot: Gemma helping her husband try to comfort her for small Tommy's death by laughing at his promises to behave better in the future.
The Girl from Tenth Avenue (Warner). Essentially the old story of the honest working girl who marries, loves, regenerates and finally receives the belated adoration of an alcoholic socialite whom she meets just after he has been jilted, this picture partially succeeds in disguising the banality of its narrative by the freshness of its point of view. The competition that develops between Miriam Brady (Bette Davis) and the hero's onetime sweetheart (Katherine Alexander), now married to another man, for the affections of Geoffrey Sherwood (Ian Hunter) is presented honestly and with touches of saving humor. Miriam's final triumph is due, not to her ability to behave like a lady, but to her ability to make her rival behave like nothing of the sort when, at a fashionable luncheon, she goads the latter into throwing a grapefruit at her head.