The Cabin in the Cotton

Last updated

The Cabin in the Cotton
The Cabin in the Cotton Film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Darryl F. Zanuck
Jack L. Warner
Screenplay by Paul Green
Based onThe Cabin in the Cotton
by Harry Harrison Kroll
Starring Richard Barthelmess
Dorothy Jordan
Bette Davis
Music by Leo F. Forbstein
Cinematography Barney McGill
Edited by George Amy
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
October 15, 1932 (1932-10-15)
Running time
78 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Cabin in the Cotton is a 1932 American pre-Code drama film directed by Michael Curtiz. The screenplay by Paul Green is based on the novel of the same title by Harry Harrison Kroll.


The film perhaps is best known for a line of dialogue spoken by a platinum-blonde Bette Davis in a Southern drawl -- "I'd like ta kiss ya, but I just washed my hair."—a line lifted directly from the book. In later years it was immortalized by Davis impersonators and quoted in the 1995 film Get Shorty .


Lobby card for The Cabin in the Cotton Cabin in the Cotton lobby card 1932.JPG
Lobby card for The Cabin in the Cotton

Marvin Blake is a sharecropper's son who wants to better himself by continued schooling instead of working in the fields under the heat in the Deep South. Initially, greedy planter Lane Norwood is opposed to the idea and says he needs to work in his fields, but after the sudden death of his over-worked father, he grudgingly helps Blake achieve his goal and gives the young man a job as a bookkeeper when his vampish daughter Madge intercedes on his behalf. Blake uncovers irregularities in Norwood's accounts and soon finds himself embroiled in a battle between management and workers and torn between the seductive Madge and his longtime sweetheart Betty Wright.


When producer Darryl F. Zanuck urged Michael Curtiz to cast Bette Davis as Madge Norwood, the director responded, "Are you kidding? Who would want to go to bed with her?" [1] Angry that he was forced to use her against his will, Curtiz fumed throughout the shoot, loudly deriding her as "a goddamned lousy actress" [1] or calling her a "God-damned-nothing-no-good-sexless-son-of-a-bitch!" under his breath during her love scenes with Richard Barthelmess. [2] In later years, Davis observed, "Mr. Curtiz, I must say, monster as he was, was a great European moviemaker. He was not a performer's director . . . You had to be very strong with him. And he wasn't fun . . . He was a real BASTARD! Cruelest man I have ever known. But he knew how to shoot a film well." [3] She went on to make six additional films with Curtiz, including The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex in 1939.

Davis liked Barthelmess personally but was stymied by his acting style. "He did absolutely nothing in the long shots, followed basic stage directions for medium shots, and reserved his talent for the close-ups. In that way it was necessary to use his close-ups almost entirely." [1] Barthelmess said of Davis, "There was a lot of passion in her, and it was impossible not to sense . . . one got the sense of a lot of feeling dammed up in her, a lot of electricity that had not yet found its outlet. In a way it was rather disconcerting - yes, I admit it, frightening." [2]

Davis later confessed she was a virgin when she made the film. "Yes, that's absolutely true. No question about it," she added for emphasis. "But my part called for me to exude raging sexuality. Well, if they had known I was still a virgin, they wouldn't have believed I could carry it off. They wouldn't have trusted me if they'd known, but no one asked. It was assumed that a young actress had lived a bit of a loose life." [3]

Cast (in credits order)

Critical reception

In his review in the New York Times , Mordaunt Hall described it as "a film which seldom awakens any keen interest . . . Richard Barthelmess gives a careful but hardly an inspired performance. His general demeanor lacks the desired spontaneity and often he speaks his lines in a monotone . . . Michael Curtiz is responsible for the direction, which is uneven, and sections of the narrative are rather muddled." [4]

The Cabin in the Cotton was one of nine 1932 releases in which Davis appeared. Still relatively unknown, she managed to draw the attention of many critics with her performance. In the New York American , Regina Crewe described her as "superb." Richard Watts, Jr. of the New York Herald Tribune stated, "Miss Davis shows a surprising vivacity as the seductive rich girl," and Variety declared that her "rising popularity is the film's best chance for business." Davis also caught the eye of director John Cromwell, who was impressed enough to cast her as Mildred in his 1934 film Of Human Bondage , which went on to cement Davis' reputation as one of the best actresses of the era. [2]

Related Research Articles

Richard Barthelmess American actor

Richard Semler Barthelmess was an American film actor, principally of the Hollywood silent era. He starred opposite Lillian Gish in D. W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms (1919) and Way Down East (1920) and was among the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927. The following year, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for two films: The Patent Leather Kid and The Noose.

<i>Dark Victory</i> 1939 film

Dark Victory is a 1939 American melodrama film directed by Edmund Goulding, starring Bette Davis, and featuring George Brent, Humphrey Bogart, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ronald Reagan, Henry Travers, and Cora Witherspoon. The screenplay by Casey Robinson was based on the 1934 play of the same title by George Brewer and Bertram Bloch, starring Tallulah Bankhead.

Bette Davis American actress

Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis was an American actress with a career spanning more than 50 years and 100 acting credits. She was noted for playing unsympathetic, sardonic characters, and was famous for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical films, suspense horror, and occasional comedies, although her greater successes were in romantic dramas. A recipient of two Academy Awards, she was the first thespian to accrue ten nominations.

Michael Curtiz Hungarian-American director

Michael Curtiz was a Hungarian-born American film director, recognized as one of the most prolific directors in history. He directed classic films from the silent era and numerous others during Hollywood's Golden Age, when the studio system was prevalent.

The following is an overview of 1932 in film, including significant events, a list of films released and notable births and deaths.

<i>Dangerous</i> (1935 film) 1935 American drama film

Dangerous is a 1935 American drama film directed by Alfred E. Green and starring Bette Davis in her first Oscar-winning role. The screenplay by Laird Doyle is based on his story Hard Luck Dame.

Bette Midler American singer-songwriter, actress, and comedienne

Bette Midler is an American singer, songwriter, actress, author, and comedian. In a career spanning over half a century, Midler has won four Golden Globe Awards, three Grammy Awards, three Primetime Emmy Awards, and two Tony Awards.

<i>The Great Lie</i> 1941 film by Edmund Goulding

The Great Lie is a 1941 American drama film directed by Edmund Goulding, and starring Bette Davis, George Brent and Mary Astor. The screenplay by Lenore J. Coffee is based on the novel January Heights by Polan Banks.

Madge Evans American actress

Madge Evans was an American stage and film actress. She began her career as a child performer and model.

<i>The Anniversary</i> (1968 film)

The Anniversary is a 1968 British black comedy film directed by Roy Ward Baker for Hammer Films and Seven Arts and starring Bette Davis. The screenplay, by Jimmy Sangster, was adapted from Bill MacIlwraith's 1966 play.

<i>The Catered Affair</i> 17th episode of the fourth season of Goodyear Television Playhouse

The Catered Affair is a 1956 American comedy-drama film made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was directed by Richard Brooks and produced by Sam Zimbalist from a screenplay by Gore Vidal, based on a 1955 television play by Paddy Chayefsky. The film score was by André Previn and the cinematography by John Alton.

<i>Of Human Bondage</i> (1934 film) 1934 film by John Cromwell

Of Human Bondage is a 1934 American pre-Code drama film directed by John Cromwell and is widely regarded by critics as the film that made Bette Davis a star. The screenplay by Lester Cohen is based on the 1915 novel Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham.

<i>Kid Galahad</i> (1937 film) 1937 film by Michael Curtiz

Kid Galahad is a 1937 boxing film starring Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart and, in the title role, rising newcomer Wayne Morris. It was scripted by Seton I. Miller and directed by Michael Curtiz.

<i>Jimmy the Gent</i> (film) 1934 film by Michael Curtiz

Jimmy the Gent is a 1934 American Pre-Code comedy-crime film directed by Michael Curtiz, starring James Cagney and Bette Davis and featuring Allen Jenkins. It was the first pairing of Cagney and Davis, who would reunite for The Bride Came C.O.D. seven years later.

<i>The Golden Arrow</i> (1936 film) 1936 film by Alfred E. Green

The Golden Arrow (1936) is an American comedy film directed by Alfred E. Green and starring Bette Davis and George Brent. The screenplay by Charles Kenyon is based on a story of the same title by Michael Arlen published in the September 14, 1935 issue of Liberty.

Front Page Woman is a 1935 American comedy film directed by Michael Curtiz. The screenplay by Laird Doyle, Lillie Hayward and Roy Chanslor based on the novel Women Are Bum Newspapermen by Richard Macauley.

<i>Fashions of 1934</i> 1934 American musical comedy film directed by William Dieterle

Fashions of 1934 is a 1934 American pre-Code musical comedy film directed by William Dieterle with musical numbers created and directed by Busby Berkeley. The screenplay by F. Hugh Herbert and Carl Erickson was based on the story The Fashion Plate by Harry Collins and Warren Duff. The film stars William Powell, Bette Davis, Hugh Herbert and Frank McHugh, and has songs by Sammy Fain (music) and Irving Kahal (lyrics). Sometime after the initial release, the title Fashions of 1934 was changed to Fashions, replacing the original title with an insert card stating "William Powell in 'Fashions'".

<i>The Little Foxes</i> (film) 1941 film by William Wyler

The Little Foxes is a 1941 American drama film directed by William Wyler. The screenplay by Lillian Hellman is based on her 1939 play The Little Foxes. Hellman's ex-husband Arthur Kober, Dorothy Parker and her husband Alan Campbell contributed additional scenes and dialogue.

<i>Nearly Married</i>

Nearly Married is a 1917 American silent comedy film directed by Chester Withey and starring Madge Kennedy. It is based on a 1913 stage play of the same name by Edgar Selwyn. It also featured an early film appearance by future gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.

<i>Three Men and a Girl</i> 1919 film by Marshall Neilan

Three Men and a Girl is a lost 1919 American romantic comedy film directed by Marshall Neilan and starring Marguerite Clark. It was produced by Famous Players-Lasky and distributed by Paramount Pictures. The film is based on the off-Broadway play The Three Bears by Edward Childs Carpenter.


  1. 1 2 3 Stine, Whitney, and Davis, Bette, Mother Goddam: The Story of the Career of Bette Davis. New York: Hawthorn Books 1974. ISBN   0-8015-5184-6, pp. 36-38
  2. 1 2 3 The Cabin in the Cotton at Turner Classic Movies
  3. 1 2 Chandler, Charlotte, The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis, A Personal Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster 2006. ISBN   0-7432-6208-5, pp. 83-84
  4. New York Times review