A Stolen Life (1946)


I was really looking forward to revisiting this movie for a lot of reasons: you get double the dose of big, fabulous acting by Bette Davis, and a great cast in an enjoyable juicy melodrama involving several questionable choices and a happy ending. Katie (Davis) is a sweet, timid introvert who falls hard for loner and lighthouse engineer Bill (Glenn Ford). She tries hard to develop their romance to its fullest before allowing him anywhere near her twin sister Pat (also Davis). That’s because Pat is, say it with me: the bad twin, the one who’s always helped herself to her meeker sibling’s valuables. Sure enough, Pat strikes again, thanks to a chance meeting and the irresistible challenge of another conquest. Her more aggressive approach excites Bill, who describes Pat as a plain Katie cake with the missing touch of glamorous frosting. Pat and Bill marry, Katie pines and tries to move on, and in the course of her dabbling in art, she captures the attention of domineering painter Karnock (Dane Clark). Tragically but conveniently, Pat dies and Katie goes along with a case of mistaken identity, seeing it as her shot at finally enjoying all the happiness Pat stole from her. But Katie finds Pat’s life full of unexpected deception and misery, and has her eyes opened to how loved and valued Katie truly “was.”

This is meaty material for Davis, who also produced. She gets to play two separate women, then one’s impersonation or interpretation of the other (twice if you count Pat pretending to be Katie when she meets Bill). Lots of good acting and technical effects reveal the sisters’ characters, show them in the same frame talking, sailing, arguing, etc., and Davis makes it easy to tell the ladies apart, not by using different clothes or hair, but by giving them different speech patterns, movements, insecurities and reactions. Davis speaks volumes with just a sad or venomous glance, about a long history of Katie losing things to her selfish sister, her realization that Bill’s one of those things now, about her low self-worth and habit of surrendering. Katie tries to be more of a fiery, forward, fighting woman, but it takes Katie literally pretending to be her sister, for her to learn all those differences are no shortcomings, but actually wonderful character traits that will, along with honesty, reward her with happiness.

The good supporting cast includes Bruce Bennett as the man breaking up Pat and Bill’s marriage, Charlie Ruggles as the wise and caring guardian who sees through Katie’s excuses and denials, as well as her impostor act (so does Pat’s suspicious dog Mike, in a hilariously suspenseful scene). Walter Brennan does a nice turn as the grouchy lighthouse keeper with a soft center, and Glenn Ford is nice and down-to-earth, but too easily fooled by fancy frosting instead of choosing true love with the plain cake who accepts him just as he is.

This great twin movie is part of the Dual Roles Blogathon hosted by Christina Wehner and Ruth at Silver Screenings. Click HERE to read more posts.

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11 thoughts on “A Stolen Life (1946)”

  1. You’re right: Bette Davis always gives us “big, fabulous acting”.

    I am ashamed and a little sad to say I’ve never seen this one, and I think my movie-watching experience is the poorer for it. However! I know I can stream it somewhere, and I will do it soon.

    Thank you for joining the blogathon, and for bringing the ultra fab Ms Davis with you. 🙂

    1. oh you have to see this! ultra soapy and Davis is great. That scene alone, where the dog eyes her suspiciously, is worth it 🙂 thanks to both of you, and thank you twice for hosting this great blogathon!

    1. lol! no kidding, that was silly for him to say when the twins looked so much alike. Such a fun movie, enjoy it more every time! Cheers

    1. So true, how he had his head so easily turned, I just wanted Katie to forget him! I liked the soft side Dane Clark’s character showed (about Katie) when he thought he was talking to Pat.

  2. Give Glenn a few more years as a leading man and there’s no way he’d have been fooled. Bette must have enjoyed herself here as she would do it all over again in Dead Ringer a few years down the road. Been a long time since I’ve seen this one so I’ll have to remedy that.

    1. Dual/twin roles must be so inviting to actors, it’s easy to to just do good vs. evil extremes, but harder and more interesting to do what Bette did here. Great work in a juicy story!

  3. This sounds sensational! I keep meaning to see it and have not had the chance yet, which I should really change. It sounds like Bette Davis gets to do some really high-powered acting. And I love how the film explores what it’s like really being the person we always envy and how it’s not what we expect.

    Thanks for the great review and for joining us for the blogathon!

    1. Thank you for hosting, always a pleasure to take part. It’s a good movie and fantastic part for Bette, I like that so much of centers on the good twin, it’s not the cliche you’d expect.

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