Mr. Skeffington

Mr. Skeffington is a 1944 American drama film directed by Vincent Sherman, based on the 1940 novel of the same name by Elizabeth von Arnim.

Mr. Skeffington
Mr. Skeffington.jpg
Original poster
Directed byVincent Sherman
Written byJulius J. Epstein
Philip G. Epstein
Based onMr. Skeffington
1940 novel
by ”Elizabeth”
Produced byJulius J. Epstein
Philip G. Epstein
Jack L. Warner
StarringBette Davis
Claude Rains
CinematographyErnest Haller
Edited byRalph Dawson
Music byFranz Waxman
Paul Dessau
Distributed byWarner Brothers
Release date
  • May 25, 1944 (1944-05-25)
Running time
145 min.
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,871,000 ($56 million in 2019 dollars)[1]

The film stars Bette Davis as a beautiful but self-centered woman who has many suitors but marries Job Skeffington, played by Claude Rains, solely to save her brother from going to prison. It also makes a point about Skeffington's status as a Jew in 1914 high society and later in relation to Nazi Germany. Supporting actors include Walter Abel, George Coulouris and Richard Waring.


In 1914, spoiled Fanny Trellis is a renowned beauty with many suitors. She loves her brother Trippy and would do anything to help him. Fanny learns that Trippy has embezzled money from his employer Job Skeffington. To save her brother from prosecution, Fanny pursues and marries the lovestruck Skeffington. Disgusted by the arrangement, in part because of his prejudice against Skeffington being Jewish, Trippy leaves home to fight in the Lafayette Escadrille in World War I.

Job loves Fanny, but she is merely fond of him and largely ignores him. She becomes pregnant with his child, but when Trippy dies in France, she states she is "stuck" with Job, and the marriage then becomes wholly loveless, continuing only for the child's sake. Job and George Trellis, Fanny's cousin, also enlist but are stationed near home.

Fanny enjoys playing the wealthy socialite, stringing along a persistent quartet of suitors who are unfazed by her marriage as well as much younger lovers. Lonely, Job finds solace with his secretaries. When Fanny finds out, she divorces him, conveniently ignoring her own behavior.

Fanny neglects her young daughter (also named Fanny), who understandably prefers her loving father and begs him to take her with him to Europe. Although Job fears for his child and tries unsuccessfully to explain to her the nature of prejudice she will encounter as a Jew abroad, he finally, tearfully and joyfully, says yes. Fanny is relieved to be free of the encumbrance of a child. Fanny has a series of affairs, living well on the extremely generous settlement Job has left her - half his fortune - and hardly giving a thought to her daughter, whom she does not see for many years.

She retains her beauty as she grows older (much to the envy of her women acquaintances), but when she catches diphtheria, it ravages her appearance. In denial, she invites her old lovers (and their wives) to a party. The men are shocked (and the women relieved) by how much Fanny has changed, leaving her distraught. Her latest young suitor, Johnny Mitchell, falls in love with her daughter, who has returned from Europe because of the rise of the Nazis. They marry after only a few months and leave for Seattle. Fanny's daughter explains that, while she wishes her mother well, she feels no real love for her, and pities her for discarding the one man who truly loves her. Shortly before her daughter's departure, Fanny suffers the ultimate humiliation when one of her old beaus makes what she at first believes to be a sincere marriage proposal, only to withdraw it when he begins to suspect, incorrectly, that she is no longer wealthy. Fanny is left alone with her maid, Manby.

Fanny's cousin George brings Job back to Fanny's home unannounced. The Nazis have left Job penniless and worse, George tells Fanny, and he calls on her to be generous. Fanny's vanity nearly prevents her from venturing down her home's grand staircase to see Job.

When she does finally enter the parlor, Job moves to her, stumbles and falls: He is blind. Fanny rushes to cradle him in her arms. As she takes his arm and guides him up the staircase, she tells the maid that "Mr. Skeffington has come home." Job had once, long ago, told Fanny that, "A woman is beautiful only when she is loved." George tells Fanny that, at that moment, "she has never been more beautiful". At long last, she realizes the truth of it.



Paul Henreid says he was offered the male lead but turned it down as he felt he would not be convincing as a man who looked on passively while his wife had affairs.[3]

According to the 1989 book Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine, Davis was going through intense personal torments at this time, which was reflected in her treatment of co-stars on this film, and several others at the time, culminating in a vicious personal attack: Apparently, while Davis was away from her dressing room, the eyewash she always used after filming the day's scenes had been poisoned, causing Davis to scream out in pain. Director Vincent Sherman, with whom Davis had once been romantically involved, admitted to the detectives investigating the incident, "If you asked everyone on the set who would have committed such a thing, everyone would raise their hand!" Even Bette Davis is quoted as saying "Only a mother could have loved me at this point in my life."

Box officeEdit

According to the Warner Bros. records, the film earned $2,456,000 domestically and $1,365,000 foreign.[1]


Bette Davis was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress, and Claude Rains was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.


  1. ^ a b c Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 24 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  2. ^ "Actor Kills Self in Marital Split". Syracuse Post-Standard. January 20, 1951.
  3. ^ Henreid, Paul; Fast, Julius (1984). Ladies man : an autobiography. St. Martin's Press. p. 166.

External linksEdit