DIRECTOR: Roy Ward Baker | WRITER: Jimmy Sangster | CAST: Bette Davis, Sheila Hancock, Jack Hedley, James Cossins, Christian Roberts, Elaine Taylor | UK
Bette Davis camps it up in this stage-bound adaptation of Bill MacIlwraith’s West End play The Anniversary, an Ortonesque black comedy sans Orton’s ferocity and wit. As the one-eyed, dragon lady widowed matriarch of the Taggart construction company, Bette Davis completely dominates her three sons who’ve arrived at her house to celebrate what would have been her 40th wedding anniversary. Davis flatters, cajoles, hurls contempt by turns, and she proves again that no one is her match for an acid insult issued with a fake smile; she’s hilarious. The supporting cast is very much in her shadow, however, and the movie felt almost like a movie star doing a star turn with a provincial stage repertory company. Without Bette Davis in the lead role there really wouldn’t be much reason to watch The Anniversary, but she is in top form.