The original Kit Marlowe was of course the playwright who would have outshone Shakespeare had he lived (being far more daring and audacious). Less well known is Bette Davis' character from the movie Old Acquaintance, a big favorite of mine, based on the play by John Van Druten (he's worked on the script, too), who also wrote Bell, Book and Candle (love that movie, too). Bette Davis stars as Kit Marlowe and Miriam Hopkins as her best pal who envies her success and then emulates it. Of course, Kit Marlowe is the "arty" writer while Miriam Hopkins' Millie Drake is the popular romance writer. Why didn't I choose hers as my rom nom de plume? What can I say? I'm perverse that way.
One of the gratifying things is that the friendship between Kit and Millie outlasts both their rivalry and the man they both love. In fact, you can easily read the film as a coded lesbian narrative, with a lot of elements coming across as far campier to a modern audience than they would have done to most contemporary viewers, I suspect. Just look at the masculine way they dress Davis at the start in contrast to Hopkins' flounces and frills. Davis actually has a tie. She's very guy-ish and at their reunion at the train station gets swept away by a giggling gaggle of co-eds -- her fan club -- leaving the jilted Millie fuming and spilling milk (literally!). Hopkins' character embodies the ideal of the flibbertigibbet, but she's spurred on by a very strong sense of competition with her best friend, yet can never quite settling for winning. She alienates her husband and then her daughter, both of whom turn to the more gentle Kit for comfort. Kit continually forgives Millie's excesses despite the latter's lack of emotional generosity, until one day her patience finally runs out -- and provides one of the most satisfying cinematic moments ever:
The film was remade as Rich and Famous in 1981. It was George Cukor's last film and starred Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen. I also have a fondness for that film, though it's not as good as the earlier one. I do love the way Bergen, upon having her work called "trash" by her increasingly estranged husband, snarls to correct him that it's "successful trash!" Here's to success, however trashy.
See the full list of TOFs over at Todd's blog.