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That Certain Woman (1937)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 18 September 1937 (USA)
Mary Donnell, a young legal secretary with a past, elopes with a client's son, but his father has the marriage annulled without knowing she's pregnant.


Edmund Goulding


Edmund Goulding


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Bette Davis ... Mary Donnell
Henry Fonda ... Jack Merrick
Anita Louise ... Flip
Ian Hunter ... Lloyd Rogers
Donald Crisp ... Merrick, Sr.
Hugh O'Connell ... Virgil Whitaker
Katharine Alexander ... Mrs. Rogers (as Katherine Alexander)
Mary Philips ... Amy (as Mary Phillips)
Minor Watson ... Tilden
Sidney Toler ... Detective Neely
Charles Trowbridge ... Dr. James
Norman Willis ... Fred
Herbert Rawlinson ... Dr. Hartman
Tim Henning Tim Henning ... Kenyon
Dwane Day Dwane Day ... Jackie


Mary Donnell was married at sixteen to a gangster and soon widowed. She works for unhappily married lawyer Lloyd Rogers. A client's son Jack elopes with her, but his father tracks them down and has the marriage annulled. Mary has a son. Unaware of this, the father remarries; his new wife is crippled in an auto accident. The lawyer, now dying, tells Mary he has left her money for her and her son, Roger's widow suspects her husband may have been the father, while Mary is convinced instead that it was her annulled ex-husband, Jack. Jack's ruthless father , upon learning he may be grandparent of the child, threatens legal action to gain custody, but his son wants no part in separating little Jackie from his mother. Further, he reasserts his love for Mary and promises he will ask his now handicapped wife, Flip, for a divorce so that Jackie will have a real family. He instructs Mary to pack her belongings and get Jackie ready to leave so that the three can start a new life ... Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Love Broke Her Heart !


Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

18 September 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Aquella mujer See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The first film pairing of Bette Davis and Henry Fonda. The second being Jezebel (1938). See more »


The screen shows a newspaper page with headlines, photographs, and a box in large type, all part of a full-page gangster story. However, only some of the text that can be seen around the edges is part of the story. The rest is "dummy" type, about clothes for college men or electrical equipment. See more »


Lloyd Rogers: You know, this existence we lead is a dismal affair without a personal and sympathetic interest, isn't it?
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening credits roll up. See more »


Remake of The Trespasser (1929) See more »


'Cause My Baby Says It's So
(1937) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Warren
Played during the scene at the bar
See more »

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User Reviews

A Gangster's Widow
2 December 2017 | by lugonianSee all my reviews

THAT CERTAIN WOMAN (Warner Brothers, 1937), Written and Directed by Edmund Goulding, stars the youthful blonde Bette Davis in a melodramatic remake to Edmund Goulding's own directed edition to THE TRESPASSER (United Artists, 1929) starring Gloria Swanson and Robert Ames. With a few alterations about the character, now a gangster's widow, and the name change from Marion to Mary (plus opening and closing changes from the original), much of the plot remains the same. Though Davis would NOT be awarded an Academy Award nomination as did Swanson for her performance, it did pave the way for others, and better melodramatic productions for Davis' resume during her acclaimed peak years (1937-1946).

Mary Donnell (Bette Davis) is a gangster's widow who comes to the cemetery to visit the tomb of her deceased husband, Al Haines (1899- 1929), who was gunned down at the 1929 Valentine's Day massacre. Accompanied by her best friend, Amy (Mary Phillips), Mary is photographed by Virgil Whittaker (Hugh O'Connell), a reporter out to get a good story on her four years after the incident. Mary works for a law firm of Rogers, Alden and French, with Lloyd Rogers (Ian Hunter), as her employer. Although a married man, he secretly loves Mary, unaware that she's in a relationship with his good friend and millionaire playboy, Jack Merrick (Henry Fonda), whom she has known for three years, now back from Europe. After their wedding, Jack and Mary honeymoon at the Lake Hotel, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Jack's father (Donald Crisp) and a couple of detectives (Sidney Toler and Tim Henning) who have traced them there. As much as Merrick disapproves of the marriage and the girl's notorious background (like getting married at 16), Mary sees Jack doesn't have enough fight in him to stand up to his father, causing her to walk out on him and have Merrick annul their marriage. During the course of four years, Mary has become a mother to Jack's son (Dwane Day), while Jack has married his childhood sweetheart and debutante, Flip Carson (Anita Louise), whose honeymoon is met with a serious automobile accident that permanently cripples his young wife. As Amy becomes a full-time babysitter to little Jackie, Mary resumes her job working for Mr. Rogers. News spread about Mary's reputation when the seriously ill Rogers comes to and dies in Mary's apartment with his wife (Katharine Alexander) at present. Rogers' last will and testimony leaves Mary and her son $50,000, causing the media to question about Jackie, the "mystery" child. The mystery is cleared upon Jack's return to be told by Mary that the 4-year-old boy happens to be his son. Problems arise when Merrick Sr. returns to the scene to have Mary's son taken away for her being an unfit mother. Others featured in the cast are: Minor Watson (Clark Tilden); Ben Weldon (Harry Aqueilli); Norman Willis (Fred); Frank Faylen and Willard Parker (Newspaper Reporters), among others.

Very leisurely paced during its 94 minutes, THAT CERTAIN WOMAN would be the start of what could be categorized as formula Bette Davis material. Under Goulding's direction, Davis is honored with enough close-ups to indicate the movie very much belongs to her. Even with these close-ups, Davis shows how beautiful she can actually be, ranging from short hair-cut bob to long hair shoulder spread. Davis works very well with Henry Fonda (who was better cast here than Robert Ames was in THE TRESPASSER), and would work with Fonda once more the classic Civil War era story, JEZEBEL (1938), the film that would win Davis her second Academy Award as Best Actress. With Anita Louise's character discussed much in the story, and her name listed third in the casting credits, her character of Flip appears 72 minutes into the story, with no more than ten minutes on screen. She, too, gives a sympathetic performance as the crippled girl, while Donald Crisp gives a forceful performance as Fonda's strict father. The lighter moments belong to Hugh O'Connell as the photographer close friend of Mary who helps her through the rough spots. In spite of its slow-pacing that could bore first-time viewers, THAT CERTAIN WOMAN did have plenty of reruns through much of the 1970s and early 1980s on broadcast television late shows to become familiar Bette Davis material.

Formerly distributed to video cassette, THAT CERTAIN WOMAN, which commonly plays on Turner Classic Movies along with similar Davis movie titles as FRONT PAGE WOMAN (1935) and MARKED WOMAN (1937), would be more of interest to fans to that certain woman herself, Bette Davis (or Henry Fonda perhaps) more than the Edmund Goulding directorial effort itself. (**1/2)

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