In This Our Life
Damon Young is an assistant professor of French and film & media at UC Berkeley.
Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Ernest Anderson, Charles Coburn,
In In This Our Life, Bette Davis delivers what James Baldwin refers to as a “ruthlessly accurate” portrayal of a spoiled, amoral Southern girl. Thoroughly convinced of the protection that her wealth, color, and sex afford her, she callously blames her black chauffeur for a fatal hit-and-run accident for which she herself was responsible, going so far as to try to solicit the young man to plead guilty. Baldwin regards the scene as an example of “the white descent from dignity” with which blacks in the US are often confronted: it “would seem to indicate that white people have no principles whatever.”