Deception (1946 film)

Deception is a 1946 film noir movie released by Warner Brothers and directed by Irving Rapper. The film is based on the play Monsieur Lamberthier by Louis Verneuil. The screenplay was written by John Collier and Joseph Than. It stars Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains, who had also appeared together in the highly successful Now, Voyager (1942).[3]

Theatrical release poster
Directed byIrving Rapper
Produced byHenry Blanke
Screenplay byJohn Collier
Joseph Than
Based onMonsieur Lamberthier
1927 play
by Louis Verneuil
StarringBette Davis
Paul Henreid
Claude Rains
Music byErich Wolfgang Korngold
CinematographyErnest Haller
Edited byAlan Crosland Jr.
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • October 18, 1946 (1946-10-18) (United States)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.3 million (US rentals)[2] or $2,262,000[1]


Christine Radcliffe is seen running in the rain up the stairs of a large symphony hall in which a concert is already underway with a performance of the Haydn cello concerto in D. Her eyes fill with tears as she recognizes the cellist on stage: Karel Novak who spent the war trapped in neutral Sweden. After his performance, Novak is mobbed by well-wishers, and a student reporter questions him about his favorite composers. Novak lists some famous ones, then adds, "And, of course, Hollenius."

Novak returns to his dressing room and as the concert is heard resuming after intermission with the Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony" Christine enters and their eyes meet in his mirror. The couple embraces while Christine cries, "I thought you were dead. I saw them kill you."

Karel and Christine return to her apartment. Karel becomes suspicious of the rare artwork on display and the fur coat hanging in the closet. Christine has told Karel that she is living a precarious existence as a pianist but this conflicts with the evidence in the apartment. He confronts her, but frightens himself with his own vehemence and apologises to her, then says he's leaving. She stops him with the confession she lowered herself to taking "rich, untalented pupils" who gifted her with the suspicious items.

They marry, but the composer Alexander Hollenius makes a dramatic entrance at their wedding reception. It is evident he is jealous, and the stress leads him to break a wine glass without deliberate intent. Hollenius soon gives Novak a manuscript score of his new cello concerto, which Novak agrees to perform at its premiere. It becomes apparent to Christine that a cellist in the orchestra, Bertram Gribble, is being tutored in the solo part by Hollenius. Suspecting the sabotage of her husband's career, she unsuccessfully attempts to bribe Gribble into not co-operating.

Friction develops between Novak and Hollenius, and the composer angrily breaks off a dress rehearsal on the grounds of Novak's temperamental behavior. On the evening of the premiere, Christine visits Hollenius, who threatens to tell Novak of their love affair. Distraught, Christine shoots him dead.

Another conductor, Neilsen, takes the place of the absent Hollenius, and the performance is a great success. While well-wishers wait, Christine confesses everything to her husband, and they leave the concert hall together. As they walk out a lady says "Oh Christine you must be the happiest woman in the world" which eventually elicits a wan smile from Christine.



The film was based on a play Monsieur Lamberthier by Louis Verneuil, which was first performed in Paris in 1927. It opened on Broadway as Jealousy on October 22, 1928 at Maxine Elliott's Theatre, as a two-hander (a play with only two main characters), with Fay Bainter and John Halliday. It was turned into a film, also titled Jealousy (1929), with Jeanne Eagels and Fredric March, and directed by Jean de Limur. The play was presented again on Broadway on October 1, 1946 under the title Obsession at the Plymouth Theatre, with Eugenie Leontovich and Basil Rathbone. Warner Bros. originally purchased the play as a vehicle for Barbara Stanwyck and Paul Henreid. [4][5]

According to TCM, Davis wanted Deception to be a two-character film, like the play. [6] In the play, the character played by Rains is a voice on the phone.[7] The 1929 film is set in Paris, and the characters are the owner of a dress shop, the young artist she marries, and the elderly boulevardier who bought the dress shop for her. The young man confesses, and the play ends with the expectation that he will get off easily.[8] Glenn Erickson observes: “ In the original play the Karel Novak character is the one moved to violence at the conclusion, so Deception may be a case of a play distorted by the needs of the Hollywood Star Vehicle. Also gumming up the works is the Production Code, which wasn't about to accept a woman finding happiness after admitting to years of unmarried sex.”[9]

The working title of the film was “Her Conscience,” but Davis objected. The title “Jealousy” was not available.[10]

Davis’s solo piano performance of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 23, Opus 57 in F Minor (Appassionata). According to Alicia Malone’s introduction on Turner Classic Movies, stories persist that pianist Shura Cherkassky’s hands are seen on-screen, but the fact is that Davis rehearsed so thoroughly that she was able to synchronize with the recorded playback perfectly on the first take. Indeed, Malone adds, Davis wanted to become proficient enough to play live for the camera, but director Irving Rapper told her that it was not worth the effort, because no one would believe it.

Henreid's cello playing was dubbed by Eleanor Aller, who was pregnant with her son Frederick Zlotkin,] who is now a noted cellist. Her father, Gregory Aller, coached Henreid in plausible bow movements.[11] For some scenes, Henreid’s arms were tied behind him, and two cellists put their arms through the sleeves of a specially designed coat.[12]

Hollenius' Cello Concerto was written by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who composed the music for this film. Korngold subsequently expanded this material and published it as his own cello concerto. Near the beginning off the film, an eager student Jerry Spencer ( Richard Erdman) asks Karel “Which of the living composers should I admire?” Karel demurs, but when asked who he likes best, he replies: “Stravinsky when I think of the present, Richard Strauss when I think of the past, and of course, Hollenius, who combines thr rhythm of today with the melody of yesterday.” The last is an apt description of and probable tribute to Korngold.

Bette Davis found out that she was pregnant during filming.[5]


Critical response

Despite the earlier success of Davis, Henreid, Rains and director Rapper, and generally positive reviews, Deception proved to be an expensive exercise for its producers. With high production costs and modest cinema patronage, it became the first Bette Davis film to lose money for Warner Bros.[13]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz generally liked the film, writing, "Irving Rapper (Shining Victory/Now, Voyager/Rhapsody in Blue) helms this labored romantic melodrama, a remake of the early talkie 1929 Jealousy that was also based on a Louis Verneuil play. It's written by John Collier and Joseph Than ... With classical music filling the background, cheesy soap opera dialogue in the forefront, histrionics taking over the concert hall, none of the characters being likable and Bette Davis as hammy as ever, this preposterous opera-like tale is amazingly enjoyable as straight theatrical drama that is nevertheless campy and could easily have been treated as comedy."[14]

Glenn Erickson notes that “The real fun is watching Claude Rains sink his teeth into a worthy role... Rains is always great when playing intense, articulate men imposing their will on others and his Hollenius is quite a creation. The haughty composer pauses more than once to tell Christine outright where she's going wrong, explaining to her how she makes it easy for him to control her. Rains' character is by far the most interesting, so it's no surprise that fans credit him with running away with the picture.”[9]

Box office

According to Warner Bros. records, the film earned $2,132,000 domestically and $1,130,000 in foreign markets.[1]


The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:



  1. 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 27 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  2. "60 Top Grossers of 1946", Variety 8 January 1947 p8
  3. Deception on IMDb.
  4. "AFI|Catalog Deception (1946)". Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  5. "Deception (1946) - Notes -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  6. "Deception (1946) - Notes -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  7. "Deception (1946) - Notes -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  8. "AFI|Catalog Jealousy (1929)". Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  9. "Deception (1946) - Articles -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  10. "AFI|Catalog". Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  11. "Deception (1946) - Trivia -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  12. "Deception (1946) - Notes -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  13. Spada, James (1993). More Than a Woman. Little, Brown and Company. p. 241. ISBN 978-0-316-90880-1.
  14. Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, August 4, 2010. Accessed: July 11, 2013.
  15. "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.

Additional references

  • Martin, Mick and Porter, Marsha DVD & Video Guide 2006
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