Cast & Crew
At the train station in Tarnmoor, England, mystery writer Janet Frobisher calls her lover, Larry Stevens, who is engaged to her secretary, Chris Dale, and begs him to visit later. She is spotted leaving the station by her inquisitive neighbor, veterinarian Dr. Henderson, who questions why she is using a pay phone. He drives her home, where she is shocked to find a stranger in her living room. He introduces himself as George Bates and reveals that he and Janet's long-lost husband, Preston, recently robbed a bank together. After shooting a policeman and planting the gun on George, Preston ran off with all the money, and George now desperately insists on speaking with him. Janet calmly tries to deter George, stating that she has not seen Preston in years, but George points to Preston's hat and slippers, forcing her to admit that she killed Preston hours earlier. Shocked, George checks the lifeless body in the study, while Janet explains the events that led up to his death: She left Preston, an abusive husband, three years earlier and assumed her pen name of Frobisher. Over the years, she pretended her husband was in Malaya but he remained in England, continually blackmailing her. When he showed up that night vowing never to divorce her, she poisoned him with a compound used to treat her beloved horse, Fury. George realizes that the police will assume he has killed Preston and so demands that Janet pretend he is her husband, whom no one in town has met. He kisses her, but she slaps him. Just then, Henderson arrives and, while George hides, asks Janet to return the horse compound. Janet explains that she used it all, arousing Henderson's suspicions, and after he spots Preston's hat on the couch, insists on meeting him. George introduces himself as George Preston and, after Henderson leaves, informs Janet that now she will have to continue the charade. They drag Preston's body to the deep lake outside, but when Larry arrives with Chris, George submerges the body by himself while Janet welcomes her guests, only one of whom she is pleased to see. The next morning, George fends off local Mr. Bigley, who has been sent by Henderson to request that he lecture about his travels at the next town meeting. Meanwhile, Janet and Larry ride horses on the moor, where Larry declares that although he cannot resist his attraction to Janet, he loves only Chris. When Janet returns to the house, George rails at her for leaving him alone and declares that he is staying indefinitely. Janet counters by lying that Preston was merely passed out, not dead, when George drowned him. A distressed George stays in his room until morning, when he runs into housekeeper Mrs. Bunting, who is puzzled that "Mr. Preston" looks so different from the photograph of him she has seen in a drawer. Later, Chris informs George that Janet and Larry are out riding again. Suspicious, George advises Chris to watch her fiancé carefully, then rides onto the moor. Before he can find Janet, however, Henderson drives by and, handing him the London newspaper, announces that a man looking exactly like George is being hunted for robbery. George rebuffs Henderson and returns to the house, but Henderson follows and there declares that, as an "amateur psychologist," he has noted that George seems to be running away from something. Henderson leaves just as Janet and Larry return, and while George harangues Janet about her morning activities upstairs, Chris does likewise to Larry downstairs. George and Janet struggle over her gun, but when he grabs it, she gloats that now it has his fingerprints on it. She offers him Preston's money and passport if he will leave, but after he points out that they are both better off sticking together, she reluctantly agrees. During a rainstorm the next day, an inebriated George raves at Larry that he should marry Chris quickly before he loses her, and warns that Janet is "poison ivy." When Janet enters the room, George announces he is taking Fury for a ride, and a fuming Janet fails to inform him how difficult the high-spirited Fury is to control. Later, Chris appeals to Janet not to steal the only man she loves, but Janet coldly states that she wants him. Chris departs for the train station, after which Janet begs Larry not to leave her alone with George. Just then, George returns with the news that Fury broke his leg and had to be shot, causing Janet to rage that Fury was the only being she loved. Disgusted, Larry rushes after Chris, at the same time that Henderson arrives. The vet informs Janet in private that Fury's leg was not broken, then announces that he is leaving his Jeep outside, as its brakes cannot be trusted in the rain. Inspired, Janet tells George that she wants them to be together, and asks him to bring Chris back so Larry can make up with his fiancée. George kisses Janet passionately and races out into the rain, where the Jeep swerves dangerously on the rain-slicked streets. Meanwhile, Larry returns from the train station, having arrived too late to stop Chris, but announces his intention to win her back. Janet throws him out, laughing bitterly that she has gone to so much trouble for nothing. Soon after, George staggers in, injured but alive, and Janet nurses him. The next day, Henderson prods Mrs. Bunting for inside information about George, and as she reveals that she has a photograph of Preston, George overhears their conversation and confronts Henderson. Henderson then reveals that Janet knew the Jeep's brakes were faulty. After George storms out, Henderson tells Janet that he has spotted a body in the lake and called the police to drag it, then leaves. Desperate, Janet pours the horse compound into George's flask and almost drinks it, but cannot, and instead pleads with George to stay with her. He agrees only to share a drink, but then, sure she will poison it and blame Preston's murder on him, unknowingly drinks from his own poisoned flask. Janet laughs and watches him die. Just then, Henderson bursts in, and Janet announces that George killed Preston, forced her to pretend that he was her husband and then committed suicide. When Henderson reveals that Preston knocked on his door by accident days earlier, however, Janet faints in surprise, and Henderson holds the flask to her lips to revive her. She wakes, and when she sees the flask, her bitter laugh rings through the house.
Daniel M. Angel
Daniel M. Angel
John S. Harris
H. C. Pearson
Another Man's Poison
Davis also got to choose her director, and she selected American Irving Rapper, who had directed one of her biggest hits, Now, Voyager (1942), and whom she liked because she could dominate him. Airily ignoring the script problems with Another Man's Poison, Davis told reporters, "I've always wanted to play in a suspense picture as they're made in England, with that quiet effectiveness which the British singularly seem to possess." Another attraction for Davis was the opportunity to work with actor-writer Emlyn Williams, who had written the autobiographical play on which Davis' film, The Corn Is Green (1945), was based.
Problems began as soon as the Davis-Merrill entourage arrived in England. Davis threw a lavish party for the British press in their stateroom aboard ship, and the next day the tabloids were full of unkind stories about the rich American actress, her hundreds of pieces of luggage, her mink coats, and her husband, "Mr. Davis." The actress was furious, but Merrill shrugged it off, and the couple got to work. In Another Man's Poison, Davis plays a mystery writer who poisons her escaped-convict husband, and enlists his fellow escapee, Merrill, to cover it up. Since Emlyn Williams was a playwright, Davis enlisted him to work with her on fixing the script. By the time they were through, Another Man's Poison may not have had the "quiet effectiveness" Davis admired, but effective it certainly was, with a surprise twist that some critics found exciting; others found it ridiculous. Even critics who scoffed at the absurdities of the script had to marvel at Davis' bravura playing of it. As Frank Hauser wrote in New Statesman and Nation, "No one has ever accused Bette Davis of failing to rise to a good script; what this film shows is how far she can go to meet a bad one."
Although Another Man's Poison was not entirely successful, the English all-expenses-paid honeymoon certainly was. Davis and Merrill were delighted to hobnob with British theatrical royalty: dinner at John Gielgud's house (with Alec Guinness and Ralph Richardson); a Sunday at the restored abbey which was the country home of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh (with fellow guests Noel Coward and Peter Finch). For Davis, the biggest thrill was when Emlyn Williams brought the schoolteacher who had been the inspiration for Miss Moffat in The Corn Is Green onto the set of Another Man's Poison, and introduced her to Davis.
The following year, Merrill starred in Phone Call from a Stranger (1952), and Davis played a small role in the film. In 1959, they co-starred in a touring stage production, The World of Carl Sandburg. By then, the marriage was already rocky, and they divorced the following year. Neither of them ever re-married. Davis died in 1989, Merrill in 1990.
Producer: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Daniel M. Angel
Director: Irving Rapper
Screenplay: Val Guest, based on the play Deadlock, by Leslie Sands
Editor: Gordon Hales
Cinematography: Robert Krasker
Costume Design: Julie Harris
Art Direction: Cedric Dawe
Music: John Greenwood, Paul Sawtell
Principal Cast: Bette Davis (Janet Frobisher), Gary Merrill (George Bates), Emlyn Williams (Dr. Henderson), Anthony Steel (Larry Stevens), Barbara Murray (Chris Dale), Reginald Beckwith (Mr. Bigley), Edna Morris (Mrs. Bunting).
by Margarita Landazuri
Another Man's Poison
You have an unfair advantage. You know the way my brain works.- Janet Frobisher
The dark recesses of the female mind? Hm! I can hardly claim to have penetrated that far.- Dr. Henderson
You asked a pretty question; I've given you the ugly answer.- Janet Frobisher
Out of evil cometh good. That is, occasionally.- Dr. Henderson
I do not like the human race, I do not like its silly face But give me a puppy for a friend And I'll be faithful to the end.- George Bates
The film's onscreen credits list the title of Leslie Sands's play as Deadlock, although it was published as Thérèse Raquin in 1985. The play, based on Émile Zola's novel Thérèse Raquin (Paris, 1868), was performed in England in 1985 as Deadlock. No earlier performances have been found. Another Man's Poison was produced in England and released there in November 1951. According to modern sources, Paul Sawtell's score was added to the American release.
The film was the first that actress Bette Davis made in England. Many modern sources point to Another Man's Poison as the beginning of a slump in Davis' career. In June 1954, Hollywood Reporter reported that the film would be broadcast on television, but its first air date has not been determined. According to a November 30, 1990 Hollywood Reporter item, the picture "was long tied up in litigation"; however, the nature of the dispute has not been determined.