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Girl from 10th Avenue, The

The Girl from 10th Avenue (1935)

The poster for this romantic drama from Warner Bros. is surprising in many ways. As a vehicle for Bette Davis, it’s appropriate for her to be front and centre in the design, but the way in which she’s depicted is a little offbeat. The early to mid-Thirties was a period when Davis was still a long way from being the forceful actress we all know today. A lot of her early roles were in movies such as this one, but this was the first time she was pictured as the type of hard-boiled, predatory character more suited to, say, Jean Harlow.

The image is also at odds with the character she plays, a shopgirl who marries a man on the rebound from a failed relationship. The challenging stare, the casual draping of the arm over the back of the chair, the cigarette caught between two fingers, the red gloves and hat (hints towards her being a “scarlet woman”), and the shapely legs so prominently displayed – all these point to a character who knows what she wants and how to get it. It’s an almost defiant image, daring the viewer to have an opinion about the character before seeing the movie.

The background is surprising as well, its heavy combination of black and brown almost swallowing the chair and Davis within it, only the well-chosen colours of Davis’s outfit keeping her from disappearing altogether. But then there’s the choice of yellow for the title, a bright distraction from the rest of the image, and making for a strangely effective contrast with the grey used for Davis’s name. With the other credits in orange on the opposite side, the overwhelming dourness of the design is undercut a little further, but all eyes will still be on the image of Davis, staring out at you with all the intensity of a woman from 10th Avenue, and not the girl she’s meant to portray.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to let me know.