At first the new French teacher isn’t sure she ought to tell the girls at Miss Haines’s School her story, but then she resolves that they will soon be “old enough to love and suffer.” (The line reminded me of something one of my teachers used to say in response to a surprisingly broad range of questions: “You’ll find that out when you’re married, girls.”) For the next enthralling 141 minutes, as Mademoiselle’s dangerous Parisian past unreeled, I tried to keep some unnerving questions at bay: How could I have missed this one? Had I confused it with something else all these years because of that title that has nothing to do with anything? Had I foolishly allowed my deep ambivalence about Charles Boyer—cured several years ago by a screening of Ophuls’s Madame de at Lincoln Center—to stand in the way of one of cinema’s great pleasures? What were the odds that I had never walked in on the middle or caught the last few minutes? Was I simply repressing? A friend—she has earned her absolute authority in these matters by having watched Now, Voyager more times than I have—insisted that I put it at the top of my Netflix queue. Dutifully, I obeyed. As millions watched the Academy Awards last night, I watched All This, and Heaven Too (1940, dir. Anatole Litvak). The Casey Robinson screenplay—derived from Rachel Field’s novel, itself loosely based on a nineteenth-century Parisian scandal involving a loyal governess (Bette Davis), a long suffering and momentarily lunatic Duke (Boyer), and a neurotic and mighty jealous Duchess (Barbara O’Neil)—combines more stolen plots per square inch than just about any movie I’ve ever seen. I caught whiffs of Jane Eyre, Villette, half a dozen gothic novels, and a few of Freud’s case histories. It also might as well be Rebecca, which was published at the same time as Field’s novel. MGM would have sucked the life out of this one: costumed to the gills, the movie would have collapsed under the weight of its own prestige. But Warner Brothers exploited the lurid, the suggestive, the incongruous. I can think of few films that illustrate more completely the improbable alchemy of Hollywood's Golden Age. There’s something in it for everyone: mysterious Corsicans, history so muddled that 1848 occasionally seems to turn into 1789, bit players who appear to have wandered in from the gangster picture shooting on the neighboring soundstage. In what other universe would the French Charles Boyer, playing the French Duc de Praslin, be coached to pronounce the “t” in “valet”? Hokum, absolutely, and of the most exquisite kind.