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Bette Davis Films

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Bette Davis Films

Post  Elena on Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:20 pm

Jezebel (1938)

Aunt Belle: Child, you're out of your mind. You know you can't wear red to the Olympus Ball.

Julie: Can't I? I'm goin' to. This is 1852, dumplin,' 1852. Not the Dark Ages. Girls don't have to simp around in white just because they're not married.
~Jezebel (1938)
Jezebel, a tale of Old New Orleans, is a film that becomes richer and deeper with every viewing. Julie (Bette Davis) is not really evil, just headstrong, and determined not to be dominated by either her fiancé, Preston (Henry Fonda) or by Southern convention. Her flouting of tradition is a way of antagonizing her beloved, whom she obviously adores. My sense is that Preston and Julie have such a great yearning for each other, they don't know how to deal with it, except by driving each other crazy. One impulsive gesture leads to another, however, tearing the lovers apart, causing a series of tragic repercussions.

After Julie's banishment from genteel society, the old family butler, Cato, says of her: "Well, I reckon princesses, they just naturally grows up to be queens, that's all." Cato reveals that one person at least understands that underneath Julie's selfish conniving is true nobility of character. During the epidemic, she rises to the occasion, and is willing to face death in order to save her lost love. In the final scene, she sits upright among the yellow fever victims, serene and peaceful, giving her life for Preston, as the nearby bonfire shows how her passion has at last found a means of expression. With a superb screenplay and score, and an array of sparkling crystal and mint juleps, Jezebel waltzes along; it's never a bore.


Last edited by Elena on Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:24 pm; edited 1 time in total

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All This and Heaven, Too (1940)

Post  Elena on Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:23 pm

Most books are better than their film renditions, with a few exceptions. I personally enjoy the movie based upon Rachel Field's All This and Heaven, Too more than I ever liked the original novel. Not that the book is dull; it is based upon a true event. Rachel's great uncle married the infamous Henriette Deluzy-Desportes. Mademoiselle Deluzy was accused of complicity in a murder which rocked France and ignited the Revolution of 1848. After her release from the Conciergerie she fled to America where she married the Protestant minister Mr. Field.

The film, however, brings all the characters and their vying passions to life far better than does the novel. Charles Boyer wavers on the brink of insanity as the honorable but tormented Duc de Choiseul-Praslin. Scion of an ancient but impoverished family, the Duc has married the nouvelle-riche Fanny Sebastiani, daughter of one of Napoleon's generals. Barbara O'Neill, who played Scarlett O'Hara's saintly and refined mother, demonstrates her range as the hysterical, paranoid, oversexed Fanny, dripping with venom and religiosity. She would have stolen the show from any other female actress but Bette Davis. Bette is the restrained Huguenot governess Mademoiselle Deluzy, who brings order and dignity into the chaotic household, winning the hearts of the Duc and his children, thus earning for herself the Fanny's hatred. Davis simmers along as Mademoiselle Deluzy, who must face the stigma of sins she did not commit for, as so often happens, people are more incensed by the platonic friendship between the Duc and the governess than they would have been by a full blown love affair. Perhaps it is because such romantic but chaste relationships are sometimes more intense and longer lasting than sexual flings.

At any rate, Henriette pays a high price for the Duc's admiration and devotion. It is a most bitter tragedy, made all the more so by the reality of the actual story. The family of the Duc de Praslin-Choiseul was destroyed by Fanny's violent murder. Henriette found peace in a faraway land, where she passed on the story which became an American novel and classic film.

Sources: http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2008/06/all-this-and-heaven-too-1940.html

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Now, Voyager (1940)

Post  Elena on Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:43 pm

The untold want by life and land ne'er granted,
Now, voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find.

~"The Untold Want" from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass
It is perhaps one of Bette Davis' best films, one in which she reputedly became quite caught up in the role, playing an active part in the production decisions. Perhaps that is why the sets, costumes, and screenplay, as well as the flawless acting, raise Now, Voyager above the soap operatic level to a serious drama exploring the psychological implications of certain moral decisions. Although Bette could be convincing as a Southern Belle, playing New England spinster Charlotte Vale, a Daughter of the Pilgrims, suited her mannerisms and natural accent impeccably. However, it is Bette's ability to depict Charlotte's transformation from a weepy neurotic into a vibrant and enthusiastic life participant that makes the film so engaging.

Now, Voyager, based on the novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, shows the fascination with psychiatry that would come to consume America, beginning in the 1920's, so that in some circles it became a pseudo-religion. When used in the proper context, as a tool for healing, not as a substitute for Divine grace, psychiatry can certainly help people with emotional and mental problems. Charlotte Vale, the heroine of Now, Voyager, is certainly put back on course by the compassionate Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains), whose firmness, wisdom and tough love counteract the emotional abuse leveled upon her by her mother. The film is, overall, a study in bad parenting and good parenting. Charlotte's healing is completed not by psychotherapy but by nurturing a disturbed child.

That is not to ignore the powerful love story which forms the basis of Now, Voyager. While on a cruise to South America to recuperate from a nervous breakdown, Charlotte meets and falls in love with Jerry (Paul Henreid), an unhappily married man. They decide not to pursue the relationship so as not to break up Jerry's family and traumatize his children. Knowing that Jerry loves her from afar gives Charlotte courage, although the sorrow at not having him in her life intensifies, especially after her mother dies of a heart attack during a quarrel. Overwhelmed by guilt, Charlotte flees to Dr. Jaquith's sanatorium, where instead of having another breakdown, she finds Jerry's young daughter Tina, who is there for treatment. The mothering which Charlotte gives Tina is redemptive for both herself and the girl.

Later, when Charlotte and Jerry are reunited, she insists upon a platonic friendship, for the sake of Tina's fragile psyche. That is when Charlotte says the famous line: "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon... we have the stars." It is fascinating that in a film which was actually quite worldly for its time, and did not purport to be religious, the needs of children are placed before adult passions. The adults find fulfillment not in seeking their own happiness, but in doing what is right for the youngsters, in spite of the personal sacrifice required. How different from the contemporary pursuit of pleasure in which our society drowns.
Sources: http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2008/11/now-voyager-1942.html

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Juarez (1939)

Post  Elena on Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:48 pm

The 1939 film Juarez depicts the debacle of the French attempt to establish hegemony in Mexico under the auspices of Maximilian von Habsburg. The unlikely combination of characters involved in the fiasco shows that once again truth is stranger than fiction. Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, styling himself as Emperor of the French, was the master manipulator of the affair which sent the Austrian Archduke Maximilian to his doom. Maximilian's consort was the intelligent and mercurial Charlotte (Carlota) of Belgium, a granddaughter of Louis-Philippe, the Citizen-King. Although Juarez is a simplification of an extremely complicated series of events, it brings to life the historical reality of such fascinating personalities coming together.

I personally think that the film was misnamed; it should have been called Carlota, since Bette Davis turned her supporting role as the Empress of Mexico into the heart and soul of the drama. In typical Bette fashion, she upstages everyone else, including the great Paul Muni as Benito Juarez. Brian Aherne is perfection as the noble, charming and romantic Maximilian, the most hapless of Habsburgs, and one of the most liberal, too. The film does not show his marital infidelities, but it does play up the irony that Maximilian's reforms were similar to those proposed by Juarez. This did not endear the Emperor to the wealthy landowners and he lost their support. The real struggles of Maximilian and Carlota with their childlessness is poignantly portrayed, as is their genuine horror when they realize that they have been duped by Napoleon III. Maximilian perceives that the imperial Mexico of his dreams is nothing but a cruel charade, and that the original plebiscite that brought him there had been rigged. Nevertheless, he and Carlota have fallen in love with their new country and have come to identify so deeply with Mexico's agonies that there is no turning back.

The gradual disintegration of Carlota's sanity is perhaps one of Bette's greatest achievements as an actress. Carlota's breakdown at the Tuileries is a heartrending scene, with Bette authentically capturing the mannerisms of a person descending into mental illness. In actuality, Carlota's complete psychological collapse occurred not at the Tuileries but in Rome, where Pope Pius IX sighed: “Nothing is spared me in this life, now a woman has to go mad in the Vatican." The Empress never saw her husband again; he was shot by order of Juarez, while Carlota spent the next sixty years secluded in a Belgian castle. As for Mexico, in years to come the Church would be persecuted there; many of the faithful would be martyred.

The scene of the most stunning beauty is one earlier in Juarez where Carlota in black is praying at the foot of the statue of Our Lady. The prostrate Empress begs to have a child, and for the success of the Mexican enterprise, surrounded by the votive candles, with darkness hovering beyond the small sphere of light. Her faith in the face of insurmountable difficulties is all the more radiant if the viewer knows that her prayers will not be answered according to her heart's desires. Her posture of supplication communicates a total oblation of self to the will of God. Once again it is demonstrated that sometimes God chooses not to save a people or a nation through political means. Rather, He intends to sanctify in the crucible of sacrifice.

Sources: http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2008/11/juarez-1939.html

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Re: Bette Davis Films

Post  princess garnet on Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:41 pm

I enjoyed the movie "Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" (1939). It's not shown often on TV. Bette Davis gives quite a performance as Queen Elizabeth I.

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Re: Bette Davis Films

Post  Elena on Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:55 pm

Yes, she does. I love that film, too.

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Re: Bette Davis Films

Post  May on Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:54 pm

Here is the scene from Juarez where Carlota prays for a child:



Although not true to history, it is so beautiful. flower
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Re: Bette Davis Films

Post  Elena on Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:06 pm

Oh, thank you, M.! I LOVE that scene! Very Happy sunny You are amazing how you find things on the internet!!

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