Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Girl With The Bette Davis Eyes-Bette Davis’ Now, Voyager-A Film Review

The Girl With The Bette Davis Eyes-Bette Davis’ Now, Voyager-A Film Review


DVD Review

From The Pen Of Zack James

Now, Voyager, Bette Davis, Claude Rains, Paul Henried, 1942     

Walt Whitman had it right , had the democratic vista thing right as it applied to average men and women and their need to take risks, to become voyagers, to go after what they want out of life, as a lot of us did under the influence of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and our own hubris if it came right down to it. But not everybody had it so easy to find whatever anxious stifled passion make them run and hide in third floor attics. That premise plus the inevitable Hollywood love story plot-line drives the film under review, Bette Davis’ Now, Voyager, about a woman torn between well torn up about lots of things but mainly damn well in need of an escape from what had befallen her as a women struggling against the old-maidhood her mother has plotted out for her.

Dear Charlotte (Davis’ role) had been under the thumb of an old Boston Brahmin matriarch mother who has smothered, or tried to smother, whatever slight sense of independent she might have created for herself in staid Boston, or elsewhere. Obviously in that situation she was headed for an early nervous breakdown, no question since dear mother was relentless in her holding the leash on her daughter very tightly. Had changed a carefree beautiful (Bette Davis beautiful which is something different from say Lauren Bacall beautiful or Lana Turner beautiful for that matter) to an old maid “ugly duckling,” and a house-bound prisoner to boot.

Enter good guy psychiatrist Doctor Jaquith (played by Claude Rains last since walking as the Vichy gendarme arm and arm with Humphrey Bogart toward some fog-bound future on the way to becoming good friends in Casablanca) who has the cure- a simple curse really-get Charlotte the hell out of the Back Bay and into a rest cure at his place. Successes abound but more importantly Charlotte is ready to face the world a bit by going on a cruise by herself. Goes too from an “ugly duckling” to a fetching catch for some man as it turned out by the make-up magic of Hollywood. Meets a man, a real man in the parlance of the times (you can tell that by the number of cigarettes he smokes, come to think of it her too), Jerry (played by Paul Henreid last seen takin off in a plane to lead the resistance to Hitler with Ilsa leaving Claude and Humphrey to work out how they are going to get back in the struggle in Casablanca), who falls in love with her (and she him). But alas he is a married man, with two daughters, one an impressible tween who will figure later in the story.       

To make a long story short their love is ill-fated despite the occasional times they run into each other at various spots later, including at Dr. Jaquith’s since that troubled daughter winds up under his care. So despite a match not made in heaven this pair of star-crossed lovers will share the liberation of that daughter from Jerry’s wife’s evil clutches, that will be their love’s task. And that is not such a bad thing in this wicked old world. Now the Hallmark cable channel has made a whole slew of such melodramas, of what in the old days, the 1940s days when a lot of women were waiting around for the other shoe to drop worrying about their guys in the muds of Europe or the salty atolls of the Pacific, were called “women’s films,” “weepies” but it would take a million such modern takes on the forlorn love plotline to beat this one for the wet handkerchief award.      

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