Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Now, Voyager

I must admit.... I am not a big Bette Davis fan. I never have been. I don't dispute her acting skills or her longevity. I even admire her tenacity dealing with Warner over pitiful roles. I do feel like Bette was a bit full of herself (but I guess most "stars" are.) Bette was amazing in Of Human Bondage and I find her younger work preferable to her later films however I have never found her all that engaging. I can take her or leave her. All this to say, I was a little nervous when I put in Now, Voyager last night.

It had been a long day, (the heat and humidity in West Texas has been frustrating and insane!) and by the time I got home, I just wanted to curl up (with an enormous fan blowing frigid air) and rest. I glanced at my netflix movies , closed my eyes and picked one at random. I was actually a little let down when I opened it and saw that it was Bette Davis movie. I decided to just watch it and get it over with... I had heard that it was one of the best romantic classic movies, but I had my doubts. Bette... romantic?

I will say that it took me about 10 or 15 minutes to really latch onto the story in the beginning. Maybe it was my personal hesitation about allowing myself to enjoy a Bette film, or if it was because the wonderful camera work was distracting me momentarily. Bette is actually introduced through close ups of her awful shoes and her putting out a cigarette and hiding the evidence. You even watch her feet as they come down the stairs, you see their hesitation as she over hears her mother call her an ugly duckling.

Bette's character Charlotte or (Camille as she is sometimes called) goes through three possibly four stages through the course of the movie. The first one is her slightly crazy ugly duckling phase. Her overbearing, control freak mother has controlled every aspect of her life from her clothes, to her weight. She is on the verge of a nervous break down... and kinda has one while a psychiatrist (the always collected Claude Rains) is there. He sees the problem immediately and takes Bette to his "facility" to recover.

The Second stage occurs after Bette emerges from the (rehab?) The doctor and her sister in law send her on a cruise to give her time to acclimate to her new slightly confident state of mind before she goes home to the dreaded Mother. (Bette has some GORGEOUS shoes on when we first see her on board. Mirrors the ugly shoe close up at the beginning of the film symbolizing a change in the character.) On the boat, she meets a very handsome, surprisingly normal, Paul Henreid. The hang-up to their sea romance? Paul is married...GASP. He doesn't keep this a secret, they both fall in love understanding that this movie is post-code and their love can never last in a permanent way. Bette isn't fully confident in her new life style. She keeps second guessing herself, but Paul proves to her how worthy she is of love and adoration. The two go there separate ways agreeing to never see each other again. (Get your tissues!)

Paul has helped Bette get to stage three... She is know Confident, self empowered and comfortable in her own skin. (A lot happens during this part of the movie... but I won't give it all away!) Mother proves to still be her intimidating self, but Bette now know to "stick to her guns but not fire them". They work out a relationship that suits them both. (SPOILER ALERT. Stop reading if you want to keep the rest of the movie a mystery... skip to the last paragraph!)Bette is now popular with her family and friends; there seems to be no remains of the mousy ugly duckling from stage one. Until mother dies suddenly after a quarrel between her and Bette.

Bette retreats into her stage one self and runs back to Claude Rains at his facility. She isn't there five minutes when she sees a twelve year old girl sitting alone at a table that looks much like Bette did at the beginning of the movie. You can guess what happens next. Bette takes the girl under her wing. Its heart breaking when the girl (Tina) is crying during the middle of the night because nobody wants her or loves her. I think every girl has dealt with that at some point in their lives. Whether it be after a fight with the parents or that first boy who breaks your heart, every girl has felt like poor Tina. Bette holds her and comforts her. I can almost consider this a fourth stage. Bette has overcome her own problems to the point where she can help this little girl. She is maternal and nurturing in a way that tugs at the heart strings.
I know I just wrote a pretty lengthy synopsis, but I won't reveal anything else... just in case you want to make some discoveries of your own.

So... has this wonderful movie turned me into a Bette Davis fan? No. But I do recommend this movie to classic film buffs. It is a wonderfully crafted story. They cram quite a bit into the movie, but I don't think it hinders the overall effect. The camera direction is very well done, and the movie never feels cheesy or half baked. I will say that my admiration for Paul Henreid has grown since watching this film. I always adored him in Casablanca, but I fell head over heels for him in Voyager. Thanks for hanging with me through this long long post! Let me know your thoughts on Now, Voyager or if you have any other Henreid film suggestions!!!


  1. I LOVE Bette Davis, but this is not one of her favourite movies.

    There is also pleasure in watching a makeover movie (LOL at the doctor smashing her glasses. No real woman wears glasses obviously)but I think I might be missing the point, but to me the message just seemed to be 'if you're ugly and fat you can never be happy!'

    Also, her hairstyle annoyed me.

  2. That's funny... I didn't get that at all. I think they used physical appearance to display the internal problems. That idea: If your happy it shows in your appearance.... if you are miserable, the same applies" (Emo kids dress that way for a!)

    In Charlotte's case, her mom even went so far as to dictate her dress and her weight. Charlotte didn't even own her own body anymore. For little Tina, she felt like nobody loved her... so why should she love herself enough to care about what she looked like.

    It doesn't surprise me the Bette didn't like this movie... just for the simple fact that I did! LOL... I don't think me and Bette would have been friends...