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TCM Greatest Classic Legends Collection: Bette Davis [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Special Features

  • Closed Captioned

Synopsis

Jezebel
In 1938, Jezebel was widely regarded as Warner Bros.' "compensation" to Bette Davis for her losing the opportunity to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. Resemblances between the two properties are inescapable: Jezebel heroine Julie Marsden (Davis) is a headstrong Southern belle not unlike Scarlett (Julie lives in New Orleans rather than Georgia); she loves fiancé Preston Dillard (played by Henry Fonda) but loses him when she makes a public spectacle of herself (to provoke envy in him) by wearing an inappropriate red dress at a ball, just as Scarlett O'Hara brazenly danced with Rhett Butler while still garbed in widow's weeds. There are several other similarities between the works, but it is important to note that Jezebel is set in the 1850s, several years before Gone With the Wind's Civil War milieu; and we must observe that, unlike Scarlett O'Hara, Julie Marsden is humbled by her experiences and ends up giving of her time, energy, and health during a deadly yellow jack outbreak. Bette Davis won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Julie; an additional Oscar went to Fay Bainter for her portrayal of the remonstrative Aunt Belle (she's the one who labels Julie a "jezebel" at a crucial plot point). The offscreen intrigues of Jezebel, including Bette Davis' romantic attachment to director William Wyler and co-star George Brent, have been fully documented elsewhere. Jezebel was based on an old and oft-produced play by Owen Davis Sr. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Now, Voyager
Olive Higgins Prouty's popular novel was transformed into nearly two hours of high-grade soap opera by several masters of the trade: Warner Bros., Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, director Irving Rapper, and screenwriter Casey Robinson. Davis plays repressed Charlotte Vale, dying on the vine thanks to her domineering mother (Gladys Cooper). All-knowing psychiatrist Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains) urges Charlotte to make several radical changes in her life, quoting Walt Whitman: "Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find." Slowly, Charlotte emerges from her cocoon of tight hairdos and severe clothing to blossom into a gorgeous fashion plate. While on a long ocean voyage, she falls in love with Jerry Durrance (Henreid), who is trapped in a loveless marriage. After kicking over the last of her traces at home, Charlotte selflessly becomes a surrogate mother to Jerry's emotionally disturbed daughter (a curiously uncredited Janis Wilson), who is on the verge of becoming the hysterical wallflower that Charlotte once was. An interim romance with another man (John Loder) fails to drive Jerry from Charlotte's mind. The film ends ambiguously; Jerry is still married, without much chance of being divorced from his troublesome wife, but the newly self-confident Charlotte is willing to wait forever if need be. "Don't ask for the moon," murmurs Charlotte as Max Steiner's romantic music reaches a crescendo, "we have the stars." In addition to this famous line, Now, Voyager also features the legendary "two cigarettes" bit, in which Jerry places two symbolic cigarettes between his lips, lights them both, and hands one to Charlotte. The routine would be endlessly lampooned in subsequent films, once by Henreid himself in the satirical sword-and-sandal epic Siren of Baghdad (1953). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra
Dark Victory
Bette Davis earned an Oscar nomination for her role in this classic four-hanky tearjerker. Judith Traherne (Bette Davis) is a very wealthy Long Island heiress whose life is a constant whirl of cocktails, parties, and wild living. Despite her hedonistic lifestyle, Judith derives little pleasure from life except for her horses, cared for by stable master Michael O'Leary (Humphrey Bogart). When Judith begins suffering from headaches and dizzy spells, Dr. Frederick Steele (George Brent) gives her the bad news: she has a brain tumor that could threaten her life if not treated immediately. Judith consents to surgery, and Frederick informs her that the operation was a success. A grateful Judith quickly falls in love with Frederick, and they plan to marry. However, the tumor returns, and when Judith discovers that she has only a few months to live, she calls off the wedding, convinced that Frederick is marrying her only as an act of pity for a dying woman. A major success and perennial favorite, Dark Victory was later remade as Stolen Hours with Susan Hayward and as a TV movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Old Acquaintance
After the box office success of The Old Maid, Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins were reunited for this catty drama. Kitty Marlowe (Davis) is a well-respected author who returns to the small town of her birth, where she becomes reacquainted with her childhood friend Millie Drake (Hopkins). While Millie is happy as a wife and mother and loves her husband Preston (John Loder), she's envious of Kitty's success, and Kitty's visit prompts Millie to sit down at the typewriter herself. Millie turns out a sexy potboiler that, with Kitty's help, attracts the attention of a publisher. To the surprise of them both, Millie's book is a runaway bestseller, and a decade later she's one of the most successful authors in America, easily eclipsing Kitty's more highbrow work. Preston finds himself growing disenchanted with Millie once success begins to go to her head, and he finds himself attracted to Kitty; while Kitty tries to dissuade Preston's advances, a scorned Millie believes that her old friend has been trying to steal her husband away from her. Old Acquaintance was remade in 1981 as Rich and Famous. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Jezebel: Legend of the South
Fin N' Catty
The Mice Will Play
Stars on Horseback
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