Saturday, March 13, 2010

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. Share

7 comments:

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

This is one of my favorite Bette Davis movies, along with All About Eve. I love watching the character of Julie grow from the spoiled selfish girl in the beginning to the woman she becomes in the end.

elena maria vidal said...

I really like "Now, Voyager," too.

tubbs said...

does it have a happy ending?...or a positive ending? It's a famous classic, but I've never seen it.

elena maria vidal said...

Positive, I guess, but that's all I'm telling you! ;-)

Julygirl said...

Why does this sound so much like "GWTW"? I read that Bette Davis was one of the actresses considered for the part of Scarlet.

Stephanie A. Mann said...

You're right, Julygirl, this does sound like GWTW! Warner Brothers beat Selznick to the punch with their Southern Belle and it probably cost Bette her chance to play Scarlett O'Hara. Selznick almost accused Warner Brothers of plagiarism!

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks for that info, Stephanie!