Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Now, Voyager (1942)

This time, we’re here for that classic 1942 Bette Davis and Paul Henreid film Now, Voyager, also co-starring Claude Rains.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bad Luck Blackie (1949)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 7 minutes, 8 seconds)

A little kitten is being chased by a dog, when he runs into a black cat that volunteers to help. Yet, it’s the old “you get bad luck when a black cat crosses your path” schtick. A lot of fun watching everything that keeps falling on the dog whenever the cat crosses his path. I will admit, there is one quick moment with a rather problematic Asian stereotype, but it’s so short, it can be easy to miss it if you’re not looking. This cartoon is just good, plain crazy fun, and I guarantee I laughed a lot throughout!

And Now For The Main Feature…

After years of living with her very domineering mother (as played by Gladys Cooper), Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Her sister-in-law, Lisa Vale (Ilka Chase), sees this, and brings psychiatrist Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains) to see her. After meeting her, Dr. Jaquith recommends Charlotte come to his sanitarium. She recovers, but still feels unable to return home to her mother. Lisa recommends she try going on a cruise. While on the cruise, she meets Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid), who ends up spending some time with her. They both learn about each other’s backgrounds, as she tells him about her family struggles and he tells her about his wife and children (and she learns from mutual friends about his marriage being unhappy). After the cruise is over, they go their separate ways. Upon returning home, Charlotte’s family is surprised to see her doing so much better. Her mother tries to resume running her life, but, especially with the arrival of some flowers (most likely from Jerry), Charlotte is able to defy her mother and come to an uneasy truce. Charlotte soon becomes engaged to the wealthy Eliot Livingston (John Loder), an idea her mother approves of. However, Charlotte runs into Jerry at a party, and, although he leaves shortly after, she realizes that she cannot go through with her engagement, and breaks it off with Eliot. This results in an argument with her mother that is stopped when her mother has a fatal heart attack. Charlotte feels guilty, and makes the decision to return to Dr. Jaquith’s sanitarium. There, she runs into Jerry’s daughter, Tina (Janis Wilson), and she forgets her own problems as she attempts to help Tina.

Now, Voyager was based on the third novel of a five-part series written by Olive Higgins Prouty. When Warner Brothers bought the film rights for the novel, Prouty had a number of suggestions for how she wanted the movie to be filmed, but they were ignored. The film did stick close to the novel, although changes were made, particularly in setting, partly because European locales were unavailable due to the war. While not necessarily the first choice for the role, Bette Davis actively campaigned to get it. Once she got the role, she got her choice of co-stars and director. While her pick for director, Irving Rapper, got the credit, it’s been said that she picked him because she thought he would let her have her way with the movie, and it has been said that she did essentially direct it herself. Whatever the case, audiences of the time responded well, making it her biggest box office hit of the decade, and resulting in another nomination for Best Actress for her.

Up until about a year ago, I could only claim to have heard of the film’s title, but couldn’t really tell you anything more about this movie. Honestly, at that point, if you had told me it starred Bette Davis, I would have lost interest quickly, as, outside of a few comedies and one drama I had seen with her in them (none of which I have reviewed yet, save for her cameo appearance in Thank Your Lucky Stars), I had zero interest in her as an actress. That changed last fall when Jezebel was released on Blu-ray and I tried it to support Warner Archive restoring and releasing more thirties films on Blu-ray. As you can tell from that review, I responded positively to that film, and the announcement of The Letter and this film shortly thereafter were certainly enough to make me excited! Admittedly, in the time since, the pandemic hit, and my enthusiasm for dramas (what little I did have) has gone away, as I have drifted more towards “comfort cinema” (which for me is classic musicals and comedies). Still, I had gotten a copy of this before the pandemic hit, and since it was in my pile of movies to watch, I gave it a try.

And all I have to say is “Wow! What a movie!” Bette Davis’s performance is definitely worth it! Watching her go from the emotional abuse her mother was inflicting upon her, to being emotionally healed and able to fight back against it, is indeed a journey worth seeing! And while I’ve seen Gladys Cooper give good performances as characters both good and somewhat despicable, she really sells me here on being a mother that we as an audience want to hate. And of course we have Claude Rains as Dr. Jaquith, who wants to see Charlotte get better (and isn’t scared of her mother’s opinion). This is an absolutely wonderful movie, with not a sour note in sight as far as I can see, so I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending this great film!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Now, Voyager (1942)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection boasting a new 4K restoration. All I have to say is that I have no complaints here! The movie looks fantastic, and this is certainly the best way to see it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 58 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942) – Bette Davis – Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)

Paul Henreid – Deep In My Heart (1954)

Phantom Of The Opera (1943) – Claude Rains – Notorious (1946)

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