I decided after I watched All About Eve (195o) and found it to be exceptional that I’d watch more Bette Davis movies. I know that’s wrong-headed. It’s really Joseph Mankiewicz movies that I should be tracking down. They’re a little harder to come by, so I’ll leave that for later. Now it’s Bette Davis. Though, now I come to think of it, it’s really Anne Baxter that I liked in that movie and Davis just iced the cake with her comic timing. What am I doing with my life?
Charlotte Vale (Davis) is having some trouble at home. Her mom’s (Gladys Cooper) a total bitch who has been screwing with her head her whole life by controlling her every action (when Charlotte doesn’t lock herself in her room). Even making her wear glasses when she doesn’t need them. Charlotte’s sister (Ilka Chase) asked her friend/psychologist Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains) to give Charlotte the once-over. He realizes pretty quickly that she needs some help and after some time at a sanatorium, she tweaks her brows into something resembling human, loses the sensible footwear, and skanks it up on a cruise. She meets Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid) on the cruise, spend five days in Rio, and she’s just about cured. Then she’s got to hang on.
The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,
Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.
Now, Voyager (1942), directed by Irving Rapper, is a strong tale wrapped in a solid film of the period. It doesn’t really go any further than that, though. By insisting on pumping the premise rather than drawing it out in proportion to the rest of the story gives us the sense of a rush. There’s a feeling that we’re always waiting for the story fall into its stride. It’s an epic in two hours.
Davis puts in a predictably strong performance. Nothing much to say about that. Henreid is also a fine actor, but nothing exceptional. I really liked Claude Rains in this movie. I’ve liked him in basically everything before I misidentified him as the loony in Strangers on a Train (1951) and therefore thought worse of him. I’ll have to alter my brain accordingly.
This is the movie, if I’m not mistaken, where the man lights two cigarettes at the same time and gives one to his woman companion. It’s a funny thing because it makes smoking a ceremony and draws attention to the act of smoking. Smoking is weird. Let’s light a stick and put it in our mouths and blow out the smoke. It’s strange to watch people do it without any frustration or menace. If aliens came down and saw us, they’d be utterly perplexed.
Interestingly, Max Steiner won the Oscar for the music in this film. It’s interesting because I feel as though it was heavily misapplied in the final twenty minutes of the movie. Much too much maudlin for the scenario. I believe it is also heavily indebted to La Traviata (1853) (as is the signature camellia corsage in the film), which is both praise and censure. I’d call it leitmotif it wasn’t in every scene. It sounds lovely, anyway, if not always appropriate. Like Adagio for Strings.
As I suggested, this is a typical classic. It’s not something I couldn’t have lived without seeing, but I’m glad that I have. It fails to live up to the grandiose that the final line (above) would suggest, but it is worth renting. For completeness of literacy.