Bette Davis plays a self-involved southern belle whose neurotic attempts to mold her fiance (Henry Fonda) to her own designs eventually bring about her tragic downfall. Co-stars George Brent and Fay Bainter. Year: 1938 Dir... more »ector: William Wyler Starring: Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, George Brent« less
Michael J. Mazza | Pittsburgh, PA USA | 07/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Jezebel," directed by William Wyler, opens in New Orleans in 1852. The film tells the story of Miss Julie, a strong-willed Southern belle played with passion and flair by the great Bette Davis. Miss Julie's tempestuous relationship with a handsome gentleman (played by Henry Fonda) is played out in the shadow of both social controversies and a yellow fever epidemic."Jezebel" is a superbly produced period piece. The opulent sets and costumes, along with the romantic musical score, contribute well to the overall feel of the film. The black-and-white cinematography is breathtaking; Davis looks positively luminous in many scenes.The excellent Davis gets solid support from the rest of the excellent cast. But make no mistake: this is Davis' picture, and she commands the screen from her first scene. Her Miss Julie is a flawed but fascinating woman.This is a thought-provoking film on many levels. The portrayal of Southern culture as strange and alien to Northerners, the fetishization of Southern womanhood (a "frail, delicate chalice," as one male character puts it), the references to the abolitionist controversy, and the depiction of the relationships between black servants and white masters are all fascinating elements in the film, and richly ironic. "Jezebel" is one Hollywood classic that remains compelling and, I believe, open to new critical interpretations."
A Restored Masterpiece - Jezebel, A Joy to Behold.
Stargazer | St.Kilda, Victoria Australia | 12/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Probably (excluding All About Eve) the finest pictures Bette Davis made were under the direction of the great William Wyler. And Davis never looked better than in this film. Despite sterling performances from Henry Fonda and George Brent, Fay Bainter and Spring Byington, Henry O'Neil and Donald Crisp, Jezebel is really Davis' movie as the camera caresses her in close ups time and again, and she rewards it's attention with an A - class performance. Davis also made The Letter and The Little Foxes under Wyler's direction, she loved working with him, his attention to detail, her preparedness to redo scenes over and again until the Master was satisfied (Wyler was known to demand take after take - in some cases, 50 or 60 times - until he got what he was looking for) and of course, the finished product. Jezebel was made in 1938 as Warner Bros wanted to cash in on the success of the book form of Gone With The Wind, a best seller - and another story of the fall of the South and a headstrong woman whose stubborness costs her the man she loves - and get Jezebel out in the theatres before GTW which was in pre-production, when Jezebel was being shot. Jezebel is actually set before the Civil War (unlike GTW) in the early 1850's when the South was a thriving place, and men held great store in their honour,and women well versed in meeting the strictly defined code of dress and behaviour that was so fundamental to life in the Olde South. For reasons known only to herself, Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) decides to ignore such boundaries and when fiance Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda)arrives to take her to the ball, he finds, to his horror that she has chosen to wear a red gown instead of the white one society expects her as a single woman to wear. She is humiliated by the reaction of her contemporaries at the ball - especially when Pres refuses to allow her to slink away. And when the dance has been completed he takes her home and politely wishes her "Goodbye" not "Good Night", thus breaking their engagement. This may sound crass in the 2000's, but in 1852's New Orleans Julie's scant regard for the manners of the day and her insensitivity to the feelings of others forced Preston to realise a life to her would be one long never ending battleground. This is the first copy of Jezebel I have owned - because of the poor quality of the film in the past, I decided against buying one. But the restoration has been superb and has allowed those of us not old enough to appreciate it's original mint condition on it's cinematic release back in '38 to see this masterpiece the way it was intended. Bette Davis won an Academy Award for best actress and Fay Bainter won for Best Supporting Actress. Both awards were well earned. The direction and photography, are wonderful, and despite Warners making Jezebel in black and white, it looks fantastic and gives the viewer a real sense of the magesty and beauty that was the pre-Civil War south.
A landmark Warner's production
Douglas M | 07/12/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Jezebel" was an extrememly important production in 1938 for Warner Brothers. The studio was renowned for its earthy urban stories "torn from the headlines". At the same time, during the mid thirties, it developed a series of mainly second rate "weepies" for Kay Francis, a limited but attractive star who became type cast playing suffering heroines.
With the advent of Bette Davis as a new type of actress, a personality who really wanted to "act", the studio, once they acknowledged both how ambitious and dedicated Davis was, developed her Box Office potential through a series of first rate roles in essentially second rate films such as "Bordertown", "Dangerous" and "Marked Woman". By 1938, they pulled out all stops for Davis with "Jezebel" and so elevated their own status as a studio capable of superb first rate productions, targeted at the female audience. Now they could rank with MGM as a purveyor of quality products in all departments.
To demonstrate their commitment, they imported William Wyler from Goldwyn Studios to direct Davis and assigned a large budget. The film is set in the deep south, complete with magnolias, slaves etc and dripping accents by all. Davis plays the willful Julie Marsden who defies southern conventions and manners and in doing so loses the love of her life, played by Henry Fonda. He marries another and she schemes to get him back, but in doing so causes the death of George Brent in a duel. Davis, however, redeems herself by the end of the film as she learns self sacrifice. The plot probably does not warrant the superb treatment Wyler gives it. The quality of the production elevates the drama immeasurably.
The film was a precursor of "Gone with the Wind" and Davis won her second Oscar for this performance. William Wyler was the director who honed her talent, slowing her down and introducing a subtlety to her work largely missing before. She always acknowledged his contribution to her career with this performance. She also fell in love with him and regretted for the rest of her life that they did not marry. In this film, she really is beautiful and she says that was because she was deeply in love.
The film is perfectly made with Wyler's careful attention to detail. The production ran significantly over budget but Davis intervened to ensure that Wyler was not replaced and could finish it. While Davis dominates, she is superbly supported by Fay Bainter as her shocked aunt. Bainter won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. The men are of less interest. Henry Fonda looks uncomfortable in the period costumes but gives a strong performance. George Brent is not dynamic enough as Buck Cantrell, a part to which Errol Flynn would have been better suited.
The DVD quality is first rate as expected and contains the usual high standard Warner's extras. Janine Basinger's commentary is good except when she explains the motivation of the characters in minute detail, often stating the obvious.
The DVD is available on its own or as part of the great value Bette Davis Collection No 2."
Sometimes, Men Aren't Interested in a Woman in Red
Linda McDonnell | Brooklyn, U.S.A | 09/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, that's the lesson poor Julie (Bette Davis) has to learn in this antebellum South soaper. Because she is too impetuous for her own good, she decides to toy with fiance Pres (Henry Fonda) by wearing a vampish red dress to New Orleans' Olympus Ball, where unmarried gals such as herself are supposed to wear white. But her ploy backfires when she becomes uneasy at the dance; however, his own strong temper makes him make her waltz with him, even though all the other dancers desert the floor. Then, he dumps her, sick of her game-playing. A year passes, and the duly abashed Julie gets news that Pres is finally back in town from his business concerns up North. Now she gladly will wear that white dress, but hey, who's this little miss he's brung from New York? Could it be...? Yep, you guessed it. Before we're done, there will be yellowjack epidemics, runnings through swamps, shocking duels, and a host of hoop skirts. Well known for being Bette's consolation prize after losing out in the Scarlett stakes, "Jezebel" is a pretty good movie in its own right. Fay Bainter plays her exasperated aunt, trying to talk sense to her headstrong niece; Donald Crisp is the doctor whose warnings of an impending yellowjack epidemic prove true; George Brent is surprisingly good as a Southerner gent who fights more than one duel over Bette, whom he's sweet on. This is an especially interesting performance, because in movies like "42 Street", you can hear Brent's own native Irish brogue just in check, so his lazy drawl is pretty good here. The cast is a rather large one, as Bette is forever giving or attending a soiree, and for that reason Henry Fonda gets a little short shrift--his character needs to be more defined than what we see here; he's good, but a little too sketchy for such an integral character. Margaret Lindsay plays his Northern wife Amy; a thankless sort of role, though she is pretty, but obviously toned down some so as not to compete with Bette in her own movie. The treatment of slavery is interesting in the movie in the respects where it differs from the more famous, "Gone with the Wind". Julie is a more liberal mistress than Scarlett, promising that darned red dress to her body slave and permitting a male slave to continue to eat his dinner while she questions him about how he made his way to the plantation through the swamps. Dinner guests talk quite freely about their hatred for abolitionists, which is not really depicted in GWTW. In GWTW, Ashley, for instance, makes a statement about how he was going to free his father's slaves once they became his own. That's the furthest thing from anyone's mind in "Jezebel"--no one's trying to sound whitewashed here. In general, the slave population seem more intelligent here than in the other movie, where only Hattie McDaniel is permitted that luxury. Two different studios, two different takes on the matter.While nowhere near the budget of "Gone with the Wind", "Jezebel" still manages to create its own mood of a vanished civilization, a world where gentlewomen are sometimes hussies who are nonetheless treasured by some menfolk (though not all) who will fight a duel over them as easily as they'd sip a julep. Davis did manage to win her second Oscar for this movie; I'm not quite sure what the competition was. Arrange your own hoops around you, and settle down for an intriguing trip down south with "Jezebel"."
Bette Davis's Oscar winning performance now on DVD!!
forrie | Nashua, NH United States | 11/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1938 Bette Davis was a beautiful captivating actress who auditioned and lost for "Gone With the Wind" like every other female star did, with one difference, she starred in "Jezebel" winning an Oscar for Best Actress the year before."Jezebel" like Scarlet manipulated men with her destructive flirtatous desires. The setting was 1852 New Orleans pre-Civil War but abolotionists were abundant & the southern & northern relations were already politically strained. Davis's is outstanding in her role and quite beautiful. Henry Fonda & George Brent are her victims & pawns in her game chess. This movie even today remains as a classic Golden Hollywood film.Standard Format this Black & White film is a great Warner Brothers picture. Only extra feature is a theatrical trailer. This is a great addition to your DVD library. Enjoy."