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Jezebel (1938)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  26 March 1938 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 8,294 users  
Reviews: 82 user | 38 critic

A haughty headstrong Southern Belle in Antebellum Louisiana loses her fiance due to her stubborn vanity and pride and vows to get him back.



(screen play), (screen play), 4 more credits »
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Won 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
George Brent ...
Dr. Livingstone
Fay Bainter ...
Aunt Belle
Richard Cromwell ...
Henry O'Neill ...
General Bogardus
Mrs. Kendrick
Jean La Cour
Gordon Oliver ...
Dick Allen
Janet Shaw ...
Molly Allen
Theresa Harris ...
Margaret Early ...
Stephanie Kendrick


Set in antebellum New Orleans during the early 1850's, this film follows Julie Marsden through her quest for social redemption on her own terms. Julie is a beautiful and free spirited, rapacious Southern belle who is sure of herself and controlling of her fiancé Preston Dillard, a successful young banker. Julie's sensitive but domineering personality--she does not want so much to hurt as to assert her independence--forces a wedge between Preston and herself. To win him back, she plays North against South amid a deadly epidemic of yellow fever which claims a surprising victim. Written by Adam Brodsky <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The South's Greatest Romance See more »


Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

26 March 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Jezabel  »

Box Office


$1,250,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(TCM print)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Hal B. Wallis and Warner Bros. considered replacing William Wyler with William Dieterle. When Bette Davis found out about this, she went to see Warner to convince him to keep Wyler on for the good of her performance. When he countered that it wouldn't do any good if the film was too expensive to break even, she offered to work until midnight every night and still show up ready to shoot at nine the next morning if he would just keep Wyler on, which he did. See more »


When the sheriff shoots the "yellow jack" runaway at Halcyon Plantation, he uses a lever-action repeating rifle. This type of weapon was first patented in 1860; the action takes place in 1853. See more »


Julie: Amy, of course, it's your right to go; you're his wife. But are you fit to go? Loving him isn't enough. If you gave him all your strength, would it be enough?
Amy Bradford Dillard: I'll make him live, or die with him.
Julie: Amy... Amy, do you know the Creole word for fever powder? For food and water? How to talk to a sullen, overworked black boy and make him fear you and help you? Pres's life and yours will hang on things just like that, and you'll both surely die.
Amy Bradford Dillard: Then it will have to be that way.
Julie: It's not a question of ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

The credits are blurred across the screen See more »


Music by Max Steiner
Played during Olympus Ball scene and often in the score
Danced by Henry Fonda with Bette Davis and other couples
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Gone with the Jezebel
7 January 2005 | by (Milwaukee, WI) – See all my reviews

It is 1850's New Orleans, and Julie Marsten (Davis), a head-strong young woman who doesn't find it the least improper to be late for her own engagement party because she feels like riding her horse instead, is getting married to Preston Dillard (Fonda). Unfortunately, Preston isn't at the party because he is hammering out business at his family's bank; when they are married, he and Julie will be moving north, an almost sacrilegious action during this time. Buck Cantrell (George Brent) is Julie's former beau, who remains a family friend and still defends Julie's honor. One day, when Preston doesn't drop everything to attend a dress fitting for Julie that he had originally promised to attend, she defiantly insists that she purchase a red dress, breaking the white dress only tradition for the ball they were attending. Despite the protestations of everyone she knows, including Preston, she wears the dress to the ball, causing her to be ostracized and the official break up of her engagement to Preston when he realizes that he cannot deal with her headstrong attitude. He leaves for the north without her, and comes back a year later with a surprise, and sees that Yellow Fever has gripped New Orleans, a peril that threatens everyone.

"Jezebel" is a tale of defiance, love and redemption. Davis plays her role so well that it is hard to determine whether you want to support her or marginalize her as a spoiled brat. I think that even when the film was made, (1938) the lines were still blurred as to how many freedoms and how much free-thinking should be afforded to women. It is easy for me to say that Julie's red dress was much ado about nothing, but then again, this is the millennium, when nothing is overtly shocking anymore. The mere fact that I thought so much about a classic film (which generally has throwaway plots) is a true testament to Davis' performance and the writing, under William Wyler's direction. "Jezebel" is essentially "Gone with the Wind" without the budget or the color, and was made the year before that film was released. Most of the characters are fairly throwaway, but the subject is Julie, and her development is amazing and very believable, despite the melodramatic genre. This is a film that most classic film lovers have seen, I'm sure (I am apparently a late bloomer in regard to this film) but if you are one and you haven't seen it, or are a Bette Davis fan, see this movie. Most of her late 30's to 1950 films are so spectacular just because of her performance (if the rest is good, it's gravy), and this is one of her best known performances. 7/10 --Shelly

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