Popular and beautiful Fanny Trellis is forced into a loveless marriage with an older man, Jewish banker Job Skeffington, in order to save her beloved brother Trippy from an embezzlement charge and predictable complications result.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Bette Davis is a legend. I'd always heard that growing up, but felt some disconnect from it . When I became aware of her it was late in her career after she had developed into a boozy, smoke belching, caricature of her on screen persona's. So, if the "Bette Davis/Legend" concept rings a little hollow with you as it did me, watch this film. I just saw "Jezebel" for the first time on DVD. Wow! I haven't seen a lot of movies from the 1930's but I'm pretty sure that no one else was doing then what Bette Davis was doing. It is an acting style, and skill level, that isn't seen often.
She is brilliant throughout but one scene in particular made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It happens in the scene where Henry Fonda escorts Jezebel home after the ball and breaks off their engagement. When he tells her, "goodbye" and not "goodnight", a look of puzzlement and humiliation comes over her face. She starts to turn away to leave, but decides instead to extend her hand in Southern feminine cordiality to wish him well. As she does this something inside her wells up. Her expression changes, and as they say, if looks could kill... With the speed of a cobra, and unable to restrain herself, she slaps him in the face. Unlike a cobra however, which recoils after it strikes, she lurches slightly closer and you think she might just rip his throat out. William Wyler lets the camera linger on her and it's a powerful, and slightly disturbing, moment. I don't think anyone else could have pulled it off like Davis did.
The film is great although the depictions of slavery as a genteel Southern quirk are more than a little cringe worthy. To see this movie though is to understand how Bette Davis became a legend. And to see this movie is to see one of the most powerful screen performances ever. Who knew... After all 1938 was a long time ago and I've been busy with other stuff.
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