Jezebel (1938) Poster

(1938)

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8/10
Golden Gem From Hollywood's Golden Past!
jpdoherty2 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
JEZEBEL (1938) is one of the great and enduring Warner Bros. Bette Davis classics, and alongside "The Old Maid" - made the following year - is my own favourite Davis movie. From a flopped play by Owen Davis Snr. It was produced for the studio by Henry Blanke and beautifully written for the screen by Clements Ripley, Abem Finkel and - feeling his way along in the business - a young John Huston. Genius cinematographer Ernest Haller was behind the camera bringing the vivid Art Direction of Robert Hass to life and the masterful direction was in the safe hands of William Wyler.

A splendid sense of time and place is immediately established at the very beginning with the 1852 setting in antebellum Louisanna. Bette Davis is Julie Marsden the high spirited southern socialite who toys playfully with the feelings of her male suitors especially her young banker fiancé Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda). But he tires of her controlling personality and her irritating misdeeds such as storming into his bank demanding to see him on a trivial matter as he attends an important board meeting and then her insistence on wearing a RED dress to the Olympus Ball much to the chagrin of those who adhere to the strict tradition to only wear white ("You can't wear red to the Olympus Ball"! asserts an astonished Pres)). But wear it she does in defiance! However the Ball is a sensational sequence as Julie and Pres become a spectacle when all in attendance stand around and stare in disbelief as they waltz alone in the middle of the floor. Later during their uneven relationship Pres has to go North on business. He returns after about a year but he is not alone. He is now accompanied by a new woman in his life....... his wife. Counting the days for Pres's return Julie is in utter shock when he introduces Amy (Margret Lindsay) to her as his wife.("You're funnin'!" A horrified Julie exclaims - "Hardly!" responds a sheepish Pres). The picture climaxes with the dreaded Yellow Jack fever breaking out across the South and Pres being struck down with the deadly disease. In a brilliant confrontation with Amy Julie manages to convince her that it must be her, and not his wife, who should accompany Pres to the fever death camp. The picture ends in an extraordinary and harrowing final scene as Julie comforts the dying Pres on one of the many wagons in the caravan heading out of the city to the fever camp.

The acting throughout is superb from all concerned topped with a blistering Acadamy Award winning performance from Davis (she was assigned the role so as to allay any disappointment she might harbour with Warners for not loaning her out to play Scarlet O'Hara - a part she dearly wanted to play). Excellent too is the young Henry Fonda, Fay Bainter in her best supporting Award winning role as the gentle and anxious Aunt Belle and George Brent is impressive (as always) as the ill-fated rival Buck Cantrell. The movie's atmosphere is quite stunning with the stark black & white cinematography, the vibrant looking sets and the supreme nominated score by Max Steiner. The composer's main theme is beautifully arranged as a beguiling waltz for the infamous ballroom scene. And in the final sequence his prowess as film's great dramatist is powerfully demonstrated in the chilling dirge-like march he wrote (complete with spirited female chorus) for the fever wagons, with their cargo of dead and dying, as they struggle through the streets of New Orleans on their way to their grisly destination. JEZEBEL was one of 18 scores the great composer wrote for Bette Davis' films which included "The Old Maid"(1939), "Dark Victory" (1939), "The Letter"(1940) and most memorably "Now Voyager" (1942) which brought the composer the second of his three Acadamy Awards. The great actress once remarked of the composer "At Warner Bros. Max knew more about drama than any of us".

Max Steiner's music, William Wyler's adroit direction, Ernest Haller's stunning cinematography and of course Bette Davis's riveting performance all jell to make JEZEBEL one of Hollywood's outstanding and unforgettable motion pictures of all time.
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10/10
Bette Davis-Legend
hughman5511 February 2010
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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One Of Bette Davis's Most Memorable Performances - & Fonda Is Pretty Good Too
Snow Leopard3 March 2005
Bette Davis gives one of her most memorable performances in this atmospheric melodrama, and Henry Fonda, her co-star, is pretty good as well. They and the rest of the cast make good use of the opportunities in the story, which centers around Davis's turbulent character. William Wyler pieces it all together effectively with good story-telling.

The character of the headstrong Julie (Davis) could easily become a cliché, but Davis gives her depth and presence, while also effectively portraying her spirited nature. She's unpredictable, yet her nature remains consistent. She leaves you guessing as to exactly what she is up to and what her motivations are, especially towards the climactic scenes.

Henry Fonda should not be overlooked. He does not get as many chances for dramatics, but his role is important in providing a complement for Davis. The supporting cast, which includes George Brent, Spring Byington, and Donald Crisp, also helps out.

The atmosphere in the Deep South also works well, and it used effectively in the story. The climactic sequence ties the setting and characters together well, and it leaves a memorable impression when it is over.
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10/10
A triumphant performance by Bette Davis
FlickJunkie-213 May 2001
After winning the Oscar for best actress in 1936 for `Dangerous', Bette Davis began to complain that Warner Brothers was not giving her scripts that were worthy of her talent. In 1936, Warner suspended her without pay for turning down a role. She then went to England, in violation of her contract, with the intention of starring in a movie without Warner Brothers' approval. The studio stopped her, telling her that if she didn't work for them she wouldn't work anywhere. In defiance, she sued to break her contract. Although she lost the lawsuit, Warner Brothers began to take her more seriously and even paid her legal expenses. The part in `Jezebel' was thought to be an olive leaf offered by the studio to mollify her.

About that time, Davis made it known that she wanted the lead in David O. Selznick's upcoming production of `Gone With the Wind'. She was actually considered for the role, but Warner told Selznick that they wouldn't agree to loan her out unless he also took Errol Flynn for the part of Rhett Butler. Davis refused to work with Flynn and angrily turned down the part, although Selznick did not intend to agree to Flynn regardless. Many believed that Warner Brothers purposely created an impossible deal to punish Davis for the lawsuit while making it appear they were trying to help her. It isn't clear whether `Jezebel' was offered to her before or after the negotiations for GWTW. Clearly, it didn't matter, because Bette Davis went out and gave one of the best performances of her career and won her second Oscar for best actress.

This film is GWTW without Yankees. Instead, the enemy is yellow fever. The story takes place in New Orleans in the 1850's. Although there are references to the abolitionists and the prospect of war, the entire story takes place prewar. This story focuses on the southern lifestyle of the period, and in this way it is very similar to its more famous counterpart. It also follows the life and times of one very spirited woman named Julie Marsden (Bette Davis), who could have been Scarlet O'Hara's soul mate.

Julie shocks New Orleans society when she insolently comes to a ball wearing a red dress when it is the custom for all proper southern girls to wear white. (A production note of interest: The famous `red' dress was actually black satin, which was used because red didn't produce enough contrast in the black and white film, causing it not to stand out enough.) As a result, her beau Preston Dillard (a youthful Henry Fonda) is mortified and he breaks off their engagement. Included in the story are a couple of duels over points of honor, a stark depiction of the yellow fever epidemic, and the noble resurrection of a contrite Julie Marsden upon Preston's return.

As always, director William Wyler (with whom Bette Davis was romantically linked) does a fantastic job at direction, giving the film a genuine southern flavor and period feel. The black and white cinematography in this film is tremendous and procured the film one of its five Oscar nominations.

The acting is superb all around. This is certainly one of Bette Davis' best and most memorable performances and it helped secure her place in movie history as one of Hollywood's greatest stars. Though she never won another Oscar, she went on to be nominated eight more times with five straight nominations between 1939 and 1943. Ironically, in 1940 she lost to Vivien Leigh, who won in the role Davis turned down.

Fay Bainter is marvelous as Aunt Belle Bogardus garnering a best supporting actress Oscar. Henry Fonda shows a hint of his future greatness in a fabulous portrayal of Julie's no-nonsense beau. George Brent (with whom Davis also was rumored to have had an affair) also turns in a strong performance as Buck, the honorable gentleman who duels his best friend to defend Julie's honor.

This is a wonderful film with great acting and directing. Though not the epic that GWTW became, it contains certain elements that Selznick undoubtedly incorporated at Tara, since the similarities between the films are striking at times. I rated this film a 10/10. For anyone interested in seeing why Bette Davis is considered one of the great actresses of the Studio era, this film is a must.
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Warner Bros. to MGM's and #1 picture, Gone with the Wind
After winning the Oscar for best actress in 1936 for "Dangerous", Bette Davis began to complain that Warner Brothers was not giving her scripts that were worthy of her talent. In 1936, Warner suspended her without pay for turning down a role. She then went to England, in violation of her contract, with the intention of starring in a movie without Warner Brothers' approval. The studio stopped her, telling her that if she didn't work for them she wouldn't work anywhere. In defiance, she sued to break her contract. Although she lost the lawsuit, Warner Brothers began to take her more seriously and even paid her legal expenses. The part in "Jezebel" was thought to be an olive leaf offered by the studio to mollify her.

About that time, Davis made it known that she wanted the lead in David O. Selznick's upcoming production of "Gone With the Wind". She was actually considered for the role, but Warner told Selznick that they wouldn't agree to loan her out unless he also took Errol Flynn for the part of Rhett Butler. Davis refused to work with Flynn and angrily turned down the part, although Selznick did not intend to agree to Flynn regardless. Many believed that Warner Brothers purposely created an impossible deal to punish Davis for the lawsuit while making it appear they were trying to help her. It isn't clear whether "Jezebel" was offered to her before or after the negotiations for GWTW. Clearly, it didn't matter, because Bette Davis went out and gave one of the best performances of her career and won her second Oscar for best actress.

This film is GWTW without Yankees. Instead, the enemy is yellow fever. The story takes place in New Orleans in the 1850's. Although there are references to the abolitionists and the prospect of war, the entire story takes place prewar. This story focuses on the southern lifestyle of the period, and in this way it is very similar to its more famous counterpart. It also follows the life and times of one very spirited woman named Julie Marsden (Bette Davis), who could have been Scarlet O'Hara's soul mate.

Julie shocks New Orleans society when she insolently comes to a ball wearing a red dress when it is the custom for all proper southern girls to wear white. (A production note of interest: The famous "red" dress was actually black satin, which was used because red didn't produce enough contrast in the black and white film, causing it not to stand out enough.) As a result, her beau Preston Dillard (a youthful Henry Fonda) is mortified and he breaks off their engagement. Included in the story are a couple of duels over points of honor, a stark depiction of the yellow fever epidemic, and the noble resurrection of a contrite Julie Marsden upon Preston's return.

As always, director William Wyler (with whom Bette Davis was romantically linked) does a fantastic job at direction, giving the film a genuine southern flavor and period feel. The black and white cinematography in this film is tremendous and procured the film one of its five Oscar nominations.

The acting is superb all around. This is certainly one of Bette Davis' best and most memorable performances and it helped secure her place in movie history as one of Hollywood's greatest stars. Though she never won another Oscar, she went on to be nominated eight more times with five straight nominations between 1939 and 1943. Ironically, in 1940 she lost to the beautiful, and exceptional Vivien Leigh, who won in the role Davis turned down.

Fay Bainter is marvelous as Aunt Belle Bogardus garnering a best supporting actress Oscar. Henry Fonda shows a hint of his future greatness in a fabulous portrayal of Julie's no-nonsense beau. George Brent (with whom Davis also was rumored to have had an affair) also turns in a strong performance as Buck, the honorable gentleman who duels his best friend to defend Julie's honor.

This is a wonderful film with great acting and directing. Though not the epic that GWTW became, it contains certain elements that Selznick undoubtedly incorporated at Tara, since the similarities between the films are striking at times. I rated this film a 10/10. For anyone interested in seeing why Bette Davis is considered one of the great actresses of the Studio era, this film is a must.

10/10

1938 138 minutes CC.
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7/10
Gone with the Jezebel
FilmOtaku7 January 2005
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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8/10
"1852, we're in 1852 darling, not the dark ages"
bkoganbing19 February 2007
Jezebel was Bette Davis's consolation prize for losing the Scarlett O'Hara sweepstakes. Considering the sacrifice that the title character makes in this film, it is fitting and proper that Davis got this role because she could have had Scarlett, but she wouldn't make Gone With the Wind if it included Errol Flynn as Rhett Butler.

Julie Marsden is as willful and and spiteful a southern belle as Scarlett O'Hara ever could be. But Scarlett would never deliberately violate the code the way Julie does and wear that red dress to a cotillion. Just simply not done in the best families.

Bette Davis is Julie and while she's going to be married to the very proper Henry Fonda, she likes the idea that she can still turn the head of every young blade in New Orleans. Especially George Brent's head as the dashing Buck Cantrell.

When Fonda doesn't jump at her beck and call he prefers doing business to catering to her whims she decides on a daring move. This is a woman who cannot stand not being the center of attention. She wears a red dress to a cotillion when polite society dictates that all the unmarried young ladies wear white. When she does, New Orleans society shuns her as effectively as the Amish can and Davis retreats to her plantation upriver.

Fonda goes north and returns after a while to New Orleans with Margaret Lindsay who he is now married to. An insult our southern belle won't put up with. Davis sets in motion a string of events that results in a lot of tragedy.

I have to say that just a description of the plot seems a bit ridiculous at times, but Bette Davis does make this whole thing quite believable. She won her second Oscar for Best Actress in this film and as her aunt who occasionally gives her a reality check every now and then Fay Bainter was named Best Supporting Actress of 1938.

Fonda and Brent are fine in their parts, but they are in support of Bette Davis in a Bette Davis film. Another performance I liked is that of Donald Crisp as the doctor who fights a lot of prejudice and ignorance in New Orleans in trying to deal with yellow fever.

Looming over all of the film is the knowledge we have that this society will come crashing down in another eight years or so in events so well told in Gone With the Wind. This film should be seen back to back with Gone With the Wind as a view of southern society.

This was Bette Davis's first film with director William Wyler who she admired above all other directors. Davis was not generous with praise for colleagues so any kind words towards one are really something. Apparently Wyler did have the magic touch in handling Bette.

Jezebel is one of Bette Davis's finest films, maybe not the finest, but definitely right up there. Unlike Davis's first Oscar for Dangerous which she said was a consolation for not winning for Of Human Bondage, this one she was proud of. And we're proud of it too.
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Southern Discomfort
Lechuguilla19 November 2005
The American South has always had an aura of sadness around it. I don't know why exactly. This film tends to reinforce that perception. Characters start off with high hopes for the future, only to succumb to some unfortunate fate, as a direct result of their Southern roots.

In pre-Civil War New Orleans, Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) is a wealthy young woman, engaged to respected banker Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda). But Julie is strong-willed, independent, and impetuous, traits considered unwomanly by that era's Southern aristocracy. Against Preston's wishes, Julie wears a red dress, instead of the customary white, to a gala ball. This event sets up the rest of the story.

While the support cast in "Jezebel" is fine, especially Fay Bainter, the film would not be the same without Bette Davis. I just can't see anyone else in the role of Julie. Davis' performance and the film's setting are what make this film so memorable. The costumes, the production design, the cinematography, and the music combine to convey a genuine sense of the antebellum South, with its stately manners that conceal narrow-mindedness and barbaric "chivalry".

Normally, I don't care for films whose subject matter is long ago history. But "Jezebel" is an exception, because it is so well made. I guess it is the tone of the film that really got my attention. The stately beauty of that time and place masks an underlying sadness, as a prelude to tragedy. Some might call it melodrama. But to me, that's just good drama.
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8/10
Scarlett, As She Would Have Been
nycritic18 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The back-story behind Warner Bros.' JEZEBEL -- itself widely regarded among critics and connoisseurs of the films of Bette Davis (and the late Thirties in general) as that of a consolation film given to Davis when the "hunt" for Scarlett O'Hara was in full swing -- is as long and convoluted as the tangled passions within the story shown on screen. Davis, among a long list of actresses, were hungry to play this plum role even when it was already, contractually, and secretly secured to Vivien Leigh. Davis' position at Warner Bros. makes me wonder if she was somewhat aware of the situation for which she decided to accept to take on the role of Julie Marsden -- itself nearly identical to Scarlett. When seeing snippets of scenes from both this and GONE WITH THE WIND side by side on a split screen, even some trivial scenes (like that of both Scarlett and Julie primping up their faces in front of a mirror) wind up looking cloned. As a matter of fact, much of JEZEBEL looks and feels like dress rehearsal or a matinée showing of the more lavish and grandiose, full-length feature film GONE WITH THE WIND, which has become an intrinsic part of American Film History. Even so, this is not saying JEZEBEL is an inferior film -- it's not, and has some very beautiful moments, especially the dance sequence where Julie and Pres are progressively left alone in the middle of the ballroom, and of course Julie, pleading to Press in her white dress, falling to the floor like a reverse bloom. Bette Davis has some of her better acting here -- no chewing the scenery, but emoting only through minimal expressions and her eyes. She's balanced by Oscar winner Fay Bainter who plays her aunt Belle and matches Davis scene by scene. Despite having the less showy parts, Henry Fonda, George Brent, and Margaret Lindsay (always the second woman in a Warner Bros. drama) have strong screen presences, but most of all the star of this movie is William Wyler, who could always be counted on having Davis give exactly what she was required to do and not sabotage a movie due to her operatic demands and bombastic overacting. Because of Wyler, JEZEBEL is a much better film that it would have eventually been.
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9/10
A first rate Davis/Wyler collaboration from the Golden Era
kirksworks4 December 2008
This was the film about deep Southern attitudes vs Northern attitudes that came out before "Gone With the Wind" and left Davis out of the running for the role of Scarlet O'Hara.  It was the second film she made with director William Wyler and the best of the three.  She also won her second Academy Award for the role.  Davis' character, Julie, is not all that unlike Scarlet.  She is very headstrong and full of bad decisions, but this is what makes the film work so well.  Her character is compelling in that you feel like you are watching a train wreck in action.  It's horrible but you can't look away.  This is the earliest of the films I watched from Davis' Golden Era and she is quite young, very attractive, with an array of beautiful costumes to wear.  Plus the cinematography and sets are thick with atmosphere.

"Jezebel" does have the somewhat same patronizing attitude towards blacks that "Gone With the Wind" had, but at least it wasn't as objectionable as it was in "Little Foxes," Davis' next and final collaboration with Wyler.  Aside from Davis, who really does give a great performance, Henry Fonda is quite memorable.  Yet on top of everything, the ending is so unusual for a film of this period that it just made my jaw drop.  Of all the Bette Davis films I've seen from this period of her career I rate this one the highest.  It's a classic for sure, and is far more than just a Bette Davis film, certainly well worth experiencing. 
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8/10
Excellent Davis
nnnn4508919121 November 2006
Bette Davis dominates the whole movie with a mesmerizing performance,which earned her a second Oscar. As the love of her life we find a young and handsome Henry Fonda.Davis,who sometimes overacted gloriously, is kept more subdued by master director William Wyler. Her performance is the better for it.George Brent,playing the other male lead, has rarely been better.As the southerner unable to change his obsolete ways,he's a marvel.The musical score by Max Steiner is one of his best and adds to the brilliant depiction of a bygone era. Depiction of African-Americans in movies from this era are often very racist, but I found some scenes were they were portrayed more sympathetic than in other movies of the thirties. Jezebel is one of the best movies I have seen with Bette Davis.
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10/10
That red dress..
jotix10014 March 2004
I recently saw this magnificent film after not having seen it in quite a number of years. William Wyler's extraordinary direction makes this movie a classic that will live forever.

Mr. Wyler had at his disposal the best of what his studio could give him. In this film, based on the play by Owen Davis, he was at the top of his form. With the help of the great cinematographer, Ernest Haller and that fabulous costume designer, Orry-Kelly, he gives us a movie that will stand as one of the best of that period melodramas. The great Walter Huston was an assistant director under Wyler.

There are some people who have written comments about Jezebel expressing how much better it could have been, had it been done in color. Personally, I don't think so. Just look at the closing scenes of the picture to witness the master camera work of Mr. Haller showing a close up of Ms Davis. The effect of light and shadow is almost comparable to a painting. Bette Davis reacts to the camera with an economy of gestures, and yet, she speaks volumes of what is going on inside her soul.

Technicolor would have been the ruin of this film. At the beginning of its invention, this new process was too harsh. The film wouldn't have kept the glorious look it still possesses, had it been shot in color. As far as the red dress being more visible, in sharp contrast with the white costumes of the other young women at the ball, the black and white effect is more dramatic.

William Wyler was very lucky with the amazing cast he assembled for the film. Bette Davis and Henry Fonda were at their prime when they appeared in Jezebel. Bette Davis is what holds the film together with her magnetism and star performance. It's almost impossible to think of another actress of that period giving as good a performance, as Ms. Davis'.

There are also people that have compared Jezebel with Gone with the Wind. The only thing they had in common is the fact that both take place in the period before the War between the States, but that's as far as the similarities end. This was a stage play, which by the way, was not very successful when Miriam Hopkins and Tallulah Bankhead appeared in it.

This is a film to be treasured thanks to William Wyler.
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8/10
A typical fine William Wyler period drama.
Boba_Fett113816 September 2008
This was not a movie that I particularly liked watching (perhaps it's just not my favorite genre) but it simply was one fine made movie, that is effective in basically everything it tries to achieve. There is no denying it that this is a great movie.

It features a strong dramatic story, in which Bette Davis plays the central character. It's a strong and independent woman for her time (the movie is set in the 1850's), yet also spoiled and stubborn, who of course eventually has to pay for her deeds.

Bette Davis plays a role in which she could had easily gone over-the-top with, since its a very stubborn and spoiled character but instead she plays her role more humane and realistic, which also keeps her likable. She even won an Oscar for her role in this movie. Western expert actor Henry Fonda also plays one fine role and I especially liked the work he did with the accent within this movie. The movie further more among others also features the always great Donald Crisp. Donald Crisp was never an actor who played the main lead in a movie but he always played small and humble but great roles, which also should be a reason why he got cast in so many fine and well known movies throughout his career. The same somewhat also goes for George Brent, who plays Buck Cantrell in this movie. It's a well cast movie with fine acting performances, which mostly also carries the movie.

Max Steiner also delivers one fine Oscar nominated musical score for this movie. Steiner was one of the big composers from the early days of film-making for a good reason.

Like basically every period movie at the time, it's a fine looking movie with some impressive sets and costumes. It's often being compared to "Gone with the Wind" due to its story, themes, time period the movie is set in and it got shot around the same time but this really ain't fair in my opinion. "Jezebel" isn't even nowhere close in the same league and epic proportions as "Gone with the Wind" and "Jezebel" is a more light and less complicated one, that has a totally different style and breaths a total different atmosphere, not in the least also since "Gone with the Wind" is a movie in color of course.

A fine multiple Oscar nominated and winning movie from William Wyler.

8/10

http://bobafett1138.blogspot.com/
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8/10
Very good Wyler drama with an excellent Davis
Jem Odewahn1 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Bette Davis gives an excellent performance in this entertaining character study set in the Old South in the 1850's. She plays flighty, flirty, selfish Southern belle Julie Marsden who delights in shocking both her fiancée Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda) and New Orleans society by wearing a scandalous red dress to a ball. Fonda leaves her, and comes back a year later with a Northerner wife (Margaret Lindsay). An outbreak of the dreaded yellow fever hits the city, and Davis, finally realising the damage she has caused after she has lost her lover and caused the death of old friend Buck Cantrell (George Brent), has a chance to atone and try to save the life of a stricken Fonda.

A very good film that still holds up well today. Wyler contributes some particularly well-directed scenes, with Davis' entry to the ball most memorable. The terror of the yellow fever is also excellently conveyed, and the images of countless bodies being carted away is still very powerful. Davis is wonderful as Julie, giving one of her best early performances, although I can't see what she sees in Fonda's Pres Dillard! Davis had far better chemistry with George Brent, and Fonda is just boring. Fay Bainter gives a great supporting performance. I found the ending good, but maybe a little unsatisfying. I like ambiguity, and I don't need thing spelled out to me, but is Davis heading towards certain death with her true love or is she going to nurse him, then give him up to Lindsay? Perhaps that is the film's enduring mystery.
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8/10
Elegant Old Movie, A True Classic
denis8884 September 2007
I love old Hollywood movies. They are so elegiac, elegant and sweet. Bette Davis and Henry Fonda are real winners of this antebellum novel, so sweet, but so threateningly looming, as the news of the forthcoming Civil War is spread all the time in the film and the peaceful routine is soon to be rudely interrupted by the horrible conflict of two cultures and two worlds. Bette as Miss Julia is so natural, so open and easy-going that she seems a bit shocking even in this spoiled time. Her lover / enemy / bride-not-to-be is a Yankee and their conflict is deeper than a usual love / hate relation. This is a looming war between North and South, between two world, two sets of ideals and likes. This film is great at showing the lazy Southern society with its Black servants, white masters, pre-war sentiments, clashes and classes. Gone With The Wind may be grander on a general scale, but this one is so intimately sweet that it is highly recommended for all who are interested in the Civil War times.
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8/10
Warner's answer to GWTW
blanche-231 January 2007
Bette Davis is a southern belle whose aunt (Fay Bainter) calls her Jezebel in a moment of supreme disappointment. This is a 1938 film also starring Henry Fonda, George Brent, and Donald Crisp. Bette is Julie Marsden, a brat engaged to Preston Dillard (Fonda). She soon loses him for what appears to be the second time when she wears a red dress to a ball where all the women are in white. Press goes to the north and returns with a wife (Margaret Lindsay). Julie sets out to win him back, with a bad result.

"Jezebel" has many similarities to "Gone with the Wind" - the south, the red dress, the manipulative, strong young woman, her obsession with a man and the disapproval by the family of her actions. The period is the 1850s; the place is Louisiana, where there is an outbreak of the dreaded yellow fever.

Although the film is similar to "GWTW" it stands on its own. It doesn't have the sweeping scope of GWTW. It's the story of one woman's love for a man and the effect it has on those around her. There are some striking scenes: the dance sequence, when Press and Julia are the only ones on the dance floor due to her being in red; and the end is very striking.

Bette Davis is great in the title role. Under William Wyler's direction, it's a restrained performance. It's a good thing because she's appearing opposite the master of underplaying, Henry Fonda. All of the women look stunning in their gowns, Davis in particular. As with Scarlett and Ashley, we don't really know what the attraction is between Julia and Press, and the script doesn't tell us. Fonda seems a little on the dull side for a lively girl like Julia.

Donald Crisp turns in a powerful performance as Dr. Livingstone, and George Brent is very good as the elegant Buck Cantrell.

Highly recommended. One of Davis' best.
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10/10
Belle of the Ball
BumpyRide14 June 2006
Such a wonderful film, with Davis giving perhaps her best performance on screen. No chain smoking or chewing the scenery here. She plays her character of Julie, aka Jezebel with a quite reserve, showing that still waters do run deep. William Wyler makes the most of his cast with all delivering (except for Press' wife) believable, touching performances. Fay Bainter is exceptional here and rightfully took home the Oscar for her performance along with Davis. It's unfortunate that this was not filmed in Technicolor. I would loved to have seen this in rich, saturated color. In many ways, I find this much more enjoyable than GWTW. The old South and it's "strange ways" never once strikes an odd chord. The last scene is very strong and touching with Julie pleading to "Make me clean like you." The somber music returns and you hear the cannon fire and you see Julie cradling Press' head as they head toward the leper island, no fear in her eyes. You have no doubt she'll persevere.
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9/10
A fine film
zetes31 January 2004
Very good film from director Wyler, although it is its star, Bette Davis, upon whom its high quality mostly rests. This is perhaps Davis' best performance that I've seen. She plays a spoiled Southern belle whose fiancé (Henry Fonda) leaves her after a socially embarrassing event. As he leaves her, she swears that he will return, as he has in the past. And he does, one year later, with his new Northern wife in tow. The film does wonders with its historical setting, New Orleans a short while before the Civil War. A year before Gone with the Wind cooed over the fancy lives and manners of the Ante Bellum South, Jezebel was exploring them in more detail, and with a more intelligent eye. Also lurking about is the threat of Yellow Fever, which devastated New Orleans in the 1830s and is starting to grow rampant again. Another thing I really liked about Jezebel was its ending. Perhaps when it was released in 1938 there would be a feeling that Davis' character has turned a corner and has become more selfless, but to me her motives seemed awfully suspicious. That ambiguity is fascinating. Along with the leads, Donald Crisp and George Brent give fine supporting performances, and Max Steiner's score is one of the best of its era. 9/10.
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8/10
Bette Davis Deserved the Oscar of Best Actress in a Leading Role
Claudio Carvalho1 July 2009
In 1852, in New Orleans, the southern Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) is an impulsive and spoiled young woman from the society of Louisiana. Her fiancée is the successful young banker Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda), who is climbing in his career with his dedication and work. When Preston stays in a meeting in the bank instead of with Julie, she wears a red dress against Preston will in a traditional ball where the upper class ladies white to get even, shocking the local society with her attitude. The mortified Preston calls their engagement off and moves to the branch of the bank in New York. When Preston returns to New Orleans one year later, Julie believes that he misses her and organizes a dinner party to welcome him and ask for his forgiveness. However, Preston is married with the New Yorker Amy (Margaret Lindsay) and the surprised Julie does not accept his marriage and decides to fight for him. The vindictive Julie uses the rivalry and hostility between North and South to make Amy uncomfortable and the situation provokes a fatal duel between her former boyfriend Buck Cantrell (George Brent) and his friend Ted (Richard Cromwell). Meanwhile Preston is contaminated in New Orleans by the Yellow Jack and Julie disputes with Amy the right to nurse him in an isolation island with lepers.

"Jezebel" is another great movie of Bette Davis and William Wyler based on the southern lifestyle a couple of years before the American Civil War. Bette Davis character is a controlling, independent and spoiled young woman and when she finds out that her former fiancé is married, she tells her aunt that she would fight for him despite being married and her aunt compares Julie with Jezebel. The Biblical name Jezebel is the synonym of a promiscuous, wicked and manipulative woman. The story also focuses the outbreak that happened in 1853 in New Orleans, Louisiana, where thousands of residents died. The comparison with "Gone with the Wind" is inevitable since Julie Marsden and Scarlett O'Hara characters have many characteristics in common. Bette Davis deserved the Oscar of Best Actress in a Leading Role. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Jezebel"

Note: On 28 August 2011, I saw this film again on DVD.
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8/10
Wonderfully directed, superbly acted by Davis and Bainter
preppy-319 July 2001
Bette Davis is at her best in this 1800s Southern melodrama in which her attempts to snag a married ex-love (Henry Fonda) end in tragedy. Storywise this is nothing new, and there are way too many scenes were people talk endlessly about Southern manners. Also seeing all the black slaves so happy and singing is a bit hard to take. But the direction by William Wyler is excellent. He directs in a way that makes you part of the action (especially in the ball sequence and a duel at the end). Best of all is Davis. Her performance is superb--when she's on screen you can't take your eyes off her. She won a well-deserved Best Actress Oscar for this. Also Fay Bainter is excellent as her long-suffering aunt--she won Best Supporting Actress. All the acting is good except for Henry Fonda--he's so stiff and dull--what does Davis want with him? One last complaint--it's not in color. I know there are two reasons for this: 1) the expense and 2) they did tests and Davis looked horrible in color (think about it--how many color movies did she make?). Still, the non-stop compliments about the red dress at the beginning are annoying--the dress looks black! Still, this is worth seeing for Davis, Bainter and the direction.
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8/10
Jezebel (1938) ***
JoeKarlosi16 February 2005
Bette Davis is positively magnificent in this film, and it won her a well-deserved second Oscar as Best Actress. She plays a very spoiled and uncompromising southern belle named Julie in 1850's New Orleans, who intends to marry young beau Henry Fonda but mercilessly tries his patience; she is selfishly late for her own party, and despite all self-respecting folks' protests, rebelliously dons a glowing red gown at a Grand Ball at a time when it's forbidden for any unmarried woman to wear anything other than white. After properly humiliating herself and fiancé Fonda at the Ball, her man decides he can take no more of her manipulation tactics and leaves her.

Julie comes to regret some of her ways and is confident that her intended will come back to her. One year later, when a violent outbreak of Yellow Fever plagues the south for the first time in 22 years, Fonda returns home again; but it will be an unpleasant shock for the headstrong and vengeful Davis.

William Wyler directs this lavish melodrama quite well, and all the actors are well selected ("Little Rascals" fans will also have fun spotting young Stymie Beard). The greatest scene in the movie has got to be the humiliating Olympus Ball sequence, with Davis beginning to have second thoughts when she is ostracized by hundreds of aghast eyes, leering at her and Fonda as they waltz around an abandoned dance floor while she wears that controversial dress. She begs her fiancé to take her out of there, but he makes her endure every second of what she so defiantly wanted. Bette Davis is perfect and oozes star power. Her performance makes you wonder how she would have fared in GONE WITH THE WIND, the classic film for which this film is said to be a warm-up. *** out of ****
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7/10
How many times can she do her man wrong?
Michael O'Keefe25 October 2002
William Wyler directs this first rate costume drama and Ms. Bette Davis picks up her second Academy Award playing an Antebellum Dixie vixen that goes a little too far to make her fiance(Henry Fonda)jealous. Fonda returns to New Orleans from New York with a lovely wife(Margret Lindsay)only to put Davis in a jealous rage and desperate for revenge. A superb cast that also features Donald Crisp, George Brent and Fay Bainter. Ms. Davis is vibrant in one of her best roles.
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9/10
an exceptional film marred by a poor ending
MartinHafer23 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Up until the last few minutes of this film, this was a truly wonderful film. Bette Davis does an exceptional job playing an extremely manipulative woman who repeatedly overplays her hand. At the beginning of the film she is engaged to nice-guy Henry Fonda. But, time and again, she picks fights with him and tries to dominate him until he eventually tires of this and leaves her. A year later, Fonda returns and Davis is ready to apologize and pick up where they had left off--only to find out that Fonda is now married. True to her manipulative nature, she then schemes to have Fonda and the hot-headed gentleman, George Brent, get into an argument. What she didn't anticipate was that after Fonda was called away, that Brent would continue this argument with Fonda's wife until eventually Fonda's younger brother challenges Brent to a duel. Soon afterwards, Brent is dead and Davis sees that her scheming has gotten way out of hand. She loved manipulating others and making them miserable, but this death really shook her. So, a short time later when Fonda is stricken with Yellow Fever, she tries to redeem herself by volunteering to follow him into quarantine to nurse him back to health--at which time the movie ends.

So after that summary, let's talk about the good and bad of the movie. As for the good, there's so much to like about the film. The performances are wonderful--Davis received the Oscar for Best Actress and was THE standout performer in the film. Fonda and Brent give excellent support and are not overshadowed by Davis. Even the supporting actors are excellent, though I really did not think that Fay Bainter (playing Davis' aunt) deserved the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress (though she got it), as her role was pretty small and not particularly transcendent. I really think they gave it to her because of the overall movie, not her individual performance.

Also, a major plus to this movie was the incredible cinematography. This is simply the most beautiful black and white film I have seen and it's obvious the cameraman and director (Wyler) were tops in their fields. It's really amazing how despite being filmed in a sound stage, the film looked so good.

As for the bad, and this kept the movie from receiving a 10, it was the stupid conclusion to the film. Throughout the entire film, Davis played a self-centered manipulator. But, after seeing her plans go out of control, she repents and is willing to give her life to save Fonda!? This just isn't in character at all and seems like a "Hollywood" ending. I really wanted a more thought-out ending--maybe where she did go with Fonda into quarantine but only to try to win him back or perhaps him dying and her going about her merry way while hardly skipping a beat. THAT would have been more in character.

One other note: You will no doubt notice that this movie gives a VERY idealized view of slavery. The slaves seem universally happy and well-treated. For the sake of reality, I kind of wish they'd showed less of Bette hobnobbing with the slaves (something a society woman NEVER would have done in the Old South) and maybe ordering some of them to be whipped!
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It should have been filmed in color.
dbdumonteil23 October 2004
"Jezebel" was filmed at a time when color films were still rare.And it's really a pity ,because the scene of the red dress ,lavishly filmed by William Wyler,deserved it.No one films the ball scenes like Wyler used to do (think of that in "Wuthering Heights")Even if they did a remake in color anyway,it would be hard to find another Bette Davis.She gives a first-class performance .Take for instance the scene when Pres (Fonda) introduces Amy to Julie.Davis's attitude is remarkable in its suppressed anger and hatred.I cannot think of another actress playing like this.Davis also shines during the dinner when Buck speaks of the traitor Garrison,and she makes veiled hints at another treason.Mad jealousy emerges again when she regrets that women are not allowed to fight a duel.

Outside the ball scene,which is worth the price of admission alone,the scene when Davis sings with the children is still impressive today.But the yellow fever (jack) epidemic ,with its wagons full of bodies en route to the leprosaria (the Lazaret)can also still grab today's audience.
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10/10
Better than GWTW?
nankipoo20 August 2004
Actually, I believe that "Jezebel" is a very different film "animal" from "Gone with the Wind". GWTW is a mega-epic, with the whole Civil War and Reconstruction period as backdrops. "Jezebel", on the other hand, plays out over a much shorter period of time, historically. I'm not even a big Bette Davis fan, but I'll say that if "Jezebel" doesn't convert you, you can't be impressed. All of the performances are excellently crafted and satisfyingly deep, as would be expected from a stage play taken to the big screen. I love GWTW, but "Jezebel" works as well or better at capturing the same basic period in US history, while also keeping you waiting expectantly for the heroine's next outlandish maneuver. William Wyler was one of the great directors, and his gift shines through in every scene. I give "Jezebel" 10/10 stars, and Davis more than deserved her Oscar.
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