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.
In one of her most renowned roles, Bette Davis portrays Julie Marsden, a spoiled Southern belle who risks losing her suitor with her impetuous behavior. Engaged to successful banker Preston Dillard, Julie pushes him away with her arrogant and contrary ways, leading to a scandalous scene at a major social event and his subsequent departure. When Preston eventually returns and Julie attempts to win him back, she discovers that it may be too late.Written by
Henry Fonda finished his scenes a day before the final date stipulated in his contract. This left Bette Davis playing close-ups without her leading man present, a situation that preyed on the high-strung actress' nerves. See more »
Preston Dillard is seen entering a street level door, then going downstairs to the gentlemen's bar. New Orleans has a notoriously high water table, so buildings would not have had basements or lower levels. See more »
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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