Saturday, 25 January 2014

Now, Voyager (1942) - ★★★★★

Director: Irving Rapper
Writers: Casey Robinson (screenplay), Olive Higgins Prouty (novel)
Stars: Betty Davis, Paul Henreid, Gladys Cooper, Claude Rains, Bonita Granville, Mary Wickes

Now, Voyager is one of the most romantic, beautifully made films in the history of cinema. It's such a ground-breaking achievement for the romance genre, with classic masterpieces taking many notes from this stunning film. Casablanca is arguably the greatest movie of all time, yet it seems to me that it took many notes from Irvin Rapper's beautiful tale of emotional scars and forbidden love. The same goes for Brief Encounter (1945), a film many claim to be the greatest romance movie of all time. Now, Voyager came before these masterpieces, and delivers some of the most romantic, touching, and unforgettable moments I've ever witnessed. I adore this movie, for it gives me such a powerful feeling of elation.

Bette Davis stars as Charlotte Vale, a young woman who has been scorned and belittled all her life by her witch of a mother (Gladys Cooper). Charlotte is what many consider an 'ugly' woman, for she has thick bushy eyebrows and a chubby exterior. She also wears frumpy outfits with absolutely no make-up. After being pushed too far, Charlotte checks into a rehabilitation centre, and gets a complete make-over by Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains). He sends her on a cruise so that she can gain some confidence and self-worth back. It is there she meets Jerry (Paul Henreid), a French man with a wife and children. He and Charlotte share an undeniable connection, making her feel the things she's so craved her whole life.

If I had to make a list of "greatest couples in the history of cinema," Charlotte and Jerry would make the Top 5 easily. Maybe even the top 3. They brought out the best in each other. She gave him the confidence to follow his dreams, whilst he gave her one of the most important things in the world; he made her feel needed. The beautiful style in which Irving Rapper unfolded their story added much of the romance, but for the most part it was the infectious chemistry between Bette Davis and Paul Henreid that sucked me into the relationship so deeply. I was writhing with joy during each beautifully executed romantic moment.

Bette Davis gives one of the greatest performances of all time in Now, Voyager. It is also my second favourite performance of her legendary career (my favourite being 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?'). She truly touched my heart as the Charlotte who was treated horrendously by her family. It didn't feel like I was watching Davis on screen, for she completely became her character, who suffers terribly from past wounds and a deep depression. Davis develops her characters confidence in such a timely, masterful manner. I cannot praise her enough for making me so emotionally invested in her character.

After seeing this film, Paul Henreid has jolted right up my rankings of "most gorgeous leading men in the history of cinema." He gave one of the most swoon worthy performances of all time! His French accent, his heart-stopping smile, the way he'd light two cigarettes in his mouth, and then hand one to Davis!!! I just adored his character of Jerry. Brief Encounter was the first film I'd seen that made adultery look so right, but I do believe that Now Voyager does it even better. While most avid movie-goers would know Henreid as the iconic war-hero in Casablanca, he'll always be Jerry to me. Sweet, caring, wonderful Jerry.

The supporting performances were a treat too. Claude Rains to me is the undisputed champion of Supporting Actors throughout the late 1930s and 1940s. He played a stern, but caring doctor who made questionable yet successful decisions when it came to his patients. They cast the right man for the job! Gladys Cooper however was a knock-out in Now, Voyager. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (deservedly), for playing one of the best "bad mothers" in the history of cinema. She could stare daggers, and spit words of poison masterfully.

Once again, I find I cannot articulate how much I adore Now, Voyager. It contains a style and beauty that rivals Casablanca, and one of the most spine-chillingly beautiful scores by the legendary composer, Max Steiner. The undeniable chemistry between Davis and Henreid made my heart sing with glee from the second they first met, until their final, unforgettable scene. Charlotte is a character many young men and women can relate to, and her story gives hope to anyone who feels like they aren't worth a dime. That final scene almost had me in tears. "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars."

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