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
Bette Davis was originally not happy at learning that William Wyler was to direct the film as she had heard of his reputation for insisting on multiple takes. Wyler's aptitude soon won her over however, both personally and professionally. See more »
As Julie hurries through the room arranging flowers, one flower falls out of the vase, but she doesn't bother with it or even seem to notice it, continues arranging them, and then moves the vase to another table. See more »
[stands at the door]
[looks at Preston slightly shocked]
Is that all you've got to say to me?
There's nothing more to say.
Evidently, you've made up your mind.
No, Julie. You've made up my mind.
[looks at Preston and smiles slightly]
[shakes his hand, eyes him carefully, frowns, and then slaps him]
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Also available in a computer colorized version. See more »
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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