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NOW, VOYAGER (1942)

Now, Voyager - CoverThe Criterion Collection’ have recently released a digitally enhanced version of the classic melodrama, ‘Now, Voyager’. It was directed by Irving Rapper; it starred Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, and Gladys Cooper; and it lasts for 117-minutes. Plus, as an extra added bonus, the Blu-ray edition comes with two radio adaptations, one from 1943 and the other from 1946, commentary on selected-scenes by the music critic, Jeff Smith, two visual essays narrated by Farran Smith Nehme and Larry McQueen, as well as two vintage interviews with Bette on 'The Dick Cavett Show' and Paul on a news show. Please enjoy.


Now, Voyager [The Criterion Collection]


THE STORY: 
When we first met, Jeremiah (Paul Henreid), you and I were nothing more than two passengers sailing on-board a luxury cruise ship that was heading towards Rio. But then, one fateful day, we were thrust together by accident and ended up getting to know each other on a very personal level, with you telling me about your two children, your job, and your sullen wife, while I told you about my nervous breakdown and gradual recuperation at Dr. Jaquith’s medical retreat (Claude Rains). In fact, we got to know each other so well, that after a while, we started to have feelings too! Feelings of love. 

So what did we do, Jerry? How did we resist our innermost desires, despite our obvious attraction? Why of course, we distanced ourselves as soon as we stepped off of the boat, with you going back home to New York while I went back home to Boston. Either way, our love persisted, and that’s most probably why what next transpires goes hug, kiss, spit, when I look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis)? Am I going mad again?’. As a 30-year-old spinster stands her ground - an ailing mother tries to be profound - a sick daughter is waiting to be found - and at the end of the day, please remember, not all angels are destined to be crowned.




THE REVIEW: 
At face value, I’d say that ‘Now, Voyager’ is a love story. Not a conventional love story, though, where two diametrically opposed individuals form a special bond and eventually fall madly and passionately in love with each other. But rather, it’s the type of love story where the main protagonist finds out how to truly love herself.

Now, Voyager - Bette Davis and Paul Henreid
You see, when the film begins, we’re introduced to Charlotte, a 30-year old spinster who’s overweight, reclusive, and appears to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown brought about by her overbearing mother, Mrs. Vale, who has controlled her for most of her life. In fact, Charlotte’s situation has grown so dire, that her sister-in-law, Lisa, enlists the services of a psychologist who tries his best to make things better. Relatively speaking, of course, because the good doctor can only do so much at his medical retreat before Charlotte continues her treatment all by herself, continues it by taking a luxury cruise to Rio and falling in love with a married man.

Now, at this stage of her story, things start to take a sudden turn for Charlotte as she is forced to contend with two separate obstacles. One of them is to acknowledge that her romance is doomed to failure due to her lover's marital status. While the other, involves her finally returning back home and facing the woman who initially caused her mental breakdown. So, as you can imagine, a deluge of emotions, feelings, and passions run rampant throughout this part of the plot, which causes it to take on a suspenseful tone and an air of mystery from that moment onwards. After all, will Charlotte be able to resolve her differences with her mother? And if she can, will she also be able to find a way to spend some time with her lover as well? To find out, you will have to watch this magnificent movie. Otherwise, you will miss out on a nicely constructed character study that touches upon a variety of different subjects, that includes mental health, self development, romance, child cruelty, travel, and what it was like to grow up in a wealthy household during the first half of the 20th century, both the advantages and disadvantages.


Now, Voyager - Bette Davis and Gladys Cooper


Funnily enough, this last point brings me quite nicely onto something else I would like to talk about. Namely, the style of this film. Or to be more specific about it, how the style of this film not only informs us about the period in which it was set, the 1940s, but also informs us about who each of these characters are at different stages of the story. For instance, when we first meet Charlotte (during her nervous breakdown), she looks like an overweight spinster because she sports a unibrow, a dull polka dot dress, and a hairstyle that’s as flat as her personality. But then, after her treatment, Charlotte comes across as if she were a sophisticated lady of leisure by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a tight-fitting black dress that really shows off her now slender physique. Later still, near the end of the film, Charlotte has one final makeover in order to conform to her state of mind. This time, though, she's neither too glamorous nor too frumpy, but rather, somewhere in between, on account of her feeling more comfortable within herself, without having the need to please others (Like a sexy librarian, but with Bette Davis eyes, wink-wink!)

Now, Voyager - Poster
Anyway, that’s enough of that for the time being, because now would be a pretty good time to sit back, relax, and check out the following filmic facts: (1) ‘Warner Bros.’ first released this eight-hundred-and-seventy-seven thousand dollar production in New York, New York, on the 22nd of October, 1942, and eventually clawed back four-point-one million dollars at the Box Office. (2) The screenplay for this film was based on a 1941 book of the same name written by Olive Higgins Prouty. According to certain sources, Olive got the title for this book from the Walt Whitman poem, "The Untold Want", which reads, ‘The untold want by life and land ne'er granted. Now, voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find’. (3) Loosely translated, this project was entitled, ‘Three Camellias’ in Poland, ‘Traveling from the Past’ in Hungary, and ‘Under New Stars’ in Sweden. (4) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, states, ‘It happens in the best of families. But you'd never think it could happen to her!’. (5) The majority of this movie was shot inside ‘Warner Brothers Burbank Studios’, located at 4000 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California, as well as on location throughout two cities within the USA. In California, you might notice, Big Bear Lake, Big Bear Valley, Laguna Beach, Lake Arrowhead, and Whitley Heights. Whereas in Massachusetts, there’s the Harvard Medical School and Harvard University. (6) During pre-production, Irene Dunne, Norma Shearer, and Ginger Rogers were all considered to play the part of Charlotte for this film. But none of them were accepted because Bette Davis wanted to play the part herself and didn’t want any of them to get the exposure. (7) 'The American Film Institute' selected the last line in this film to be the 46th best movie quote of all time. It's spoken at the very end when Charlotte looks up, into the sky, and says, "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars". (8) After finishing this melodrama, both Claude Rains and Paul Henreid had less than a single day’s rest before starting work on their next project, ‘Casablanca’, but only because this one took longer to make than expected.


Now, Voyager - Bette Davis and Claude Rains


In closing my review of ‘Now, Voyager’, I would now like to rank each key performance in order of preference. So, at the top of my list, I’d like to select the star of the show, Bette Davis, because she was able to magnificently portray the many different sides of Charlotte Vale's personality, ranging from the manic side all the way to her more glamorous side, without making the transition between the two appear too far-fetched or out of place. Up next, I’d like to single out Gladys Cooper for playing the matriarchal Mrs. Henry Vale and Claude Rains for playing the charming Dr. Jaquith. Although, in their case, both Gladys and Claude's roles served two very different functions within the telling of this story, with Gladys acting as Charlotte's nemesis while Claude acted as Charlotte's savior. And as for the rest of the cast? Well, yeah, they were all pretty good too, including Paul Henreid, as he played Jeremiah Durrance with such a suave style, I almost forgot that he starred in one of my all-time favorite film noirs, ‘Casablanca’.

Now, Voyager - Behind The Scenes
Story-wise, though, and I must say, that this movie was a fairly faithful adaptation of Olive Higgins Prouty’s original 1941 novel, even though there were a number of notable differences between the two. In the book, for instance, Charlotte’s character was less attractive (unlike Bette Davis's depiction of her), whereas Jeremiah’s character suffered from a nervous breakdown prior to meeting Charlotte (which linked them both together on a more personal level). You might also want to know that the cruise they took was a world-wide cruise (not a trip to Rio), plus the initial introductory sequence leading up to the cruise was a brand new addition (and wasn’t in the book at all).

Another interesting fact about the 'Now, Voyager' book, as opposed to the film adaptation, is that it was the third part of a five-part serialization that centered around The Vale Family, with the other four chapters in the series being: ‘The White Fawn’ (1931), ‘Lisa Vale’ (1938), ‘Home Port’ (1947), and ‘Fabia’ (1951). It was also one of the first fictional depictions of psychotherapy in literature, as Prouty herself spent some time in a sanatorium because she suffered from a mental breakdown after the death of one of her daughters.

Anyway, all that aside, and on the whole, I would just like to say that this was one magnificent film and I would highly recommend it to fans of Bette Davis, period dramas, mental awareness, and people who enjoy watching makeover shows done properly.

THE RATING: A

NOW, VOYAGER (1942) NOW, VOYAGER (1942) Reviewed by David Andrews on December 09, 2019 Rating: 5

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