Now, Voyager (1942)

Directed by Irving Rapper
Cinematography Sol Polito

Now, Voyager is a 1942 American drama film starring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains, and directed by Irving Rapper. The screenplay by Casey Robinson is based on the 1941 novel of the same name by Olive Higgins Prouty

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Greatest Love Story of the 1940’s

26 January 2008 | by mdg55 (United States) – See all my reviews

From frumpy momma’s unwanted adult child to liberated raving beauty, Davis is in her element in every scene. With Paul Henreid & Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper & a spot-on supporting cast, “Voyager…” is, hands down, best love story I believe I’ve ever seen.

Of course, taste in romances has everything to do with what a viewer finds great. I don’t like phony, fantasy, goofy romantic shows at all. “Voyager…” has a gritty plot that reveals the kind of love between unrequited lovers that’s worth sacrificing oneself for.

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Davis’ wardrobe is as fabulous in this movie as it is in “Deception,” (also co-starring Claude Rains & Paul Henreid). Perhaps having both of them in both shows is what produced the mastery of all the elements in both movies. Though “Deception” is also a love story, Claude Rains coming seriously close to stealing the show from Davis.

In “Voyager…” the characters are much more egalitarian. The balance of love & despise is what makes the movies so intriguing. Davis should have taken an Oscar home for her leading role.

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Ugly duckling turns into a swan

10/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
14 March 2004

At the height of WWII, Hollywood produced a lot of excellent melodramas. These were the vehicles the studios created for its stars of that era. It was either a Joan Crawford picture, or a Barbara Stanwyck, or a Bette Davis one, since their presence, bigger than life, was the only reason to bring these stories to the big screen.

Take this one, for instance, under the direction of Irving Rapper. It had all the right elements, yet it was chaste enough to pass the censor. Undoubtedly, this movie owes a lot to the fantastic score by the talented Max Steiner who was a genius. Mr. Steiner’s music plays the haunting melodies with such flair, we feel we are listening to a great symphonic work.

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The story, by today’s standards wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. At the time it came out, it was a different thing. After all, Jerry was a married man with a daughter and a situation that had no easy solution then. That makes Charlotte Vale suffer after she found her soul mate aboard the ship that served to free herself from a despotic mother.

Bette Davis plays Charlotte to perfection. Her scenes with Paul Hendried lighting the two cigarettes is something to cherish by film fans. The chemistry that Bette Davis shared with her leading men was no small accomplishment. She was an actress that knew how to pull the heart strings of the general public. She had such a charisma and power to lose herself in all those strong women she played through the years. The transformation of the plain Charlotte to the smart woman, who embarks on a tour to begin a new life, is something out of a fairy tale, but Ms. Davis pulls it with great panache.

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The rest of the cast was excellent. Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper, Bonita Granville, Ilka Chase! They only come once in a lifetime. No one in present day Hollywood comes near to that. It was perfection.

Beautiful Soap-Opera Filled with Subtext.

10/10
Author: nycritic
11 March 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

How many people can relate to Charlotte Vale? Many, for I’d assume it’d be hard-pressed for anyone not to at one point in their life gone through a period of dejection, rejection, and evolve until finally the inner self comes out shining.

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And what a character evolution this is. Charlotte Vale, played expertly and with fantastic repression hiding an enormous passion and will to live by the great Bette Davis as a woman who’s life has been all but destroyed by her domineering, selfish mother (Gladys Cooper) until she meets kind Dr. Jasquith, a psychiatrist (Claude Rains) who makes her take the first steps to recovery. A physical transformation ensues from dowdy to chic, and on a cruise — temporarily posing as Ms. Beauchamp — she meets Jerry Durrance (elegant, smoldering Paul Henreid with sad eyes that virtually talk) with whom she begins a tentative acquaintance with that turns to love.

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Once home and deciding on an independent life away from her mother she takes on a younger version of herself, Tina, played poignantly by Janis Wilson, whom Charlotte learns is none other than Jerry’s daughter. Nevertheless, Charlotte tutors Tina back to mental health, and even while she rejects the marriage of a certain convenience to Elliot Livingston (John Loder) since she cannot forget Jerry, she decides to remain independent despite of the hinted possibility of not fulfilling her affair with him at the end. The last scene, with Henreid and Davis gazing into each other’s eyes as he lights up a cigarette for the both of them, and Davis’ last line, “Don’t let’s ask for the moon — we have the stars,” is cinematic romance at its finest.

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Irving Rapper, one of Hollywood’s gay directors, could not have made a gayer film than this and my view is not controversial: Hollywood did not allow overt films about homosexuality back then, unless the man was a fop and a much secondary character meant to be the butt of fag jokes. Writers and directors alike decided to somehow incorporate a gay element without making it clear off the bat and devised stories that were strongly symbolic in nature. And while Olivia Higgins Prouty’s novel was not intended to be interpreted as such, her quoting of Walt Whitman’s “Now voyager, sail forth to seek and find” is interesting when Whitman himself was homosexual. Plus, the added element of Charlotte Vale’s damaged persona by her mother who forced her into total repression — something very close to many gay men and women — and her ultimate transformation into a complete person due to her inner strength has also been a recurring gay theme.

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But despite this view, the fact remains that NOW VOYAGER is a consummate woman’s picture, a superior weepie that hasn’t aged due to its themes of mental cruelty within family members and one person’s quiet courage to take on the world and resume her own sense of identity despite years of baggage. Another version of parental abuse would re-surface as the Mexican drama LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE but aside from the mother-daughter relationship, the stories are completely different even in tone and cultural values.

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Bette Davis received another Oscar nod for her role here as did Gladys Cooper, but the entire cast lends good support, from Ilka Chase and Bonita Granville as Charlotte’s cousins down to Mary Wickes in a small yet funny role as a nurse tending to a bed-ridden Cooper and being a small agent in allowing Davis’ Vale to go on with her life.

Excellent Film Honors Women’s Hearts and Lives

10/10
Author: Danusha_Goska Save Send Delete
27 November 2006

Look. I *love* “Now Voyager.” I don’t love it as a guilty pleasure, or as camp, or as an example of film-making from the Golden Age of Hollywood. I don’t love it as a soap opera or as example of the long lost genre, the theatrical-release, big budget, “woman’s picture.” I love “Now Voyager” as a movie. “Now Voyager”‘s quality could stand comparison with any great film out there.

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Plot: Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis), the psychologically abused child of a sadistic iceberg of a wealthy, Boston Brahmin mother (Gladys Cooper), thanks to the intervention of a compassionate sister-in-law (Ilka Chase) is packed off to a posh asylum, where Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains) restores her to well being.

Charlotte loses weight, loses her glasses, and receives tutoring in how to dress and carry herself. Superficially quite the glamor puss, she goes on a cruise and charms Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid) an unhappily married architect.

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Circumstance intervenes and Jerry and Charlotte enjoy a brief affair. As time goes on, they make some heart-wrenching decisions about how to handle their adulterous love; along the way, Charlotte forms an important bond with Tina, Jerry’s daughter, whose mother does not love her.

The screen is full of women’s bodies, women’s voices, women’s choices, and women’s lives. There are old women, middle aged women, and young women. There are good and bad women in every class. For example, while Tina is the sweet but unattractive and lost young woman, Bonita Granville, as June Vale, is a pretty, blonde, young b—-. The scenes in which June, without censure from any quarter, uses her youth and prettiness to torment her pathetic spinster aunt are terrific, honest, and cruel.

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The plot is built around the issues of which women’s lives are built: their relationships with their mothers, or mother figures, both good and evil; how the world treats women based on how women look; women’s competitions with, and support of, other women; what women do to survive economically and emotionally.

The scenes between Charlotte and Tina are stunning in their sensuality. Tina, the daughter-surrogate, and Charlotte, the mother-figure, cling to each other in bed at night, and while sleeping under the stars on a camping trip; Tina sobs tears that wet her face; Charlotte strokes Tina’s hair, and Tina clings to Charlotte’s bosom.

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The simple message here is how incredibly important parenting is in the lives of both children and mothers, and how a person who has suffered — Charlotte — can often be a better person than those who have had it easier — Mrs. Vale and June, and how having been handed a life that denies you love doesn’t make it impossible for you to go out and find love on your own, to create your own family.

Mrs. Vale is one of the most naked depictions of a child abusing mother ever committed to the screen. No, there are no graphic scenes of abuse, but the film never lets you believe that this woman is anything but a nightmare who damaged her child for life while the world let her get away with it because of her money.

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Again, the abuse is not graphic, but it is made certain. In one brilliant scene, Charlotte has returned to her mother’s house after being out in the world and, for the first time in her life, experiencing some affection, joy, and confidence.

Charlotte speaks in her new voice, a voice of self possession. But she is trying to be nice to her mother, and her voice quavers a bit, without losing its ground.

Charlotte is out of camera range; we hear her, but do not see her. Her mother’s back is to the camera. She is motionless — except for her bejeweled, claw-like hand, which taps rhythmically against a carved bed post. One thinks of a cat waiting to pounce. One realizes that all that is going through Mrs. Vale’s head is, “How do I destroy her this time?” That motion alone renders the scene both chilling and telling.

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Now, Voyager (1942) Directed by Irving Rapper Shown: Paul Henreid, Bette Davis

Charlotte’s love affair with Jerry Durrance is equally complex. This is no “soap opera” as some reviews here dismiss it as. Viewers are so caught up with Jerry’s (Henreid’s) trick of lighting two cigarettes at once that they miss the depth, power, and complexity of this relationship.

“Now Voyager” gives us a terribly convincing portrait of two people who really love each other, and whose love is apparently doomed. Jerry is a superficially charming, nice guy whose unhappy marriage has given him reason to see beneath the surfaces of life; he’s no rocket scientist, though, so he’s not as smart as he could be. He is attracted to a superficially glamorous woman whose secret past as an ugly duckling and abused child gives her a hidden side. For both, society demands that they present a pleasant facade, but pain has caused them to develop in ways that many people never do. Their love is real.

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Jerry is deep enough to be attracted, but not deep enough to realize, as soon as he might, how much his acting on his attraction could potentially devastate Charlotte, a woman whose hold on her life is tenuous, at best.

Whether their love can ever be realized, or whether it would continue to grow outside of the confines of an adulterous affair begun on a cruise ship and consummated after the most outlandish interventions of fate on a mountain road, is a question viewers can still debate to this day. What is clear is that this love is real, and its stakes are terribly high. Charlotte’s whole life hangs in the balance here, no less so than a Scorcese hero’s life hangs in the balance given how he handles his weapon.

Claude Rains is solid as Charlotte’s best hope at the beginning, and, perhaps, also at the end of the movie..

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