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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jezebel (1938)

Defying the social conventions of the day as well as her fiancé (Henry Fonda), a headstrong and willful Southern belle (Bette Davis) brazenly wears a red dress to a ball which dictates unmarried women wear only white. This causes her fiancé to leave her and when he returns from the North a year later, he brings a wife (Margaret Lindsay). Thus, she plots a course of action which will involve tragedy for all involved. Reputedly given to Davis as compensation for not playing Scarlett O'Hara, all actresses should get such "compensation". Davis gives an extraordinary performance; complex, layered and with enough depth of character to bat it out of the ballpark. The film contains two of the best moments of her acting career. As cinema, the film is an example of the best of the Hollywood's so called "golden age" with Warners providing the best from Orry-Kelly's detailed costumes, Robert Haas' impeccable art direction and Ernest Haller's crisp B&W cinematography. Davis won her second Oscar here with another acting Oscar going to Fay Bainter's disapproving aunt. John Huston had a hand in the screenplay and the film was enough to inspire Max Steiner to give one of his very best scores and, of course, William Wyler's strong assured direction. With George Brent (in the best performance of his career), Spring Byington, Donald Crisp, Eddie Rochester Anderson, Theresa Harris, Ann Codee and Richard Cromwell.

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