Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jezebel (1938)

I apologize for doing another Bette Davis movie, but I actually rewatched this film last night and figured I should go ahead and do an entry on it, since it is a Bette Davis movie.

Bette Davis is Julie, a spoiled New Orleans woman who is engaged (again) to banker Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda). Their relationship has been marked by a series of petty quarrels, usually initiated by Julie in an attempt to make him jealous or simply to f*ck with him. This time, since Pres was at an important bank meeting and unable to go to her dress fitting, Julie decides to dress up as a whore to the Olympus Ball which basically gives everyone the vapors, most of all Pres who ends up breaking his engagement with Julie, who is convinced that Pres will return to her.

A year passes and Pres has moved to the North on bank duty, but is forced to return when Yellow Fever begins infecting the townspeople. Julie throws a party at the family's plantation only to get a shock when Pres shows up with his wife on his arm, a Yankee named Amy.

The plot isn't terrible surprising. The moment we hear that Pres is coming back and Julie's freaking out, we know that he's going to be married or engaged or in some other state to complicate things. But the film does have Bette Davis.

This is the performance that landed Bette her 2nd Oscar (though I think her two wins should have been for different movies), and it's a great performance. She plays Julie as very spoiled, petty, but strong-willed. She may be a spiteful young lady, but we get the sense that there is some strength within her. She also to make great highs and lows in the film, committing horrible acts as well as being self-sacrificing, and she pulls it off believably.

Fay Bainter (who also won an Oscar) plays Aunt Belle (apparently she is both Julie and Pres' aunt, which is messed up), and she really brings the necessary heart to a film about a mean-spirited southern belle. And special attention should be made to Margaret Lindsay who plays Pres' new wife Amy. She has to serve almost as the Anti-Julie in the film. She is low-key, thoughtful, but like Julie she is strong-willed woman and she really makes you feel sorry for her despite her character being relatively minor.

The rest of the cast is decent. Henry Fonda is passable, Pres is such a wishy-washy character that it's hard to get him any sort of real strength, he basically lets Julie screw with him over and over and only puts his foot down 1 or 2 times. George Brent is also decent as Buck, a former flame of Julie's who still loves her. But I've seen Brent in several movies and he's really not that great of an actor.

The sets, costumes and directions are all outstanding (it's terribly unfortunate that the film is black and white) and with the addition of the strong performance by Bette Davis, Fay Bainter and Margaret Lindsay, it makes this film one that is easy to recommend, especially if you love Gone with the Wind and you enjoy seeing b*tchy Southern women ruin other peoples lives.


  1. Yellow Jack is Yellow fever. It is stated in the film.

  2. Thank you very much! I'll edit my post.

  3. Hi. I actually just put up my own thoughts on "Jezebel" on my own blog when I decided who else might have mentioned it. I actually thought that Preston was pretty strong. He was a southern gentlemen that was raised to silent and strong. I mean, he withstood those public glares while they were dancing. That whole scene was intense! I look forward to reading your blog!