Bette Davis Movies: Now, Voyager
I can't help but think of Now, Voyager as one of the original chick flicks. It has all the components that make movies on the modern Lifetime Movie Network so popular: an ugly duckling who turns into an elegant swan, forbidden romance, an oppressive mother who is eventually put in her place and a backdrop of the high-class world of wealth.
But Now, Voyager is worlds away from the chick flicks of today. It set the bar high when it came out in 1942. Part of the reason for that was its star, Bette Davis. Never better, she fully embodied the character of the caterpillar-browed, bespectacled Charlotte Vale who appeared early in the film. Many beautiful actresses have allowed themselves to be made ugly to facilitate scripts, but few have achieved the transformation as well as Bette Davis did for this movie.
Scene from "Now, Voyager"
But looks are only part of the story. Our ugly duckling is so oppressed, you can't help but feel for her. This causes you to root for her right from the start. Her transformation is amazing to watch, because she changes more than just her outsides -- that's the easy part. You actually watch her become a full person as the film moves on. As is often the case in real life, it doesn't come easily. And when a man and his troubled child come along who are struggling, too, their effort to preserve the strip of territory that belongs just to them is believable and compelling.
The realistic way this mutual effort survives against all obstacles is portrayed is what keeps the movie from sinking into being maudlin. You don't actually stand up and cheer at the end; it's more low-key and satisfying than that. Instead, you're left with the quiet feeling that with determination, strength and love; anything is possible.
"Now, Voyager" Trivia
- The movie title is based on these two lines from the Walt Whitman poem, "The Untold Want" from Songs of Parting: "The untold want, by life and land ne'er granted. Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find."
- Max Steiner and Now, Voyager won the 1943 Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. Bette Davis was nominated for the Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar, but lost to Greer Garson for Mrs. Miniver. Gladys Cooper was nominated as Best Actress in a Supporting Role but lost to Teresa Wright for Mrs. Miniver.
- The movie was from the book by Olive Higgins Prouty, which was the third of four books about the wealthy Vale family of Boston.
- When the movie was released in October 1942, the movie reviews by critics were mixed but the public loved it. In fact, it was the biggest box office hit of Bette Davis's career.
- Director Hal B. Wallis made five other films besides Now, Voyager in 1942: Casablanca, Air Force, Desperate Journey, Princess O'Rourke and Watch on the Rhine.
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