Jezebel (1938)

jesebel_movieposter

Starring: Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, George Brent, Fay Bainter, Margaret Lindsay

Director: William Wyler

Summary: A tempestuous Southern belle’s willfulness threatens to destroy all who care for her

Other Nominations: Actress (Davis)*, Supporting Actress (Bainter)*, Score, Cinematography

Positives

-Davis is the obvious highlight here, doing what she did best-playing a strong-willed character, or more specifically, a manipulative shrew. She just has such a total command of the screen whenever she’s on it, and has the ability to convey a ton of information through her facial expressions and body language alone. Looking forward to more of her in the coming years

-The movie looks great from the elaborate dresses, to the great cinematography to the set design

-I went back and forth about it, but I like the score. The score in the first half hour to me felt totally off, as it was light and zippy in a movie that’s a fairly dark romantic drama; however, eventually got to think that this actually did a good job of showing how irreverent and immature her character is at the beginning. The rest of it works much better, with kind of this haunting, wavy sound showing her character’s obsession.

Negatives

-I really don’t think the ending of the film works at all for multiple reasons. First, my interpretation of Davis’ actions are quite different than what I think what was intended. Second, going off of what I believe I was intended to feel, her character’s actions feel sudden, unexplained and totally unnatural. This ends up hurting the movie quite a bit and I would have her character be more consistent and stick to her guns (and character) at the end.

-This will be repeated in another movie soon, but I can’t imagine any modern film getting away with being so totally ambivalent about the institution of slavery. The main character’s family owns a plantation during the antebellum era and there are plenty of slave characters in the movie, all of whom are happy and jovial. I know that there were many different experiences for slaves depending on who their masters were or what their position was, but man this movie whitewashes the hell over any of the hardships or suffering of being a slave. If you have a problem with Song of the South, this is pretty much on the same level.

Overall

Davis’ performance makes up for a lot of the faults, but there really is a lot that doesn’t quite work and it feels like a movie that is less than the sum of its (fantastic) parts.

Overall: C+

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