brought Warner Bros. profits of over $400,000, an impressive figure for the time. Adjusted for inflation, it comes to more than $5.3 million.
is far from the usual romantic southern tale. It is a penetrating study of character in a setting whose conventional surface handsomeness does not nullify its essential truth and solidity. As in any good movie its excellences come from many sources -- good plotting and writing, a director and photographer who know how to make the thing flow along with dramatic pictorial effect, and a cast that makes its story a record of living people....At the center of it is Bette Davis, growing into an artistic maturity that is one of the wonders of Hollywood. The erratic and tempestuous career of this actress has saved her from playing sweet heroines and glamour girls and given her chances at parts that most players out for popularity would balk at -- the result is an experience that has made her unique, in a field of character creation that is practically empty. Her Julie is the peak of her accomplishments, so far, and what is ahead is unpredictable depending on her luck and on the wisdom of her producers." -- James Shelley Hamilton, National Board of Review magazine
"The performance is Bette's decisive victory. She handles it as though, having brought her enemies to their knees, she has decided to be merciful. By the pure power of imaginative acting she gives a performance as vivid and inspiring as any star display of personality -- and on an infinitely deeper layer of truth. Never before has Bette so triumphantly proved her point that a woman's face can be appealing and moving even when not preserved in peach-like perfection. Never again can her claim be denied that it is possible on the screen for acting to transmute personality." -- Freda Bruce Lockhart, Film Weekly
"It is Miss Davis' show, but she has valiant aid from other performers. Henry Fonda makes an adequately disgusted hero. No amount of sincere acting would turn Jezebel
into a sincere tragedy, though. The story is still bad, even if it is persuasively enacted and resourcefully staged." -- Howard Barnes, New York Herald Tribune
"It's hard to know which is Davis's 'big scene' in the movie -- the painful, flamboyant error of her appearance in red, or the breathtaking moment of her apology in white. The material was already dated but was brought out of mothballs and refurbished because of the popularity of the novel Gone with the Wind
, which the production beat to the screen; without the zing Davis gave it, it would have looked very mossy indeed." -- Pauline Kael, 5,001 Nights at the Movies
is a masterpiece of emotional storytelling." - The Rough Guide to Cult Movies
"This just misses sock proportions. That's due to an anti-climactic development on the one hand, and a somewhat static character study of the Dixie vixen, on the other...Wyler's direction draws an engrossing cross-section of old southern manners and hospitality. It's undoubtedly faithful to a degree, and not without its charm. At times it's even completely captivating." - Variety Movie Guide
"Picture suffers because of too much chit-chat about what's proper in southern society and the embarrassing portrayal of the black slaves (a happy-go-lucky, singing lot). But the large-eyed Davis is a joy to watch...Million-dollar production was directed by William Wyler with his customary attention to period detail." - Danny Peary, Guide For the Film Fanatic
"Superb star melodrama...dealt with in high style by all concerned." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide
AWARDS & HONORS
Bette Davis won her second Oscar® for Jezebel
. Her first, for Dangerous
(1935), was generally considered a consolation prize for her not having been nominated for Of Human Bondage
the year before, but with her second win, she felt the voters truly had chosen to honor her performance.
Fay Bainter won the Oscar® for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Aunt Belle. Jezebel
also won nominations for Best Picture, Best Score and Best Cinematography. Although Davis complained in her acceptance speech that the only thing dimming the luster of her victory was William Wyler's failure to win the Best Director race, he wasn't even nominated.
won a special recommendation from the Venice Film Festival, where it also was nominated for Best Film.
Compiled by Frank Miller & Jeff Stafford