- Acting of Lead Performers
- Acting of Supporting Cast
- Music Score
- Title Sequence
- Historical Importance
- Would You Recommend?
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Legendary Bette Davis
The legendary actors in these classic old movies can say so much on screen without uttering a word. It's an art that's all but lost I think in the modern style of movies. Bette Davis has several of these moments in Jezebel where her face and those amazing eyes tell it all. Her performance alone makes this movie a gem. Beyond that, it's a fascinating film to ponder and speculate over as many have. How much of the characterizations were borrowed from Margaret Mitchell? What would Gone With The Wind have been like with Bette Davis as Scarlet? But we do have Jezebel and Bette at her best to feast on, and that's plenty to like.
A Bette Davis Classic.
A perfect picture with a perfect cast and director. Bette shines in this epic tale of the old south.
Bette Davis' finest performance bar none! Beautifully photographed and definitely more impactful because of it being in black and white. Bette's character, Julie, is willful, spoiled and capable of great harm. She thinks she's the greatest Southern belle that ever lived and uses her wiles to attain her ends, even to the extreme of being responsible for a man's death. Although she does near redemption in the end, it cannot absolve her of the harm she has caused in her life. Note: I do wish people would research before commenting. Firstly, There WAS a great yellow fever epidemic in 1853 in New Orleans and it killed 7,849 people in that one year. It was the single greatest death toll in New Orleans history! Secondly, you cannot compare Vivian Leigh's career with that of Bette Davis. Just three years after filming GWTW, Leigh was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She became pregnant at the time and miscarried. It drove her over the edge into a severe depression & bipolar illness, from which she never recovered. Her mental illness and the tuberculosis continued and she was constantly hospitalized. While Bette Davis' career thrived, Leigh's did not. Leigh died at 53, while Davis died at 81 - still feisty as ever!
- T Harold
Wyler hit a home run with his direction of this pre Gone With the Wind epic. Bettet Davis is magnificent as the strong willed Julie. Her acting throughout, most notably in the "apology" scene, is thrilling to behold. And, Bette looks truly beautiful! Entire cast is wonderful with Bette always one step ahead- try to take your eyes off her!She is enchanting. Love Kate Hepburn, but Davis is in a class by herself- what a superlative and amazing artist! This is an "essential".
- Dashiell Barnes
A fine character study made before "Gone with the Wind." Davis & Bainter won Oscars for their leading & supporting performances respectivly, Fonda is too underated in this film. Wyler's obsessive direction creates great mood thanks to excellent sets & costumes. "The Black-and-White version of 'Gone with the Wind'" is a great drama. I give it a 4.5/5.
Raisin' a Ruckus Tonight
Robert Osborne this evening remarked that TCM frequently gets emails insisting 'Jezebel' be shown in color, because people remember it in color and seeing the red dress. He then goes on to make lofty statements about how the film's original impact made people remember falsely. Seems like he doesn't want to admit that Ted Turner colorized the movie and many people remember seeing that version. In any case, black and white was more appropriate for this somber film about death and sacrifice - Warner was not MGM, and didn't have the inclination or budget to stage a color spectacular.
The best all time movie scene
- Barb Claus
1938 Jezebel, opening scene when Julie ( Betty Davis) arrives late to her own party on horse back. Hands her horse off to the a groomsman and scoops up her skirt with her riding crop and flounces in to her guests. Without exactly apologizing, she explains that she had trouble with the horse and had to correct its behavior in the moment, or ruin the horse. It is a beautiful scene, gutsy and confident! The costume, set, and script amazing. The best movie scene ever, by the only actress that could perform it flawlessly. Please post this scene, it is Julie at her best moment, no doubts, no regrets.
- Mark Sutch
- Jarrod McDonald
I just did some more research on the background of this story. The film is based on Owen Davis' play of 1933. According to the notes here on this database, Owen Davis sets the story in 1850 (though I thought I heard Bette Davis' character say 1852 in the movie). There is a passage of time, such as the year between Pres and Julie's fight when Pres returns with a northern wife. So it would still be the early 1850s. But the great outbreak of yellow fever in New Orleans did not actually occur until 1905, way after the Civil War and reconstruction. Obviously, Owen Davis does not age these characters fifty years, and neither does director William Wyler in the film version. So unless there was an earlier epidemic, they are taking quite a bit of dramatic license with history.
Red dress & Yellow fever
- Jarrod McDonald
A lot has been written about this film in comparison to 'Gone with the Wind.' It's a great classic, but not the masterpiece that 'Wind' is. What hurts this film: its black-and-white photography. Imagine the impact if the red dress that Bette Davis' character wears to the ball had been shown in Technicolor. That is a major plot point and defines one of the film's major themes. And we need to see the Halcyon plantation in all its colorful glory. Plus, the yellow fever scenes, with them riding off through the fire. Also, I think the male leads are wrong. Ms. Davis had worked with Leslie Howard on three other pictures, and I think he would've been great in the Henry Fonda role. For Brent's role, I would've selected Brian Aherne or Tyrone Power. I think Brent is the weakest one in the picture. In many ways, though Davis is the star, the story is an ensemble drama and most of the roles are well-written. Spring Byington is her usual great self in a supporting character role. My favorite scene is the ball, where Julie, Davis' character, is forced to dance and make a spectacle of herself. There are lines in the film about questioning the value of tradition, and this scene illustrates that most. Interestingly, when they come into the dance, the camera shows Fonda's facial expressions as much, if not more, than Davis. The red dress seems to symbolize the fact that both of them (not just her) are no longer chaste, and that they are the most liberal couple in the community. However, he quickly renounces this statement and a future with her when he escorts her home. Again, the dress needed to be seen in bright color.
- Jay Higgins
A superb Bette Davis film, she is well cast as the tempestuous Southern belle. She won an Oscar for her acting. Henry Fonda is fine, but as expected, Bette dominates the film. Good supporting cast, the art direction and costumes are magnificent.
Rumors have flown about why Bette Davis didn't do "Gone with the Wind," since she was the most sought after actor in Hollywood in the late 1930's. After watching "Jezebel" there's no longer a question in my mind about that. She's already done a better version of the film in 1938!!! Why better? William Wyler's a better director. Henry Fonda's a way better actor than Clark Gable. The character of Scarlett O'Hara is more a bit ridiculous, especially her script which is flat out lousy. Vivien Leigh's southern accent is lacking authenticity. And no one could act out a southern antibellum woman like Bette Davis. She had the whole being of a 'Southern Belle' down pat. Then, to make my point stick, ask, who's career continued to flourish for the next 40 years? Bette Davis'.
Best Southern Antibellum Film
William Wyler was a directorial stickler for details and correctness. It shows in this film's historical accuracies. It also shows in the very high level of classic character acting he demanded of all the cast. Bette Davis won her second Oscar for becoming the character of Julie Marsden: the young woman who starts out as a 'Jezebel'. But, what's rarely reflected upon is how this young woman had a change of character, of conscience and transformed herself as a result of the love she had for a man, Preswton Dillard (Henry Fonda). The film is also much more careful with cross-racial relations that any other film of that time, to its credit.
Prefering Henry Fonda & Bette Davis
I've read here why I wanted to say! So as not to repeat what others have written, I'll just state that as actors in general, I prefer Bette Davis and Henry Fonda. Together, they took a 1938 southern US drama and made it into an film about redemption and changing one's ways. Bette Davis is the 'Jezebel'--the rebellious spitfire. Henry Fonda's supposed to marry her. Even though Julie (Davis) doesn't seem, at first, to love much more than herself, as the film progresses it's quite clear that she's in love with Preston (Fonda). It's the kind of love that transforms her so that by the end she can redeem her past selfish deeds. The message is ever so strongl but, not as strong as Davis' 2nd Oscar winning performance.
3rd Oscar Nomination, 2nd Win for Bette Davis
Much ado's made about Gable and Leigh being in the 1939 epic "Gone with the Wind." Not caring much for Gable's gruff and rough manners on and off screen, I was a skeptic about that movie. I was appalled by the film's depictions of women and men of color. Then, I watched "Jezebel," because I'd learned of Bette Davis winning her 2nd Best Actress Oscar. She was my draw to the picture. I recall while I was watching it the 1st time comparing the two films. Henry Fonda's performance is way beyond any of Gable's, for example. Leigh's 'Scarlett' still seems like a hysteric on the loose compared to Davis' 'Julie' who's more tame and refined. Did real women behave like Scarlett? I knew of several who were like Julie, but not like Scarlett. Between the 2 films, the behaviors and treatment Wyler allows of people of color is far superior and realistic. Plus, Leigh's fake accent is too phoney. Thus, these reasons are why I don't care for the epic film and will continue to watch this classic.
Better than "Gone with the Wind"
I can fully appreciate why Bette Davis was awared her 2nd Best Actress Oscar for acting out the role of Julie Marsden. When compared to the epic length "Gone with the Wind," Bette Davis' acting is so much more refined compared to Vivien Leigh's. Just as much drama is in "Jezebel" without the length of the script being so padded. Henry Fonda is a much more refined and classy actor that Clark Gable. Scarlet O'Hara remains self-centered to the film's end. Whereas Julie Marsden changes to become self-sacrificing. She realizes she needs to redeem herself for her past misbehaviors. Bette Davis is also much more adept at putting on a southern accent than Vivien Leigh. When I compare the two films, "Jezebel" is much more fine tuned. The credit for that doesn't just stay with the actors, it should go to William Wyler too, as the director who kept the actors from over-acting their roles.
Oscar for Bette Davis' 34th Film in 7 years
With a daunting work ethic, Bette Davis was already a motion picture acting veteran by the time she was awarded her second competitive Oscar, at 30 years of age. "Jezebel" was quite a feat of a role for a "yankee lady" with a clipped Bostonian accent. Davis herself said that she found it easy to speak with a deep south US southern accent because it was a lot like a New England brogue--to her. Indeed, Davis proved many times to be very adept at putting on a southern drawl. In Jezebel Davis becomes a rebellious southern woman who rejects being a 'belle'. Since doing that violated convention, she was chastised by her fiance' and family. In order to win her finace's affections back, Julie (Davis) conforms. It's too late, however, since Pres (Henry Fonda) has married a northern woman. After the yellow fever begins overwhelming New Orleans, Pres contracts the deadly disease. In order to vindicate herself and show her love for Pres is beyond her concern for herself, she pleads with his wife (Margaret Lindsay) to accompany Pres to the quarantined area where she'll be surrounded by the disease and death. Mrs. Dillard acquiesces and Julie rides off with Pres on a doomed cart through the burning city. Davis' performance is spot on perfect with Wm. Wyler directing.
Bette Davis & Henry Fonda Southern Gothic
Interesting that the shot on the DVD cover shows Fonda about ready to kiss Davis' neck. I don't recall such a scene. Fact is Fonda was only with Davis in the very beginning of the film. He married a nothern woman after she defied him and wore a red dress to a debutant ball. Those older southern mores were big time double-standards for women. Men could even horse whip a woman 'if she needed it' without it being considered the least bit abusive. Davis transform herself from a bit of a rebellious young woman to a conforming one all becauae she loves Fonda. She's made to feel so ashamed of her independent spirit that when he's dying of the yellow fever she wants to die with him. Those southern plantation mores are revealed as oppressive to women. But Davis, directed by Wyler, never lets on that they are. She conforms willingly as was expected of a woman. She's only 'a jezebel' in relation to her southern gothic contexts. The film reveals a highly abusive part of southern US history.
Overdue Oscar Win, Second Nomination
Bette Davis is Julie Marsden, the young woman who breaks strict southern conventions imposed upon a young lady. She's independent minded and acting, which was no-no. She defies her finance' (Henry Fonda) who's ready to beat her with a horse whip! (Abuse was okay?) Davis' performance steals the show, is the central feature and earns an Oscar, easily.
Better Than "Gone with the Wind"
Since people of color are made out to look like indentured servants to caucausians, "Gone with the Wind" squiggs me. While this film is also set in the South, and basically typical of plantation life, I watched specifically focusing upon the characters of people of color. There's a huge difference in how they are portrayed in "Jezebel" under William Wyler's direction (thank goodness). While it was necessary to the period to have people of color working in the home of the home owners, they aren't treated any differently than Thelma Ritter is as the right hand worker for Margo Channing in "All About Eve." Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) doesn't boss them around and they don't play out southern racist stereotypes. Scarlett O'Hara ordered servants around and made them look like idiots. The perspective is all.
Time Magazine Cover 1938
"Jezebel" must have been a sensation then as it is now because a gorgeous photograph of Bette Davis in her white dress for Pres costume is on the cover of Time 1938 Volume XXXI, Number 13. It is marvelous entertainment when TCM decides to broadcast the films of Bette Davis. Since playing "Jezebel" earned her a 2nd Oscar nomination and 1st Oscar statuette award, the film is certainly historical. Beyond that, the acting by all of the cast is so far beyond the acting being done today. Obviously, Bette Davis wasn't at all like Julie Marsden, so she really had to go into character, not simply act like herself as so many so called actors do now. An Oscar then was worth so much more integrity than it was even 10 years later. My favorite scene in "Jezebel" is when Bette Davis is singing with all of the little children. Can't say why. It just moves me.
Almost missed watching this one
We've wanted to watch "Jezebel" for as long as I can remember. Thanks to TCM we got to do so together as a family this weekend. It gave us a lot to talk about afterwards. The girls were the most inquisitive about how women used to be men's property. They can't imagine that. It was very easy to forget that a woman during Julie Marsden day didn't have the right to vote or speak her mind freely. Watching "Jezebel" served as a reminder of an unpleasant history in the US.
The Red Dress
I'd love to see "Jezebel" colorized just to see Bette Davis and henry Fonda dancing with her wearing that controversial red dress. How one dress could come to represent a woman's non-conformity or non-cooperation with being controlled by men in 1859 is telling. 150 years ago, a woman couldn't choose what to wear without suffering life long consequences, if a man didn't give her his permission. If that's a 'jezebel', a rebellious woman, then I suppose most of us are now. Bette Davis' Oscar winning performance in 1938 is worth her weight in gold, not just an Oscar's. I think Steven Spielberg may have already paid her weight in gold for that performance, in a sense.
How many times does a woman have too...
apologize for one mistake in order to redeem herself? Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) had to jump through male dominated hoops so many times I lost count. She wore a red dress to a debutant ball. Wow, what a sin. She has a mind of her own. Pres, her finacee', (Henry Fonda) was prepared to beat her with a horse whip BEFORE the red dress scene just because she wasn't kissing his feet at his every beckoned call. That was the fate of a woman in 1859. We've come a long way and are far from being done. Wyler directs this southern classic without getting into the trap of depicting people of color in a racist way. The sexism is essential to the plot. The plot of "Jezebel" is all about sexism against women who didn't conform to male stereotypes of them. Bette Davis portrays the sexism that's forced upon Julie quite nobly. So much so, in the end she believes the only thing that will redeem her is exposing herself the yellow fever and probably death. The moral of the film is if a woman doesn't conform to men's demands, she's better off dead. A historical period masterpiece that's quite important to the history of women.
Thanks TCM: Best Sunday in Months 6.6.09
Director William Wyler's treatment of the subject matter in "Jezebel" is among the most sensitive of his generation. Bette Davis' Oscar-winning Best Actress depiction of Julie Marsden highlights how versatile this actor could be within a single film. Tonight I tried counting how many times she changed her moods. The film wastes no time so it was not possible to do so while it was running at full speed. No one else in the film changes within character like Davis does. When, at the end, she's trying to seek out a chance for redemption, Julie becomes a woman with whom people can empathize. She's been trying to make amends for her past misbehaviors. Each time she gets rejected. Alas, at the end, she doesn't. That moment feels triumphant in a quite emotionally moving way. She's willing to live and die for the man she loves. Wler stages that moment beautifully.
Bette Davis ala William Wyler's Direction
Magic seems to happen whenever Bette Davis is directed by William Wyler. They were quite the artistic match. "Jezebel's" success is beyond simply being a box office success as films are rated today. The value of "Jezebel" is its contribution to filmmaking history. There are so many aspects of this film to enumerate here. The cast, music score, period setting & creation of southern afffectations, all of the acting, meticulous direction, and most of all Bette Davis' Oscar winning portrayal of Julie Marsden. There's nothing magical about all of that hard work or all of that artistic talent and acting technique. The magic is that it was so magnificently brought together. Like an orchestra getting a masterpiece just right.
Wyler, Davis, Fonda, Brent, Bainter...
Frankly, my dears, Bette Davis' southern belle 'gone with the wind' performance' directed by William Wyler, and co-starring Henry Fonda make Vivian Leigh and especially Clark Gable look lame. While the 'gone with the wind' production was an epic splash, the racism in it hasn't fared well over time. Davis and Fonda both had more sense to be in a film that depicted people of color as either all-knowing or hysterical slaves. "Jezebel" succeeds in providing a much more accurate depiction of house servants of color. Fonda and David both interact with the characters of color as equals, as they would if the servants were caucasian. For example Fonda doesn't speak down to Uncle Cato as Rhett Butler does to Mammie and Prissy as if both were ignorant children. Scarlett never redeems herself by atoning. Jezebel does again and again. In the end, it's obvious she's giving her life for Pres, so that Amy can live, and so that she can ultimately show what she's really made of.
...and for Davis' 3rd Oscar Nomination
Bette Davis' portrayal of Mildred Rogers, in "Of Human Bondage," earned her the 1st Oscar nomination; her second was for playing Joyce Heath, in "Dangerous," which was also her 1st Oscar win. For her memorable depiction of Julie Marsden, Bette Davis earned her 3rd Oscaar nomination and 2nd Oscar win. The 30yo actor had already came to, acted in and conquered Hollywood by storm. From this point onward, Miss Davis would only accept the best scripts offered to her. She did not let up with her working drive and acting intensity until her death, some 49 years later, when she was 81yo. This film is a southern plantation gothic classic. Director William Wyler, co-lead Henry Fonda, and every other member of the cast & crew seems to have given their all to making this film.
Julie's (Bette Davis) a rebelious young woman living on a southern plantation. Her whole life plan changes after she wears a bright red ball gown to the debutant's white dress and black tie ball. Preston (Henry Fonda's) not just her date that night, he's the man she adores. After that fateful ball, Preston leaves Julie and town for the north. Years later, while Julie's been pining for him, Preston comes back married. William Wyler brought the best out of Bette Davis in "Jezebel." So much so, this performance earned her a second Best Actress Oscar by the time she was a 30yo. It should've been her 3rd, considering her stunning performance in "Of Human Bondage." This film has classic written all over every part of it. In the end, Julie proves her love for Preston's the truest.
The Odd Couple
Doubtless "Jezebel" is a classic for a variety of reasons others have posted here. Although I love it, one thing bugs me: how Henry Fonda and Bette Davis don't seem to make a fitting couple. Fonda's grand in his role just as Davis is in hers. That's not the issue. Nor it is that Fonda and Davis aren't compatible actors, since they are in "That Certain Woman." I guess I'm just never convinced that Fonda's character ever loved Davis'. Other than that, what a great plot and even better performances. Davis' in particular.
the QUEEN of SCREEN!
I was not born when Davis made most of her films, but I have seen every one and I am SPELLBOUND with her acting, as are my 27 and 20 year old children. ....THERE IS NO GREATER ACTRESS!She makes me forget I'm watching a movie and leaves me with emotions long after the movie ends. I wish she were here to run for PRESIDENT; we'd get things straightened out in this country in a hurry! (remember The Letter, Little Foxes!)
Jezebel and Betty Davis
You said that in Bette Davis's opinion She wanted John Wayne for the part of Prez. Who cares. Bette Davis could have played against King Kong and been just as impressive. She is and always will be my favorite actress by far. A U.S. postage stamp will be here in a few weeks with here honored picture. They are limited and I love her so much I will be the first to get a book. Her acting was beyond words. She is GREAT!!!!!!!
- Tiffany Thompson
Along with Hush..Hush Sweet Charlotte, this has become one of my all time favorite films. What a great perfomance deliveried by Bettie Davis
this movie is the best movie ever even though i am in my teens i watch tmc with my dad all the time this is my favorite movie!!!
- NANCY CHANCE
THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A FINER PERFORMANCE BY ANY ACTOR THAN THIS FILM WITH MISS BETTIE DAVIES, A TRUE TALENT TO THE ARTS. YES MR. HINTON THERES WAS A REMAKE BASCICALLY CALLED GONE WITH THE WIND, BUT ASSURE THIS FILM WAS MORE TRUER OF SOUTHERN WOMEN AND HOW WE ACTED AND STILL DO THIS IN THIS TIME. EXCELLENT WORK AS BEEN DONE IN THIS MOVIE FROM ACTORS TO SCENERY AND COSTUME.
No one does it like Bette
- Anthony Ross
I have loved Bette since I first saw her in a old re-run movie of The Nanny.She is awsome and timeless.One of my favorite actors of all time
JEZEBEL..DAVIS WAS BEAUTIFUL
- A.A. HINTON
I first knew Bette Davis from her later films. Never would I have called her beautiful. But, seeing her as Julie, in black and white, no less, I realized that she was truely beautiful. The role was perfect for her, and each time I watch it I see deeper and deeper into southern belle Julie, and the wonderful talent of Miss Davis. Please watch this film twice (at least). Enjoy the wonderful acting, the dialog, the story line. Then go back and realize the depth of the sets, costumes and society of pre Civil War America. Could this same film be made today? NEVER !