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Warner Bros. star Bette Davis, who commanded the female audience of the 1940's like no other star, had her biggest hit of the decade in Now, Voyager (1942), the romantic drama of Charlotte Vale, a repressed, overweight spinster who escapes from the influence of a domineering mother to become a glamorous woman of the world.
Oddly, it took Warner Bros. a while to settle on Davis - then the acknowledged "Queen of the Lot" - as star of the property, based on the 1941 novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, who also wrote Stella Dallas. (Prouty took the title Now, Voyager from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass: "Untold Want, by life and land ne'er granted/Now, Voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find.") The first choice of producer Hal B. Wallis to play Charlotte was Irene Dunne, then Norma Shearer (as a loan-out from MGM), then Ginger Rogers. But once Davis became aware of the role - realizing that Charlotte was, like herself, a New Englander and a plain woman who could transform herself into something much more attractive - she saw to it that it was hers.
Over the years, there was controversy over who created one of the most celebrated bits of business in film history - the cigarette ritual performed by Paul Henreid as Jerry, the married man with whom Charlotte falls in love. Henreid puts two cigarettes in his mouth, lights both, then passes one seductively to Davis. The two actors, who became instant and lifelong friends, claimed that they worked the routine out during rehearsals, inspired by a habit Henreid shared with his wife on car trips. But screenwriter Casey Robinson said he had included the business in his original script - something borne out by drafts of his script on file with the Warner Bros. papers at the University of Southern California.
In Charlotte's gentle admonition to her lover, Now, Voyager also boasts one of the most famous closing lines in all cinema: "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars."
Director: Irving Rapper
Producer: Hal B. Wallis
Screenplay: Casey Robinson, from novel by Olive Higgins Prouty
Art Direction: Robert M. Haas
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Cinematography: Sol Polito
Editing: Warren Low
Original Music: Max Steiner
Principal Cast: Bette Davis (Charlotte Vale), Paul Henreid (Jerry Durrance), Claude Rains (Dr. Jaquith), Gladys Cooper (Mrs. Henry Windle Vale), Bonita Granville (June Vale), John Loder (Elliot Livingston), Ilka Chase (Lisa Vale), Lee Patrick ("Deb" McIntyre), Franklin Pangborn (Mr. Thompson).
BW-118m. Close captioning. Descriptive video.
by Roger Fristoe