A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Monday, March 12, 2018

Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942)

Paul Henreid, Bette Davis, and John Loder in Now, Voyager
Charlotte Vale: Bette Davis
Jerry Durrance: Paul Henreid
Dr. Jaquith: Claude Rains
Mrs. Vale: Gladys Cooper
June Vale: Bonita Granville
Eliot Livingston: John Loder
Lisa Vale: Ilka Chase
Deb McIntyre: Lee Patrick
Mr. Thompson: Franklin Pangborn
Dora Pickford: Mary Wickes
Tina Durrance: Janis Wilson

Director: Irving Rapper
Screenplay: Casey Robinson
Based on a novel by Olive Higgins Prouty
Cinematography: Sol Polito
Art direction: Robert M. Haas
Film editing: Warren Low
Music: Max Steiner

"A campy tearjerker," "kitsch," "a schlock classic" -- that's pretty much what you have to call Now, Voyager if you're a critic trying to prove your tough-mindedness, like Pauline Kael or the unidentified New York Times reviewer who dismissed it as "lachrymose." But there are at least two moments in the movie that bring it into focus as something more than just a routine weepie, or rather that suggest that even a routine weepie has a point to make. One is the scene in which Charlotte Vale and Eliot Livingston break off their engagement in an off-handed, all-in-a-day's-work manner. Eliot is, after all, as square as John Loder's jaw, and not at all the mate for a woman who has just discovered who she is. Of course, the breakup kills Charlotte's mother, but that consequence is long past due. The other key moment for me is in the long final scene between Charlotte and Jerry Durrance. She has more or less adopted Tina, the daughter that Jerry's never-seen wife doesn't want. But when Jerry tells her that he's taking Tina away, there's one of the more magnificent Bette Davis moments from a career full of them. His reason, you see, is that by devoting herself to Tina, Charlotte is apparently depriving herself of the opportunity to catch a man. For a brief moment we see Charlotte incredulous at the reason, followed by another moment of something like, "Lord, what fools men are." Jerry drops several notches in Charlotte's esteem at the moment, which leads into the film's most famous line, in which she dismisses Jerry's egocentric wishful thinking: "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars." Charlotte Vale emerges from the film as one of the more admirable, level-headed women ever seen on a movie screen.

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