[box cover]

Now Voyager

Imagine this: Because of your domineering witch of a mother you become a severely unhappy spinster and suffer a nervous breakdown. You are sent to an institution. However, when treated, your psychiatrist slenders you up, dons you in the latest fashions and sends you on an ocean voyage under an assumed name. During your vacation, you fall into a complicated, wonderfully steamy love affair with Paul Henreid. When your vacation concludes, you are now a confident, self-governing, ravishing woman who won't allow her mother to dictate her life. Ah. If only every sanitarium were run by Claude Rains. With the dashing, world-weary Dr. Jaquith (Rains) in charge, picture how many women would forgo Prozac, Oprah, and Dr. Laura to truly live life the way all females should: the Bette Davis way. On this premise sits the magnificent melodrama Now, Voyager, a 1942 picture directed by Irving Rapper that's a classic tearjerker in the best sense of the genre. Davis, of course, plays Charlotte Vale, the spinster turned world-class beauty (those hats, those shoes, those eyes — don't ever forget that Bette Davis was a gorgeous creature in her day) who runs the gamut of emotions while transforming into a tough but tender woman still bruised by her repressed past. While still in love with the unhappily married Jerry Durrance (Henreid), Charlotte turns down another suitor and becomes a mother of sorts to Jerry's daughter, who coincidentally is in the same institution where she once resided. The girl is another victim of an unloving mother, but now luckily has Charlotte as a caring surrogate. This satisfies Charlotte , who wants but can't easily attain a child and Jaquith; in this capacity she so sadly and heroically has the love of both a daughter and a man as if they were her own. Like all great melodramas (Magnificent Obsession and Stella Dallas to name two), Charlotte must sacrifice along the way, but with painful, eloquent romance. Watching Davis metamorphosis in Now, Voyager from a trembling, bespectacled, overweight neurotic to a striking cosmopolitan is one of cinema's great transformations — and something recent films have managed badly (think Julia Roberts' streetwalker slut to haute couture slut makeover in Pretty Woman). The dialogue, adapted by Casey Robinson from a novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, is witty, intelligent, mellifluous, sorrowful, and full of wonderful repartee. Battles, discussions, and love scenes are expertly drawn out between daughter and mother (played by a perfectly shrill Gladys Cooper), doctor and patient (who allow undercurrents of attraction seep through), and between lover to lover (Davis and Henreid are dazzling to watch). Max Steiner's score is pure elegance that makes the heart swoon, and Davis and Henreid's famous moment (which Henreid improvised into Hollywood history) still plays like a sly sex scene. Lighting two cigarettes in his mouth and handing one to Davis became, and still is, the highest elan of sophisticated sexual suggestion — that is if you can pull it off. Rapper's masterful Now, Voyager stresses not to waste your time, to grab life when you still can, but to allow forfeit along the way. At the film's closing, Henreid asks Davis, "But will you be happy Charlotte?" And she utters her famous final lines: "Don't let's ask for the moon, we have the stars." They've been quoted time and time again, but are still as resonant and as beautiful today. Warner's DVD offers clean black-and-white transfer (1.33:1), with improved monaural audio, and with English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles. Special features include a scratchier but effective theatrical trailer, scoring session music cues, interactive menus, and cast and career highlights. Snap-case.
—Kim Morgan

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