Set in antebellum New Orleans during the early 1850's, this film follows Julie Marsden through her quest for social redemption on her own terms. Julie is a beautiful and free spirited, rapacious Southern belle who is sure of herself and controlling of her fiancé Preston Dillard, a successful young banker.
Julie's sensitive but domineering personality--she does not want so much to hurt as to assert her independence--forces a wedge between Preston and herself. To win him back, she plays North against South amid a deadly epidemic of yellow fever which claims a surprising victim.
Bette Davis ... Julie
Henry Fonda ... Preston Dillard
George Brent ... Buck Cantrell
Margaret Lindsay ... Amy
Donald Crisp ... Dr. Livingstone
Fay Bainter ... Aunt Belle
Richard Cromwell ... Ted
Henry O'Neill ... General Bogardus
Spring Byington ... Mrs. Kendrick
John Litel ... Jean La Cour
Gordon Oliver ... Dick Allen
Janet Shaw ... Molly Allen
Theresa Harris ... Zette
Margaret Early ... Stephanie Kendrick
Irving Pichel ... Huger
Director: William Wyler
Nominated for 5 Oscars, won 2 Oscars: Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Codecs: DivX 5 / MP3
I recently saw this magnificent film after not having seen it in quite a number of years. William Wyler's extraordinary direction makes this movie a classic that will live forever.
Mr. Wyler had at his disposal the best of what his studio could give him. In this film, based on the play by Owen Davis, he was at the top of his form. With the help of the great cinematographer, Ernest Haller and that fabulous costume designer, Orry-Kelly, he gives us a movie that will stand as one of the best of that period melodramas. The great Walter Huston was an assistant director under Wyler.
There are some people who have written comments about Jezebel expressing how much better it could have been, had it been done in color. Personally, I don't think so. Just look at the closing scenes of the picture to witness the master camera work of Mr. Haller showing a close up of Ms Davis. The effect of light and shadow is almost comparable to a painting. Bette Davis reacts to the camera with an economy of gestures, and yet, she speaks volumes of what is going on inside her soul.
Technicolor would have been the ruin of this film. At the beginning of its invention, this new process was too harsh. The film wouldn't have kept the glorious look it still possesses, had it been shot in color. As far as the red dress being more visible, in sharp contrast with the white costumes of the other young women at the ball, the black and white effect is more dramatic.
William Wyler was very lucky with the amazing cast he assembled for the film. Bette Davis and Henry Fonda were at their prime when they appeared in Jezebel. Bette Davis is what holds the film together with her magnetism and star performance. It's almost impossible to think of another actress of that period giving as good a performance, as Ms. Davis'.
There are also people that have compared Jezebel with Gone with the Wind. The only thing they had in common is the fact that both take place in the period before the War between the States, but that's as far as the similarities end. This was a stage play, which by the way, was not very successful when Miriam Hopkins and Tallulah Bankhead appeared in it.
This is a film to be treasured thanks to William Wyler.
* It is rumored that the role of Julie was offered as compensation to Bette Davis when she lost the opportunity to play Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind." This rumor is false, as the role of Scarlett had not yet been cast before "Jezebel" was filmed.
* I watched "Jezebel" some time ago on TCM and Robert Osborne stated, prior to the showing of the film, that the "red" dress was actually bronze colored, because bronze showed up better on black and white film then the color red would.
* The "red dress" sequence was based on a real-life "white ball" in Hollywood, at which all the women dutifully appeared in white - except Mrs. MGM, Norma Shearer. Comment from another guest: "Who does Norma think she is? The house madam?"
* Has been called a black-and-white version of Gone with the Wind (1939), which was in its pre-production stages at the time.
* Some scenes were filmed around Henry Fonda, to allow him to be with his wife as she gave birth to their daughter Jane Fonda). This included scenes with Bette Davis. As the star of the film Davis was within her rights to insist that Fonda remain until their scenes were finished, but she allowed him to complete his shots and leave.
* Originally a flop play on Broadway starring Bette Davis' nemesis Miriam Hopkins. Hopkins assumed she was contractually set to star in the film adaptation, but the contract only specified she would be "considered" for the film version.
* In an interview with Dick Cavett in 1971, Bette Davis said her salary, at the time she shot this movie, was $650 a week.