NR | 26 March 1938 (USA)
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In 1850s Louisiana, the willfulness of a tempestuous Southern belle threatens to destroy all who care for her.


Surprisingly incoherent and boring


This is a tender, generous movie that likes its characters and presents them as real people, full of flaws and strengths.

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Allison Davies

The film never slows down or bores, plunging from one harrowing sequence to the next.

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Kamila Bell

This is a coming of age storyline that you've seen in one form or another for decades. It takes a truly unique voice to make yet another one worth watching.

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Director: WILLIAM WYLER. Screenplay: Clements Ripley & Abem Finkel, and John Huston. Adaptation: Robert Buckner. Based on the 1935 Broadway stage play by Owen Davis, Sr. Photography: Ernest Haller. Camera operator: Al Roberts. Assistant camera operator: Bud Weiler. Film editor: Warren Low. Music: Max Steiner. Songs: "Jezebel" by Harry Warren (music) and Johnny Mercer (lyrics); "Raise a Ruckus" by Harry Warren (music) and Al Dubin (lyrics). Music director: Leo F. Forbstein. Art director: Robert Haas. Costumes: Orry-Kelly. Technical adviser: Dalton S. Reymond. Stills cameraman: Mack Elliott. 2nd unit director: John Huston. 2nd assistant director: Arthur Lueker. Assistant director: Robert Ross. Sound recording: Robert B. Lee. Associate producer: Henry Blanke. Production manager: Tenny Wright. Producer: Hal B. Wallis. Executive producer: Jack L. Warner.Copyright 26 January 1938 by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. New York opening at the Radio City Music Hall, 10 March 1938 (ran 2 weeks). U.S. release: 26 March 1938. Australian release: 21 July 1938. 12 reels. 103 minutes.SYNOPSIS: Southern belle scandalizes the Old South by wearing a red strapless gown to a black-and-white ball.NOTES: Academy Award, Best Actress, Bette Davis (defeating Fay Bainter in White Banners, Wendy Hiller in Pygmalion, Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette and Margaret Sullavan in Three Comrades). Academy Award, Best Supporting Actress, Fay Bainter (defeating Beulah Bondi in Of Human Hearts, Billie Burke in Merrily We Live, Spring Byington in You Can't Take It With You and Miliza Korjus in The Great Waltz).Also nominated for Best Picture (You Can't Take It With You), Cinematography (The Great Waltz) and Best Music Score (Alexander's Ragtime Band).Negative cost: around $1 million. Shooting commenced 18 October 1937 and finished 18 January 1938. — 42 days over schedule. (Wyler's mania for perfection — his insistence on endless takes — was blamed for the run-over).The stage play, produced by Katharine Cornell and Guthrie McClintic opened on Broadway at the Barrymore on 19 December 1933 and ran only 32 performances. It starred Miriam Hopkins and Joseph Cotten, and featured Cora Witherspoon as Aunt Belle.COMMENT: A lavish costume melodrama designed by its creators and players as a try-out for their employment (they hoped) on Gone With the Wind. As it happened, however, only composer Max Steiner reached that goal, although Jezebel is not only excellent entertainment but excels in every aspect of its production: flawless acting dominated by the driving portrayal of Bette Davis as the self-willed Julie; gorgeous costumes and no-expense-spared sets with hundreds of extras impressively regimented in spectacular crowd scenes — Wyler successfully showing off his mastery of both action and intimate, soul-baring emotional scenes. The film's only weakness is its facile soap opera script — high class soap opera, but still, for all its impeccable staging, as sudsy as a Hollywood bubble-bath.

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I watched Gone With The Wind a hundred times before seeing this classic film on TCM. Now I know where it came from! I stopped counting the things they ripped off from "Jezebel" after 10. Putting it mildly, GWTW was nothing more than 'Jezebel' in color, with different actors. I didn't think that Bette Davis would be such a great Southern belle, but she was, and in spades. That said, in the fullness of time, Vivien Leigh would most be remembered, and her Scarlett was one for the ages, the definitive role for the definitive actor. But we should never forget where the seeds of "Gone With The Wind Came From"... the back lot of Warner Bros.

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After my first Davis film was Al About Eve, I wanted to see some younger Davis. Seeing as how she won the Oscar for this it was only fair. Davis is magnificent. Funnily enough, it did remind me a lot of Scarlett O Hara in Gone with the Wind, and fair enough after I finished it I read that the studio offered Davis this role as an apology of some sorts because she didn't get the now legendary Gone with the Wind role. As it is, I could definitely see Davis as O Hara, and many of the same traits lie in Julie. This is a very good film, although it never really hits greatness, it's still very much worth watching and it's a strong addition to Davis' filmography.

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JEZEBEL (1938) is one of the great and enduring Warner Bros. Bette Davis classics, and alongside "The Old Maid" - made the following year - is my own favourite Davis movie. From a flopped play by Owen Davis Snr. It was produced for the studio by Henry Blanke and beautifully written for the screen by Clements Ripley, Abem Finkel and - feeling his way along in the business - a young John Huston. Genius cinematographer Ernest Haller was behind the camera bringing the vivid Art Direction of Robert Hass to life and the masterful direction was in the safe hands of William Wyler.A splendid sense of time and place is immediately established at the very beginning with the 1852 setting in antebellum Louisanna. Bette Davis is Julie Marsden the high spirited southern socialite who toys playfully with the feelings of her male suitors especially her young banker fiancé Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda). But he tires of her controlling personality and her irritating misdeeds such as storming into his bank demanding to see him on a trivial matter as he attends an important board meeting and then her insistence on wearing a RED dress to the Olympus Ball much to the chagrin of those who adhere to the strict tradition to only wear white ("You can't wear red to the Olympus Ball"! asserts an astonished Pres)). But wear it she does in defiance! However the Ball is a sensational sequence as Julie and Pres become a spectacle when all in attendance stand around and stare in disbelief as they waltz alone in the middle of the floor. Later during their uneven relationship Pres has to go North on business. He returns after about a year but he is not alone. He is now accompanied by a new woman in his life....... his wife. Counting the days for Pres's return Julie is in utter shock when he introduces Amy (Margret Lindsay) to her as his wife.("You're funnin'!" A horrified Julie exclaims - "Hardly!" responds a sheepish Pres). The picture climaxes with the dreaded Yellow Jack fever breaking out across the South and Pres being struck down with the deadly disease. In a brilliant confrontation with Amy Julie manages to convince her that it must be her, and not his wife, who should accompany Pres to the fever death camp. The picture ends in an extraordinary and harrowing final scene as Julie comforts the dying Pres on one of the many wagons in the caravan heading out of the city to the fever camp.The acting throughout is superb from all concerned topped with a blistering Acadamy Award winning performance from Davis (she was assigned the role so as to allay any disappointment she might harbour with Warners for not loaning her out to play Scarlet O'Hara - a part she dearly wanted to play). Excellent too is the young Henry Fonda, Fay Bainter in her best supporting Award winning role as the gentle and anxious Aunt Belle and George Brent is impressive (as always) as the ill-fated rival Buck Cantrell. The movie's atmosphere is quite stunning with the stark black & white cinematography, the vibrant looking sets and the supreme nominated score by Max Steiner. The composer's main theme is beautifully arranged as a beguiling waltz for the infamous ballroom scene. And in the final sequence his prowess as film's great dramatist is powerfully demonstrated in the chilling dirge-like march he wrote (complete with spirited female chorus) for the fever wagons, with their cargo of dead and dying, as they struggle through the streets of New Orleans on their way to their grisly destination. JEZEBEL was one of 18 scores the great composer wrote for Bette Davis' films which included "The Old Maid"(1939), "Dark Victory" (1939), "The Letter"(1940) and most memorably "Now Voyager" (1942) which brought the composer the second of his three Acadamy Awards. The great actress once remarked of the composer "At Warner Bros. Max knew more about drama than any of us".Max Steiner's music, William Wyler's adroit direction, Ernest Haller's stunning cinematography and of course Bette Davis's riveting performance all jell to make JEZEBEL one of Hollywood's outstanding and unforgettable motion pictures of all time.

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