It’s safe to say I am a fan of Bette Davis. She may have her foibles in her personal life and attitude, but the woman can flat out act. Jezebel is the first film I saw her in, and I’ve been a fan ever since. This is one I’ll happily rewatch for the sake of her acting alone. Directed by William Wyler and also starring Henry Fonda in one of the roles that would put him on the path to stardom, Jezebel is a decent film with one hell of a main acting anchor.
Bette Davis clearly deserved her Oscar for this. The film is a run-of-the-mill period piece, until the moment she first arrives. Immediately all the attention is on her, and she commands the screen in every second of her appearance. She has taught me an implacable lesson in how to be a great screen actor: Have fun with the role, and you will far easier lose yourself in it. I will cite Davis’ performance here as an inspiration in the future. Henry Fonda is also charmingly debonair, though there are obvious hints of the actor beneath the performance. As for the rest of the film, I mentioned before that it’s rather standard fare, but that doesn’t mean it is any less enjoyable. Still, if you’re not a fan of period pieces, this will likely rub you the wrong way.
The film can be, and often is, compared to Gone With the Wind, but to compare the two is a little unfair to this film, especially when the plot and the core of the film is so different. This isn’t an attempt at copying the latter’s book, it is merely akin to it, like a sibling and not a fraternal twin. Even with the similarities, this still stands well enough on its own, and is one I can recommend that you give a shot. I’ve said multiple times before that I’m a fan of good films with strong central performances, and if you are too, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Jezebel.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10