A few words about…™ Jezebel – in Blu-ray

What thrills me about Warner Archive’s new release, is that it looks far better than my 16mm print, which was beautiful. 4 Stars

I’ve always considered William Wyler’s 1938 Jezebel, one of those “miracle” films.

It just works.

Great cast. Superb direction. Wonderful score by Max Steiner (he also did the score for that other Old South production, the following year) Beautifully photographed, in black & white, by the great Ernest Haller.

It all works, and does it ever stand the test of time!

Five Academy Award nominations & WINS:

Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Fay Bainter
Best Picture
Best Cinematography – Ernest Haller
Best Music Scoring – Max Steiner
Best Actress – Bette Davis

Like all cinephiles, we have our favorite films for each and every director, and actor.

For Bette Davis, the two at the top are Jezebel and All About Eve. One can add to that, Dark Victory, The Letter, The Little Foxes, The Bride Came C.O.D., Now Voyager, and The Whales of August.

A nice list of great films, for an extraordinary talent.

But I’ve had my concerns about Jezebel, from a survival perspective. And while I used to have a gorgeous 16mm print, struck in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s, I’ve never seen it look better than acceptable in any home video format.

Did I just hear someone mutter the word, “Why?”

Where do I begin?

The film had an original running time of only 104 minutes, when it was originally released in March of 1938. I’ve always found this odd, as there seems to be three hours of content, which seem to fly by.

Certainly, a re-issue, such as the one in late 1947 wouldn’t necessitate a re-cut to a shorter version?

Well, why not?

And if one is cutting the film, certainly one can make a new fine grain, and cut a duplicate negative?

Well, why not?

And so it was, that some time in 1947, the studio re-cut Jezebel, removing 11 minutes, taking the running time down to 93 minutes.

And cut both the original camera negative, as well as the track.

But wait, it gets better.

At some point, what remained of the original negative deteriorated enough, so that today, it no longer exists.

Everything up until today, for the original cut of the film, has been derived from a “quick and dirty” dupe negative, derived from a nitrate dupe, produced after enough runs on the neg to make it show wear and tear.

What thrills me about Warner Archive’s new release, is that it looks far better than my 16mm print, which was beautiful.

So much better, that one can easily forget what has befallen this film.

Produced from a very early lavender, also with its share of problems, it’s absolutely gorgeous. Rich blacks, gorgeous grays, with proper shadow detail, luminous whites, and magnificent velvety grain.

And to go with the image is a track that allows me to hear Mr. Steiner’s score, as I’ve never heard it before.

As I recall, it may have been another Warner film that gave us the line, “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of…”

Well, this new incarnation of the restored Jezebel, fits that line perfectly.

The point also must be made that this is a true restoration. An expensive one. So for those who like to request classic films, and may not yet have purchased The Thin Man and Footlight Parade, be aware that your purchases speak volumes, and create the ability to restore more nitrate productions.

Jezebel is a film for the ages!

Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – Are you seriously asking?

Very Highly Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

44 Comments

  1. From the rousing score, the word "Jezebel" glowing on fire in the title credits, Davis in a
    prostitute's red dress at a high society function, to that final confrontation at the end…..this is just a really thrilling movie to watch and a good example of WHY i love classic Hollywood.

    Thank you Ms. Davis, for this and all of your work, you are my favorite!!!

  2. Last week, my best friend finally watched this great film on TCM. He called me up to say he didn't understand the praises this film received over the years as he tried to compare it to GWTW. After some discussion he finally conceded that he was too harsh on Jezebel and accepted the film for what it is and not some grand spectacle like GWTW. I'm looking forward to watching this on BD.

  3. Robert Crawford

    Last week, my best friend finally watched this great film on TCM. He called me up to say he didn't understand the praises this film received over the years as he tried to compare it to GWTW. After some discussion he finally conceded that he was too harsh on Jezebel and accepted the film for what it is and not some grand spectacle like GWTW. I'm looking forward to watching this on BD.

    You’ll not be disappointed.

  4. That gorgeous Max Steiner waltz used in the ball scene is one of the GREAT waltzes ever written. It just sweeps you up in its grandeur (and is all the more bittersweet because of the humiliation that Julie is suffering during this sequence). The Adventures of Robin Hood won Best Score that year, but that musical moment in Jezebel is without peer.

  5. Matt Hough

    That gorgeous Max Steiner waltz used in the ball scene is one of the GREAT waltzes ever written. It just sweeps you up in its grandeur (and is all the more bittersweet because of the humiliation that Julie is suffering during this sequence). The Adventures of Robin Hood won Best Score that year, but that musical moment in Jezebel is without peer.

    I may be wrong, but I think he used that waltz theme first in A Star Is Born.

  6. Robert Harris

    And cut both the original camera negative, as well as the track.

    But wait, it gets better.

    At some point, what remained of the original negative deteriorated enough, so that today, it no longer exists.

    Everything up until today, for the original cut of the film, has been derived from a “quick and dirty” dupe negative, derived from a nitrate dupe, produced after enough runs on the neg to make it show wear and tear.

    Produced from a very early lavender, also with its share of problems, it’s absolutely gorgeous. Rich blacks, gorgeous grays, with proper shadow detail, luminous whites, and magnificent velvety grain.

    So you are saying the blu-ray was produced from the very early lavender (with problems)?
    If the lavender was so superior why wasn't it used to make "Everything up until today, for the original cut of the film"?
    Why was a quick-n-dirty dupe negative from a dupe used prior to this?
    Had the lavender been misplaced? Was the lavender incomplete?

  7. Trancas

    So you are saying the blu-ray was produced from the very early lavender (with problems)?
    If the lavender was so superior why wasn't it used to make "Everything up until today, for the original cut of the film"?
    Why was a quick-n-dirty dupe negative from a dupe used prior to this?
    Had the lavender been misplaced? Was the lavender incomplete?

    Simple inventory control, and selection of elements, by someone who knows what they’re doing.

  8. bujaki

    I may be wrong, but I think he used that waltz theme first in A Star Is Born.

    I'll have to watch it again soon to see if that's true. If it's there, it hasn't stood out to me the way it does in Jezebel.

  9. To be clear, many things would come into the orders to produce printing elements. For example, if memory serves, many of the original WB nitrates were stored at the Vitaphone warehouse, which I believe was in Brooklyn.

    If the lab being used was in NY, simple answer would be to use whatever duplicating positive might have been handy.

    Negatives were hardly considered treasures. They were simply a means to an end, toward the creation of “commercially acceptable” prints.

    Nothing more. Especially in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

  10. Couple of add’l points of interest.

    Included as extras, a short promotional film with Bette Davis on the lot in 1938, and Daffy Duck in Hollywood, and early 3-strip animated mini-epic.

    And for those who take their cinema history seriously, a wonderful commentary with Jeanine Basinger, who knows her stuff.

  11. Now I wonder what was shown at MoMA during the 1973 WB retrospective. WB used to ship original 35mm nitrate prints from their vaults to the Museum, such as the complete Captain Blood (first time ever!); a sepia-toned Torrid Zone; the Technicolor Doctor X which fell off the truck on its way back to the warehouse, etc. We also got surprises such as the reissue print of The Life of Emile Zola, subtitled The Dreyfuss Affair. A beautiful print, but severely truncated.

  12. Robert Harris

    […]The point also must be made that this is a true restoration. An expensive one. So for those who like to request classic films, and may not yet have purchased The Thin Man and Footlight Parade, be aware that your purchases speak volumes, and create the ability to restore more nitrate productions.[…]

    It's nice to know that encouragements of future restorations can be heard and noted by WAC, merely by each and every one of us making a purchase.
    Footlight Parade
    The Thin Man
    Gaslight
    Jezebel
    Yes to all four, and a pleasure.
    Now, for clarification, are there any other titles from WAC that fall into this category of encouragements?
    If so, then such additions would be worth posting.:thumbs-up-smiley:

  13. PMF

    If there are any other recent WAC releases that fall into this category of encouragements

    It's nice to know that encouragements of future restorations can be heard and noted by WAC, merely by each and every one of us making a purchase.
    Footlight Parade
    The Thin Man
    Gaslight
    Jezebel
    Yes to all four, and a pleasure.
    Now, for clarification, are there any other titles from WAC that fall into this category of encouragements?
    If so, then such additions would be worth posting.:thumbs-up-smiley:

    The support is needed, Philip. There are more on the way, but akin to any business, budgets must be approved, based upon sales numbers.

    And these are not inexpensive endeavors. They’re full scale restorations.

  14. Robert Harris

    The support is needed, Philip. There are more on the way, but akin to any business, budgets must be approved, based upon sales numbers.

    And these are not inexpensive endeavors. They’re full scale restorations.

    Well, perhaps a moratorium is in order concerning my old rally for "Ryan's Daughter".
    Yes, perhaps, we at HTF who are already interested in these 4 titles should rally together and make a pledge.
    How about all who believe in this cause of true restorations; and all the benefits that go with it;
    pledge to purchase all 4 titles in a single order, between now and the end of September.
    WAC has thrilled us all in 2019, so wouldn't it be fun for us to thrill them in return?:)
    P.S. Having just begun a new job, I will pledge to do the same by late August.:thumbs-up-smiley:

  15. Robert Harris

    The support is needed, Philip. There are more on the way, but akin to any business, budgets must be approved, based upon sales numbers.

    And these are not inexpensive endeavors. They’re full scale restorations.

    Well, perhaps a moratorium is in order concerning my old rally for "Ryan's Daughter".
    Yes, perhaps, we at HTF who are already interested in these 4 titles should rally together and make a pledge.
    How about all who believe in this cause of true restorations; and all the benefits that go with it;
    pledge to purchase all 4 titles in a single order, between now and the end of September.
    WAC has thrilled us all in 2019, so wouldn't it be fun for us to thrill them in return?:)
    P.S. Having just begun a new job, I will pledge to do the same by late August.:thumbs-up-smiley:

  16. PMF

    Well, perhaps a moratorium is in order concerning my old rally for "Ryan's Daughter".
    Yes, perhaps, we at HTF who are already interested in these 4 titles should rally together and make a pledge.
    How about all who believe in this cause of true restorations; and all the BD benefits that go with it;
    make a unified pledge to purchase all 4 titles in a single order, between now and the end of September.
    WAC has thrilled us all in 2019, so wouldn't it be fun for us to thrill them in return?:)
    P.S. RAH, please add any other titles that may fall into this category of support.:thumbs-up-smiley:

    No need to go back further. As a fan of what Warner Archive is doing, I believe that even the product released over past few months speak for themselves.

    And those that I've only thus far heard rumored to be released shortly, will send the fan base over the top. They absolutely have my attention.

  17. What was that internet site which ceased some time back which had 'the rumor mill'?
    I must admit I loved the tantalising snippets of forthcoming items, even if I had to wait months for the actual 'official' announcement.
    Does anyone still issue such toothsome nuggets? Nice for Robert to let us know there are good days ahead, but would like a bit more info, even if highly hedged with 'it is believed' etc etc….

  18. PMF

    Well, perhaps a moratorium is in order concerning my old rally for "Ryan's Daughter".

    In case it hasn't been reported elsewhere, the Spanish Blu-ray of Ryan's Daughter looks beautiful. It has, of course, English dialogue, (with stereo surround sound) and the Spanish subtitles can be turned off.

  19. OLDTIMER

    In case it hasn't been reported elsewhere, the Spanish Blu-ray of Ryan's Daughter looks beautiful. It has, of course, English dialogue, (with stereo surround sound) and the Spanish subtitles can be turned off.

    It's also a bootleg.

  20. OLDTIMER

    All I know is that the packaging looks legit, and it's being sold by Amazon UK. (Incidentally, it's region free.)

    It's still a bootleg and HTF doesn't promote bootlegs even though Amazon has been known for selling such products.

  21. OLDTIMER

    All I know is that the packaging looks legit, and it's being sold by Amazon UK. (Incidentally, it's region free.)

    Yes, Amazon sells bootlegs, and seemingly has no desire to clean up their act. I’ve discussed this with their reps. Ditto Barnes et al.

  22. OLDTIMER

    In case it hasn't been reported elsewhere, the Spanish Blu-ray of Ryan's Daughter looks beautiful. It has, of course, English dialogue, (with stereo surround sound) and the Spanish subtitles can be turned off.

    Much as I'd love to have a blu of Ryan's Daughter, in all good conscience, I can't ethically support bootlegs. But enjoy yours. It's the equivalent of buying a knock off of a Hermes handbag. It looks legit … but it's not.

  23. AnthonyClarke

    What was that internet site which ceased some time back which had 'the rumor mill'?

    I must admit I loved the tantalising snippets of forthcoming items, even if I had to wait months for the actual 'official' announcement.

    Does anyone still issue such toothsome nuggets?

    You're thinking of The Digital Bits, which is still very much going!

  24. OLDTIMER

    In case it hasn't been reported elsewhere, the Spanish Blu-ray of Ryan's Daughter looks beautiful. It has, of course, English dialogue, (with stereo surround sound) and the Spanish subtitles can be turned off.

    If you go to the first page of my thread entitled as "Any 2015 news about Ryan's Daughter?", you shall read from the opening introduction and comments that the Spanish BD is a bootleg. Bootlegs; along with plagiarism; is a hands-down boycott issue of mine. Yes, in earlier days many may have made purchase of those Spanish BDs; be it inadvertently or innocently via Amazon 3rd party vendors; but once one becomes educated on the specifics of such said discs, one quickly learns that such seemingly benign purchases has tremendous ramifications that negatively impacts the lives of many. I appreciate your lead, but do check out either the discussions at the top of my thread or investigate further by going to this supplied link: http://www.iprcenter.gov

    Truly, we may have taken for granted the warning headers of our DVD and Blu Ray discs;
    but this headline quote from our discs of "Piracy is not a victimless crime" is not just a legalese phrase.

    And now, back to our regularly scheduled program of "Jezebel".:thumbs-up-smiley:

  25. AnthonyClarke

    What was that internet site which ceased some time back which had 'the rumor mill'?
    I must admit I loved the tantalising snippets of forthcoming items, even if I had to wait months for the actual 'official' announcement.
    Does anyone still issue such toothsome nuggets? Nice for Robert to let us know there are good days ahead, but would like a bit more info, even if highly hedged with 'it is believed' etc etc….

    THE DIGITAL BITS?

  26. I'm the guy who inadvertently gave unwanted publicity to the Spanish Ryan's Daughter. In order to atone I have posted the following message on the Amazon UK website under Ryan's Daughter:
    According to "Home Theater Forum" the Spanish Blu-ray is a bootleg copy. Buying this is akin to piracy! It affects future legitimate releases.

  27. AnthonyClarke

    Yes, I finally did remember it was The Digital Bits. The reason I stopped following that was because The Rumor Mill section seemed to die a death.

    Bill still posts the same info, I just think he doesn't separate the rumors into its own section anymore. He was the one who posted the rumor about the physical Wizard of Oz 4K release, for example.

  28. OLDTIMER

    I'm the guy who inadvertently gave unwanted publicity to the Spanish Ryan's Daughter. In order to atone I have posted the following message on the Amazon UK website under Ryan's Daughter:
    According to "Home Theater Forum" the Spanish Blu-ray is a bootleg copy. Buying this is akin to piracy! It affects future legitimate releases.

    Thank you!

  29. OLDTIMER

    I'm the guy who inadvertently gave unwanted publicity to the Spanish Ryan's Daughter. In order to atone I have posted the following message on the Amazon UK website under Ryan's Daughter:
    According to "Home Theater Forum" the Spanish Blu-ray is a bootleg copy. Buying this is akin to piracy! It affects future legitimate releases.

    And when it comes to Amazon not policing their 3rd party marketplaces, how would you or anyone else know differently?

    Bravo to you for being Pro-Active.:cheers:

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