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Prime classic Hollywood at its best 4.5 Stars

A great movie melodrama from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Irving Rapper’s Now, Voyager is one of the jewels in the Warner Brothers treasure trove of memorable films.

Now, Voyager (1942)
Released: 31 Oct 1942
Rated: APPROVED
Runtime: 117 min
Director: Irving Rapper
Genre: Drama, Romance
Cast: Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper
Writer(s): Casey Robinson (screenplay), Olive Higgins Prouty (from the novel by)
Plot: A frumpy spinster blossoms under therapy and becomes an elegant, independent woman.
IMDB rating: 8.0
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 480I/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 1.0 DD (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 57 Min.
Package Includes: DVD
Case Type: Amaray case
Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)
Region: 1
Release Date: 11/26/2019
MSRP: $29.95

The Production: 4.5/5

The zenith of Bette Davis’ unmatched career at Warner Brothers came with her 1942 melodrama Now, Vogayer, a taut and engrossing tale of a repressed woman finding inner strength and resolve to make an independent life for herself after years of being a downtrodden and humiliated humbug to her high-toned Boston family. Irving Rapper’s direction, the classy production values, a supporting cast of vivid distinctiveness, and a star blazing at the brightest apex in her orbit make Now, Voyager one of the prime dramas of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Boston heiress Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) is a neurotic mess on the verge of a nervous breakdown, largely because of her cold, domineering mother (Gladys Cooper). But after a stint in a sanatorium where she receives the attention of kindly and understanding Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains), Charlotte comes out of her shell and elects to go on a South American cruise. Aboard ship she meets Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid), and the two fall in love, despite his being trapped in a loveless marriage. They enjoy five days in Rio before returning to the States where Charlotte struggles to forget him and forge a new life for herself independent of her authoritarian mother.

Casey Robinson’s marvelous screenplay adapted from the novel by Olive Higgins Prouty forges an easily identifiable roadmap to Charlottte’s neuroses and the stages in her ultimate recovery, and Irving Rapper’s distinctive direction takes us along every step of the way allowing us to suffer along with Charlotte’s struggles and share in the triumphs as she manages every day to gain confidence and authority in dealing with both the world and her own misguidedly low opinion of herself. Rapper’s introduction to the spinsterish Charlotte focuses on her ugly orthopedic oxfords and baggy stockings before moving up to show us her old-fashioned print dress and heavy eyebrows, and he later chicly repeats the introduction to the newly svelte and stylish Charlotte in her most becoming two-toned high heels, slim silk-stockinged legs, and elegant wardrobe, later allowing costume designer Orry-Kelly to go all out in presenting Davis in the most fashionable clothes she was ever to enjoy in a movie. The movie being produced during the height of the Production Code, Jerry and Charlotte’s five-day affair in Rio is handled with utmost discretion as we watch the two slide easily into love, and this handling of romance carries through throughout the movie. Some find the later sequences as Charlotte nurses Jerry’s neurotic child Tina (Janis Wilson), a clear parallel to her own earlier problems with her cold, unloving parent, a bit at odds with the tone of the rest of the film, but those sequences are necessary to bring the love story of Jerry and Charlotte full circle.

Nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, Bette Davis clearly deserved the prize for what many consider her greatest performance, a sublime show of her versatility transforming outwardly and inwardly from a belittled underling to a vibrant, hearty young woman with the world at her feet. As her ever-knowledgeable and understanding psychiatrist Dr. Jaquith, Claude Rains makes a superb foil for Davis’ early problems and later enthusiasms. Paul Henreid is a gentle and loving romantic figure for Davis as Jerry Durrance while Ilka Chase and Bonita Granville are a most convincing mother-daughter pairing as Charlotte’s acerbic but ultimately caring relatives. Gladys Cooper makes an unforgettable impression as Charlotte’s gorgon mother, spiteful and full of haughty displeasure at a daughter who can do nothing to please her. In smaller roles, Franklin Pangborn is most entertaining as the ship’s purser, Mary Wickes gets a lot of mileage out of her dynamic nurse Dora Pickford, and Lee Patrick has a couple of good scenes as a shipboard acquaintance of Charlotte’s who fills her in on Jerry’s unhappy marriage. John Loder is woodenness personified as Charlotte’s stuffy fiancé Elliot Livingston.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s original theatrical 1.37:1 aspect ratio is faithfully presented. Taken from a 4K digital transfer, the standard definition image is solid as a rock with no problems handling the tweed suits and striped shirts and ties that make up much of the wardrobe in the movie. Grayscale is excellent with bright, clean whites and rich black levels. A couple of rampant and noticeable hairs have not been digitally scrubbed, but otherwise there are no signs of age-related scratches, dirt, or debris. The movie has been divided into 19 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The Dolby Digital 1.0 sound mix is typical of its era, but the presentation is first-rate. The sound is clear and strong throughout with dialogue that is crystal clear and which has been mixed dynamically with Max Steiner’s Oscar-winning score and the various sound effects. There are no problems at all with hiss, pops, flutter, and crackle.

Special Features: 4.5/5

The film and the first interview are on the set’s first DVD. The rest of the bonuses are on a second DVD in the case.

Bette Davis Interview (53:35): the star spends almost an hour solo with Dick Cavett in 1971 discussing many aspects of her life and career in a lively and entertaining interview that’s worth multiple views.

Paul Henreid Interview (4:05): the famous actor and director shares memories with interviewer Jim Brown about making both his memorable 1942 films: Now, Voyager and Casablanca.

Farran Smith Nehme Interview (31:19): the film critic offers a brief bio of star Bette Davis and then presents a video analysis of the movie.

Larry McQueen Interview (10:56): the costume historian discusses the importance of designer Orry-Kelly’s costumes in assisting Bette Davis in establishing her character amid dramatic changes throughout the movie.

Jeff Smith Select Audio Commentary (26:56): the music historian details the various award-winning Max Steiner themes which delineate characters and relationships throughout the movie.

Lux Radio Theatre (45:42, 49:23): two different radio interpretations of the story: the 1943 version starring Ida Lupino and Paul Henreid and the 1946 version with Bette Davis and Gregory Peck.

Enclosed Booklet: in addition to information on the cast and crew and the audio and video transfer, the booklet offers 33 pages of stills, an essay on the movie by scholar Patricia White, and a 1937 reflection on her perception of her job as an actress by Bette Davis.

Overall: 4.5/5

A great movie melodrama from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Irving Rapper’s Now, Voyager is one of the jewels in the Warner Brothers treasure trove of memorable films. Because their quantity of review product was low, Criterion could only offer me their DVD package for review, but even in standard definition, the film’s luminous cinematography shines beautifully, and the package is abetted with a strong selection of worthwhile and interesting bonus material. Highly recommended!

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Published by

Matt Hough

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View thread (9 replies)

benbess

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Have you ever had a movie that you thought you'd seen but really haven't seen all the through? Now, Voyager was one of those movies for me. About thirty years ago someone I knew spoke well of it, and then some months after that I saw maybe the first half hour on vhs or amc, but then apparently got distracted or drifted off. Anyway, until yesterday I thought I had watched the whole movie, but playing the Criterion blu-ray that I got because of this review I realized that I hadn't seen about three quarters of it. Anyway, Now, Voyager is a wonderful movie from this era restored to perfection from the original negative.

Matt H. writes in his perceptive review:

"Rapper’s introduction to the spinsterish Charlotte focuses on her ugly orthopedic oxfords and baggy stockings before moving up to show us her old-fashioned print dress and heavy eyebrows, and he later chicly repeats the introduction to the newly svelte and stylish Charlotte in her most becoming two-toned high heels, slim silk-stockinged legs, and elegant wardrobe, later allowing costume designer Orry-Kelly to go all out in presenting Davis in the most fashionable clothes she was ever to enjoy in a movie. The movie being produced during the height of the Production Code, Jerry and Charlotte’s five-day affair in Rio is handled with utmost discretion as we watch the two slide easily into love, and this handling of romance carries through throughout the movie. Some find the later sequences as Charlotte nurses Jerry’s neurotic child Tina (Janis Wilson), a clear parallel to her own earlier problems with her cold, unloving parent, a bit at odds with the tone of the rest of the film, but those sequences are necessary to bring the love story of Jerry and Charlotte full circle."

It's fascinating to watch the transformation of Bette Davis in this movie. In the opening scenes her eyebrows do seem maybe a tiny bit overdone by the make-up dept? And the discussion of her weight in a few parts of the movie did make me feel slightly uneasy. But the costumes by Orry-Kelly—and it seems like there were at least twenty for Davis alone—are great. This is a place where high definition moving images from the OCN make a difference, because you can see and admire the intricate texture and care that went into the fabrics, hats, etc.

Speaking of hats, I felt that this movie influenced Cameron's Titanic in at least two visuals—there an image of Bette Davis in full glamour mode on the cruise ship peeking out from under her hat that parallels that famous image of Kate Winslet doing the same, and then there's a shot of the ship's engine moving that is paralleled on a grander scale in Titanic.

Now, Voyager is in part about psychological health, and was influenced by the experiences of novelist Olive Higgins Prouty. As we can read in wikipedia, she suffered from a few mental challenges in her life, including one after the death of a child. She went to a fancy rest-cure place, rather like is found in the movie, and her progressive doctor said that part of being well was to have a really nice space of her own for writing. Since she was affluent that obviously helped make this possible. Prouty's parallel character played by Davis also has lots of money to make things happen.

Filmed right before Casablanca, this movie also features good roles for two players from that classic, Claude Rains and Paul Henreid. Gladys Cooper, who played a sympathetic character in Rebecca, here plays Mrs. Henry Vale, and she's elaborately costumed in dresses from another age of fashion—1910 maybe, or even 1890—which help develop her strait-laced character.

This was another movie that does something that I seem to really like in movies—an ambiguous and emotional ending, which is enhanced in this case by Max Steiner's lush Oscar-winning and memorable score.

Beautifully produced, the movie looks more expensive to me than the c.$900k in 1942 dollars that wikipedia says that it cost to make. It was a big hit, as almost all other movies starring Bette Davis had been for the previous eight years or so.

If I needed to make a list of my top ten "women's picture" movies from the 1930s to 1950s, Now, Voyager would definitely make the list.



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Last edited:

Matt Hough

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Yeah, I wish Criterion had sent me the Blu-ray to review, but they were running short of review copies and sent only the DVD. Still looked and sounded amazing, but this review is in the right forum.

BTW, the same thing happened with A Night to Remember. I only got the DVD to review as they ran out of the other.
 

Robert Crawford

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Yeah, I wish Criterion had sent me the Blu-ray to review, but they were running short of review copies and sent only the DVD. Still looked and sounded amazing, but this review is in the right forum.

BTW, the same thing happened with A Night to Remember. I only got the DVD to review as they ran out of the other.
That sucked!