Starring: Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, George Brent
Director: William Wyler
Created in answer to the huge film Gone With The Wind that Bette Davis missed out on starring in, this film is set in 1850’s Louisiana, and has at heart a woman who knows what she wants.
Julie Marsden (Davis) is the darling of her community, and know that many men would love to have her for their own sweetheart. But when she decides in her free spirited way to attend a ball with her fiancee Preston (Fonda) in a red dress instead of white, she’s branded a hussy (I know, how could she?). The ensuing argument breaks off their engagement, and Preston leaves town. In her pride, Julie is sure that he’ll be back, but when he does return, he’s married to someone else. But Julie is a woman not easily put off.
As an answer to Gone With The Wind, it’s nothing. But it has it’s own delights, and was quite a hit in it’s own right. Davis is charming as a strong, light-hearted woman, who is ultimately punished and labelled a Jezebel because she’s a free thinker, which is a bit sad by modern standards, and adds an extra tragic layer to the film. She’s also smart enough to be manipulative without entirely thinking things through unemotionally, which leads to the other tragic elements of this film. It’s quite large and melodramatic, which is often when I think Davis is at her finest.
I love these old films with strong, interesting and beautiful women at their centre. It’s true classic Hollywood here, with lavish costumes and sets, and an interesting location and time period.
See It If: you love Bette Davis and Gone With The Wind, a big lavish and tragic romance with a femme fatale at it’s centre.