Film #4: Now, Voyager (1942)
Directed by Irving Rapper
Written by Casey Robinson from the novel by Olive Higgins Prouty
Starring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains
Now, Voyager follows Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis), a dowdy spinster who lives with her rich, overbearing mother (Gladys Cooper) in Boston.
Charlotte’s sister-in-law, Lisa (Ilka Chase), is worried about her and thinks that she should see a psychiatrist before she has a nervous breakdown. Enter Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains), who comes to the Vale home to observe Charlotte, despite the disapproval of Charlotte’s mother.
Concluding that Charlotte truly is struggling with mental illness, Dr. Jaquith recommends that she spend time at Cascade, the sanitarium that he operates.
Dr. Jaquith sees remarkable improvement in Charlotte as soon as she’s away from her mother’s heavy-handed influence. Not wanting to go home and regress to the way she was before, Charlotte decides to instead go on a cruise, where she meets Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid), a married man with whom she falls in love.
Bette Davis, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains are three of my absolute favorite classic Hollywood stars, so of course this is one of my favorite films.
Rains is his usual ultra-talented self. Henreid is an actor who deserved more leading roles, so it’s nice to see him take on the role of Davis’ leading man. He had ample opportunity to show off his talents in supporting roles and as a director, but he wasn’t given enough of a chance to carry films — something I think he was highly capable of.
Davis, of course, is the star of the show here, with her on-point portrayal of her character’s transformation and emotions. Did she ever give a bad performance? Was there anything she wasn’t capable of?
In the past three reviews in this series of TCM’s “Greatest Classic Romances” I’ve discussed how the films fit into the DVD set’s theme. Now, Voyager is an interesting film to think of in this respect because while the romance between Henreid and Davis’ characters is important, the real story here is the growth of Charlotte Vale from a depressed, sheltered woman to a more confident, self-determined woman.
The romance plays a part in this transition, but it isn’t Charlotte’s savior. Jerry is supportive of Charlotte and loves her, but she has so many other positive relationships that grow and help her emerge from her shell, most importantly her relationship with herself. She makes so much progress by the end of the film that she’s able to work with Dr. Jaquith to help others like her, including Jerry’s daughter, Tina.
Though the changes to Charlotte’s life and mindset are at the heart of Now, Voyager, it’s still a great fit for this DVD set because it contains very emotional, impactful and truly “classic” romantic scenes, including Charlotte chasing Jerry down at the train station and Charlotte’s famous ending quote:
“Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.”
Special features: Scoring Session Music Cues & Cast Highlights
Like Love in the Afternoon, this disc features a section listing the highlights of the careers of some of the film’s major players. There is also a “Scoring Session Music Cues” feature which plays clips from the score. (They can be played individually or together). The score of this film oozes sentiment and emotion, really adding to the romance of the film, so I’m glad to see a special feature highlighting that aspect of the film!