“Now, Voyager”

Next up in my 2019 TCM Essentials movie watching project is the romantic melodrama Now, Voyager (Warner Bros., 1942). (I’m going a little out of order, but when a movie on the list presents itself, I’m watching it.)

Directed by Irving Rapper and starring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, and Gladys Cooper, the film tells the story of a repressed and depressed spinster (Davis) who breaks free from her horribly controlling mother (Cooper) with the help of a kind psychiatrist (Rains) and then falls in love with a married man (Henreid).

Bette Davis undergoes quite a transformation in the film, with the help of her superior skills as an actress along with the outstanding makeup and wardrobe department at Warner Bros. When we first meet Charlotte (Bette’s character), she’s barely coping with having to live under the weight of her oppressive and icky mother (I’d dare say that this mother character is one of the worst mothers in all of moviedom).

The oppressed, repressed, and depressed Charlotte Vale (as played by Bette Davis in NOW, VOYAGER)

After a compassionate family member helps Charlotte get out of the house and spend some time in a sanitarium under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Jaquith, she emerges from her shell.

A post-therapy Charlotte Vale

Dr. Jaquith sends Charlotte on a cruise for a few weeks to continue her healing process, practice her new social skills, and relax before she has to return home and face her rotten mother (who, Dr. Jaquith reminds Charlotte, is still her mother).

On the cruise, Charlotte meets the charming architect Jerry Durrance, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage. They end up spending a lot of time together and ultimately fall in love, but they both know that the relationship is not going to work since Jerry has decided to stay married for the sake of his one and only child, his beloved daughter Tina. What happens to Charlotte, and what Charlotte decides to do, is what makes Now, Voyager such a special film (I don’t want to spoil anything, so hope you’ll watch it).

Bette Davis and Paul Henreid in NOW, VOYAGER

Jeremy Arnold states in The Essentials, “Underneath the surface lies a potent statement—especially resonant for female audiences of the time—about a woman making her own choices in life, including those that go against a conformist society’s expectations. Its one thing for Charlotte simply to escape her mother’s dominance; it’s quite another for her to choose a path to fulfillment that doesn’t include getting married and having kids.”

Here’s a trailer for the film.

Now, Voyager is truly one of the great films from Warner Bros.’ golden age and should definitely be essential viewing on your movie watching list, too.

My score: 5 out of 5 stars

I watched Now, Voyager on DVD. It is also available on Apple iTunes.

TCM The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter by Jeremy Arnold is available at Amazon and other fine booksellers.


Images ©️ Warner Bros.