2021 Blind Spot Series: Of Human Bondage/Now Voyager
Bette Davis is an actress that's sorely missing from my personal watch list. Every time I've seen her in a film, I've loved her performance. So this year, I made a point to have a few of her films on my Blind Spot list. The first of which being Of Human Bondage
Phillip (Leslie Howard) has enrolled in medical school and falls for a very indifferent waitress, Mildred. (Bette Davis) Over the span of a few years, she rejects him, runs off, comes back, gets pregnant, ruins his life, etc. But Phillip just can't let her go.
I watched this on Amazon Prime, which totes this film as "gloriously remastered" but in all actuality, the quality is still very poor so it's hard to appreciate any beauty this film once had. I don't hold it against a film made in 1934. I'm just happy I was able to see it at all.
From a story standpoint, it's frustrating seeing Phillip make so many mistakes. He's not completely innocent all the time, Mildred shouldn't have to settle with someone she doesn't want either, but it's sad all around. But Bette - she's amazing. The context of this role matters to, as it was so unlikable and Bette was a rising star. For her to take it was a big leap. She even got a write in vote at the Oscars for Best Actress.
This film is pretty short, I believe it comes it at under 90 minutes so it makes for a brisk watch and quality aside, it's definitely worth it for Bette Davis.
Memorable Quote: "It's just as though you were bound to her in some way." - Norah (Kay Johnson)
Now onto my second Bette feature, which I watched because Joel suggested it.
Now Voyager stars Davis as Charlotte Vale, a woman who is falling into what society deems "spinster" territory and her controlling mother is wreaking havoc on her mental health. After spending some time in a hospital, she gains some confidence and goes on a cruise at her cousin's suggestion. She meets Jerry (Paul Henreid) who is married but they strike up an affair that will change her life forever.
First off, I think I had a mental breakdown of my own watching this. Davis was 33 when she made this movie, the same age I am now and the makeup they have her in during the beginning of this film ages her so much. They make her look like a nimble old maid and we should never look at anyone in their 30's (or 40's or 50's) like that. Jesus.
That aside, she was wonderful in this. I felt so much for Charlotte. It's hard trying to be a woman in your own right with an unsupportive mother breathing down your neck and always comparing you to siblings. It's easy to root for her to succeed. I can't even fault her for wanting this affair. What else does she have? A third act introduction of a character named Tina (Paul Henreid) is a clever way of helping Charlotte move forward.
I thought this dragged a bit in the second act after Charlotte leaves the cruise and goes back home. I think I just expected more of the story to take place there, but it comes around and I ended up enjoying this more than Of Human Bondage.
Memorable Quote: "I didn't want to be born. You didn't want me to be born. It's been a calamity on both sides." - Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis)