NOW VOYAGER ( 1942 )
Fashion month has now arrived, and for my eight choices, I wanted to go with contemporary fashion, films that really showcase the fashion of the era. Today I decided to kick off with “Now Voyager”, an illustrious film, starring Bette Davis.
“Now Voyager” marks the first independent Warner Bros. production for producer, Hal B. Wallis, and because he had an integral part in the filming, he was able to decide on the cast. His first preferences for the role of Charlotte Vale were Irene Dunne, Norma Shearer and Ginger Rogers, but once Bette Davis found out about the project, she seen this as the perfect vehicle for her, and started campaigning for the part. She was eagerly enthusiastic about the role, becoming equally immersed in the filming process and engaging herself in every detail possible, even going as far as consulting the notable costume designer, Orry-Kelly, and personally selecting her own wardrobe. Another important factor was the leading men. By this stage in her career, Bette was adamant about having her co-star thoroughly elected.
In “Now Voyager”, Paul Henreid was to play her love interest. Bette had always admired Paul, and agreed to have him in the picture, but altercations arose when Henreid’s initial costume and makeup tests were revealed. Henreid was originally going to have his hair slicked back, with a gigolo like appearance, but Davis was horrified at the thought, thinking that it made him resemble Valentino. As it turned out, Paul Henreid was also uncomfortable with the brilliantine image, that when Davis insisted on another screen test with a more natural hairstyle, he granted permission to have it go ahead.
Italy was to serve as the pictures main setting, and most of the location shooting was to take place there, but because it was the midst of World War II, filming around the European locales would not be possible. Instead Warner’s sound stage 18 and various locations around California, including the San Bernardino National Forest served as the location. Photography and several scenes were to also take place in Boston, which was another reason why Bette was intrigued in the project.
For the first time, Bette was able to have the ability to shape her future artistic ventures, as not only did she have a significant role in influencing the decisions over her co-stars, the choice of director was predicated on a need to have a compliant individual at the helm.
Superbly directed by Irving Rapper, and based on Olive Higgins Prouty’s novel of the same name, the film stars Bette Davis, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains, who paired with Bette in three other films during his career, and was later crowned as Bette’s favorite co-star. To this day, “Now Voyager” remains a masterpiece, because of the famous cigarette scene. For years, Davis and co-star Paul Henreid claimed the moment in which Jerry puts two cigarettes in his mouth, lights both, then passes one to Charlotte, was developed by them during rehearsals, inspired by a habit Henreid shared with his wife, but drafts of Casey Robinson’s script on file at the University of Southern California indicate it was included by the screenwriter in his original script. The scene remained an indelible trademark that Davis later would exploit as “hers”.
Bette Davis illuminates the screen in her laudable portrayal of Charlotte Vale, the unattractive and unfashionable spinster, who transforms into an elegant, sophisticated young girl of society. Charlotte Vale is a depressed and overweight woman, whose lived a life of brutal domination, and has been resented by her imperious and controlling mother, ( Gladys Cooper ). When her sister-in-law Lisa fears that Charlotte is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, she orders Dr. Jaquith ( Claude Rains ) to the house, and after witnessing Charlotte and her mothers denigration of her daughter, he recommends that she goes to stay at his sanatorium for a while.
After being away from home for a few weeks, Charlotte begins to blossom, and at Lisa’s request, she is sent away on a lengthy cruise, where she is transformed into an independent reformed person, bearing nothing but the latest style of the day. On board the ship she meets Jeremiah Duvaux Durrance ( Paul Henreid ) a married man, with a manipulative wife, and a neglected daughter.
On her return home, Charlotte’s mother is determined to destroy her daughters image by demanding that she dress in the archaic clothes that she wants her to wear, but Charlotte manages to get the better of her mother by retaining her independence and own free will. While residing back at home, Charlotte is faced with an array of complications, including her mothers death, where she takes the guilt and flees back to Dr. Jaquith’s sanatorium, where she encounters Jeremiah’s daughter Tina, who she befriends.
“Now Voyager” is the perfect film for fashion month. The movie really depicts the latest style of the day, with Charlotte exhibiting many different costumes and accessories all through out the movie. From the moment, Charlotte transformed from an ugly ducking into a swan, she bore nothing but style, sophistication, glamour and elegance, wearing clothes that really epitomize the fashion of 1942.
Bette’s gown in the movie were created by the distinguished costume designer, Orry-Kelly, who was known for working with all the major stars of the day, and designing costumes for films which are now inaugurated as classics, being the most hellacious films the world has known.
Orry George Kelly was born on December 31st, 1897 in Kiama, New South Wales, Australia. At a young age, Orry developed a passion for art, and later secured work as a tailor’s apprentice and window dresser in Sydney. While working, he was yearning for a career in acting, and shortly after he travelled to New York, where he shared an apartment with Cary Grant and Charlie Spangles.
A few months later he attained work painting murals in a nightclub, which eventually led him to employment, illustrating titles for Fox East Coast Studios. Around the same time he designed costumes and sets for Broadway‘s Shubert Revues and George White’s Scandals.
In 1932, he went to Hollywood, and it didn’t take long for him to progress his way up the ladder, working for all the major studios, designing costumes for all the great actresses of the day.
For most of his life he was dependent on alcohol, and was often suffering from Dipsomania, which would lead to his death on February 27th, 1964 from Liver Cancer. To this day, Orry George Kelly is remembered for his prolific skills in costume design, being one of the most eminent costume designers the world has known.
“Now Voyager” is known as the biggest box office hit for the career of Bette Davis.
Filming went a few weeks over schedule, which in turn caused some conflicts with Casablanca (1942), which also starred Claude Rains and Paul Henreid. Rains finished work on this movie June 3rd in 1942 and did his first scene on Casablanca (1942) at 10:30 the next morning.
Paul Henreid‘s act of lighting two cigarettes at once caught the public’s imagination and he couldn’t go anywhere without being accosted by women begging him to light cigarettes for them.
The love theme from this film was later used as background music in the seduction scene from the 1945 film “Mildred Pierce” starring Joan Crawford.
Charlotte: Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.
Jerry: If I were free, there would be only one thing I’d want to do – prove you’re not immune to happiness. Would you want me to prove it, Charlotte? Tell me you would. Then I’ll go. Why, darling, you are crying.
Charlotte: I’m such a fool, such an old fool. These are only tears of gratitude – an old maid’s gratitude for the crumbs offered.
Jerry: Don’t talk like that.
Charlotte: You see, no one ever called me “darling” before.
Charlotte Vale: [to her mother] I didn’t want to be born. You didn’t want me to be born. It’s been a calamity on both sides.
Dr. Jasquith: I thought you said you came here to have a nervous breakdown.
Charlotte: About that, I’ve decided not to have one.
Charlotte Vale: I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid, mother. I’m not afraid.
Mrs. Henry Windle Vale: No member of the Vale family has ever had a nervous breakdown.
Dr. Jasquith: Well there’s one having one now.
Bette Davis: Born Ruth Elizabeth Davis on April 5th, 1908 in Lowell, Massachusetts. Died: October 6th, 1989 in Neuilly, Sur Seine, France. Aged 81.
Paul Henreid: Born Paul Georg Julius Freiherr von Hernried Ritter von Wassel-Waldingau on January 10th, 1908 in Triest, Austria, Hungary. Died: March 29th, 1992. Aged 84.
Claude Rains: Born William Claude Rains on November 10th, 1889 in Camberwell, London. Died: May 30th, 1967 in Laconia, New Hampshire. Aged 77.