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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

"Jezebel" (1938)

One of the most iconic Bette Davis roles, and that’s saying a lot given how many she was able to rack up in her long career. She’s a headstrong antebellum belle in New Orleans who does just about everything within her stubborn, headstrong self to sabotage her relationship with the most eligible and handsome man in town (swoonworthy Henry Fonda). When she calls his bluff for her affections one too many times things get complicated. This movie was an obvious play to steal the box office thunder from “Gone With the Wind” but it turns out there was room for more than one Southern beyotch at the plantation. Davis owns the role with a vengeance. Yes, there are histrionics but measured subtleties too. Just watch the scene where Fonda breaks the news that he’s found someone else. Shock, pain, acknowledgment, sadness, and resolve wash across her face in a matter of seconds. That’s film acting artistry. One sticking point: the depiction of African American slaves is awful. At best they’re used as background props and at worst, for uncomfortable comic relief. So be warned. 

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