I watched NOW, VOYAGER (1942) a few days ago for the first time.
Some of the people at the ClassicMovies.org forum spoke of it so fondly that I had to see the reason for the fuss first hand.
I had heard much about it, read a bit on it, knew of its existence, generally, but never made time to watch it because I knew it was a tragedy. Like those movies about the Titanic - you know the ship sinks at the end.
Nevertheless I dove into the film head first. Hold your breath.
A dowdy, shy old maid (Bette Davis) domineered by her mother (Gladys Cooper) gets new duds and a new 'tude after visiting a kindly psychiatrist (Claude Rains) who tells her to take a voyage. On shipboard she meets and lusts for a married man (Paul Henried);the feeling is mutual.
The rest of the show is about them getting back together after the voyage - will they? won't they?
In the meantime, the old maid, Charlotte, helps a new young patient at the doctor's sanitarium who is going through the same things as Charlotte once did.
The girl turns out to be the married man's daughter(I can't remember the guy's name).
Charlotte and the married man don't get married at the end (as most 1940s movies would have ended it) b/c his wife is still alive, so they settle for being a make-shift "family" with Charlotte as patron for the girl's social life.
The fact that they spend so much time together alone knowing he's married made me lose all sympathy for both of them. The fact that they begin the affair fairly early on in the film had me hoping all the way through that the storyline would get better, it doesn't.
The movie tries to villainize the wife (whom we never see to get HER side of the story) by paralleling her to Charlotte's unloving mother so that the audience will want the two illicit "lovers" to get together, but such shenanigans merely serve to nauseate me.
When Charlotte helps Tina, the guy's daughter, gain self-confidence I held out hope that she was doing it unselfishly, but that was a misplaced hope - Charlotte admits that she's only doing it so that SHE can have a husband and daughter of sorts vicariously!
Charlotte's self-absorption (first in her depression, then in the lives of others) reaches a new low.
Charlotte really had my sympathy before the affair.
I was prepared to give her every bit as much of my support as I did to the equally dowdy, betrayed, unloved heroine Catherine (Olivia DeHavilland) in THE HEIRESS(1949).
But NO. Charlotte just HAS to have this affair! Charlotte claims to want a husband and kids of her own.
[Well, then get your own and stop trying to steal someone else's.]
What really gets me is her double standard. At first she discourages the widower that she's dating by telling him that she doesn't want to step into another woman's territory (meaning his late wife's position).
[Sure, sister, when that woman is DEAD you don't want her husband; it's the man whose wife is alive to be hurt that you want.]
I didn't even mind her refusing the hand of the widower because she would have made his life miserable by sneaking out with the other guy or at least having an emotional affair from a distance.
The widower escaped a fate worse than death!
When she finally breaks it off with the widower and tells him that she would never marry I thought it a wise choice, but her statement premature - she could have dated a bit more and found a spicy and hot ,nice single guy who lived life on the wild side (her favorite type), even in Boston.
But NO! She just HAS to have the guy who's forbidden to her.
Perhaps that is it.
All of her life (they don't say how old she is, but she's older than 20) she has been forbidden to do many things, a prisoner in her own home, and now that she has stepped out on her own she goes HOG WILD.
Maybe she thinks she can find a happy life only with an illicit affair (probably a side effect from reading those forbidden romance novels hidden in her room).
HOW I THOUGHT IT WOULD END (BUT, BOY, WAS I WRONG)
When she first goes back to the sanitarium and looks with sympathy on the patients, I thought that she would spend the rest of her life and fortune helping out other people like herself. THE END. Roll credits.
When it ended with the affair still going I thought perhaps my idea was a bit too modern a sensibility. Is it?
In PINKY (1949), the heroine finds out her intended cannot marry her as she is, so we end with her single and contented, establishing a Nursing School.
So it's not too modern, the filmmakers just didn't want to take this road.
Ending # 2
Since Charlotte and the married guy seem to be getting back together towards the end, I thought the script would kill off the wife and then they'd marry (kind of like in Jane Eyre). But no!
The film makers couldn't leave the two people respectable, they end with this selfish, skewed sense of family.
These are two very self-absorbed people who will scar that kid for life once she finds out. The kid will question every motive Charlotte ever had, when she finds out.
Oh the horror!
The filmmakers leave us with a train wreck waiting to happen!
(I won't even get into what this could do to the wife.)
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