There Once was an Ugly Duckling
Things didn't turn out well for Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) as she was not planned and under the influence of her domineering mother, Mrs. Henry Vale (Gladys Cooper), she has ended up a repressed spinster living behind the locked door of her bedroom which is pretty much her entire world. That is until her sister-in-law introduces Charlotte to psychiatrist Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains) who despite her mother's objections convinces Charlotte to spend some time at his sanatorium as she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Having escaped from her mother's control it doesn't take long for Charlotte to relax and transform in to a confident woman who goes on a cruise to South America. It is on that cruise she meets architect Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid) who despite being married they embark on an affair. At the end of the cruise Charlotte returns home a completely different woman who is no longer intimidated by her mother although after her death and having inherited everything feels some guilt over an argument they had.
Hypnotised by a performance; I have watched "Now, Voyager" three times and each time I have been completely hypnotised by the performance of Bette Davis and it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that she was nominated for the 5th year in a row for an Oscar. In fact the third time I watched "Now, Voyager" was purely for Davis' performance because after the first two times I realised that the story whilst good didn't really work for me although I would imagine back in the 1940s the whole subject of Charlotte becoming involved with a married man might have been more provocative than it is now.
But as I said it is the performance of Bette Davis which makes "Now, Voyager" and watching her go from the repressed Charlotte on the verge of a nervous breakdown to the confident and frankly sexy Charlotte living her life her way is just a pure joy. Okay so the make-up department made Davis look frumpy with two large caterpillars for eyebrows but it is the mannerisms which she gives Charlotte, the uptight nervousness when Dr. Jaquith looks around her room, and picks up her things which makes her character believable. And then Davis evolves her, making her a little relaxed when she is at the sanatorium but not completely free of her old ways but then blossoms on the cruise when she falls in love. But it leads nicely to what will happen when Charlotte eventualy returns home and back into the lair of her domineering mother.
Whilst "Now, Voyager" is all about Bette Davis and without her, well I don't even think Ginger Rogers could have played Charlotte as well as Davis does and she came quite close to being cast in the role but she is surrounded by good performances. Paul Henreid brings to the screen that sense of charmer whilst Bonita Granville as young June brings a touch of the young Ginger Rogers pluck and enthusiasm to the minor role. It makes the movie nicely rounded but not one actor matches up to Bette Davis.
What this all boils down to is that if you ever wondered why people go mad for Bette Davis you just need to watch "Now, Voyager". From being visually beautiful to delivering a performance which evolves it is as near perfection that a performance can be.