NOW, VOYAGER (1942) B/W 117m dir: Irving Rapper
w/Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Bonita Granville, Gladys Cooper, Ilka Chase
This is the very romantic story of a woman who learns independence through the acknowledgment of her capacity for love. Davis is superb (it's FilmFrog's favorite of all her performances) as the overprotected Charlotte, who bravely sails forth on a therapeutic cruise, meets a married continental charmer, and changes the rest of her life. Her metamorphosis is truly amazing, and Davis doesn't disappoint. Henreid, while certainly not a major star nor a typical Hollywood leading man, underplays just enough to give Charlotte the room to grow. But perhaps the most remembered thing about this film is the intimate gesture Henreid performs several times: that of lighting two cigarettes and passing one to Davis; it has become a much-imitated symbol for romantics everywhere. Not a perfect movie but: "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars."
From The Movie Guide: "Now, Bette: a glittering, slushy take on the ugly duckling transformation. It's Olive Higgins Prouty, at it agin (she also penned Stella Dallas, the durable soap opera from which three films, including the Barbara Stanwyck classic, were made), with a title lifted from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, a conceit enough to raise a dead poet. Irving Rapper directs as if he wants to stay out of the way of Davis and Cooper --- perfectly understandable.
"As usual, Davis has to overplay her hand at Jekyll/Hyde transformation. Beforehand, she's got unplucked eyebrows like last spring's caterpillars, hair like a mudpuddle with a net over it, and glasses and shoes borrowed from the First Continental Congress. It sets a satisfyingly camp feeling of self-sacrifice over the entire proceedings. Later she is artfully styled; you have the feeling Davis is shedding her own New England repression, which is exactly what she means for you to feel. ...
"Though VOYAGER is best remembered for the scene in which Henreid lights two cigarettes simultaneously and then hands one to Davis, this pleasurable, popular tearjerker is Davis's show all the way. She claimed to have worked extensively on the screenplay, deleting some of Casey Robinson's hard work in favor of Prouty's original words. Cooper is an excellent choice for the matriarchal dowager; Davis always stood in awe (or angry envy) of stage actors, and their scenes have a weight the rest of the picture lacks. Henreid and Rains, both great friends of Davis's (and supposedly Rains was a lover), contribute smooth work. The marvelous Ilka Chase is wasted here, and Bonita Granville is grating. The [Sol] Polito camerawork finally settles down to Davis devotion and [Max] Steiner's Oscar-winning score clings to her like flypaper. It's Grade-A schlock, but not without depth: critics have detected feminist overtones in this movie, one in which men prove eminently dispensable in the quest for happiness."
In addition to Steiner's Oscar for Best Score for a Dramatic Picture (and it's truly marvelous music), NOW, VOYAGER received nominations for Best Actress (Davis) and Supporting Actress (Cooper).