Jezebel (film)

name = Jezebel

image_size =
caption = Theatrical poster
director = William Wyler
producer = Executive Producer:
Hal B. Wallis
William Wyler
writer = Clements Ripley
Abem Finkel
John Huston
Robert Buckner
Owen Davis
starring = Bette Davis
Henry Fonda
George Brent
music = Max Steiner
cinematography = Ernest Haller
editing = Warren Low
distributor = Warner Bros.
released = March 10, 1938
runtime = 103 minutes
country = USA
language = English
amg_id = 1:26159
imdb_id = 0030287|

"Jezebel" is an American drama film released in 1938 and directed by William Wyler. It stars Bette Davis and Henry Fonda, supported by George Brent, Margaret Lindsay, Donald Crisp, Richard Cromwell, and Fay Bainter. The film was adapted by Clements Ripley, Abem Finkel, John Huston and Robert Buckner, from the play by Owen Davis, Sr.

The picture tells the story of a headstrong young Southern woman during the Antebellum period whose actions cost her the man she loves.


Spoiled, strong-willed New Orleans belle Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) is engaged to banker Preston 'Pres' Dillard (Henry Fonda). In retaliation for Pres refusing to drop his work and accompany her while she shops for a dress, she orders a brazen red one for the most important ball of the year, one where white dresses for unmarried women are expected. Everyone is shocked, but no one can convince her to give up her whim.Pres escorts Julie to the Olympus Ball, where their entrance is met by the disdainful stares of all present. She finally realizes the magnitude of her social blunder and begs Pres to take her away, but by this time, he is implacable. He makes her dance with him. All the other couples gradually leave the floor, finally leaving them alone and isolated. When the orchestra conductor stops playing, Pres orders him to continue and they finish the dance.

Afterwards, Pres takes his leave of Julie, implicitly breaking their engagement. In a final bit of spite, Julie slaps him in the face by way of farewell. Aunt Belle Massey (Fay Bainter) urges her to go after Pres and beg his forgiveness, but she refuses, arrogantly confident that he will return to her. Instead, he goes north on business. Julie shuts herself up in her house and refuses to see visitors.

A year later, Pres finally returns, to help Dr. Livingstone (Donald Crisp) try to convince the city authorities to take measures against an outbreak of yellow fever. Before Pres can stop her, Julie humbles herself and begs for his forgiveness and a return of his love. Then Pres introduces her to his Northern wife Amy (Margaret Lindsay).

Julie then eggs on her admirer, skilled duellist Buck Cantrell (George Brent), to quarrel with Pres, but the scheme goes awry. Pres's inexperienced brother Ted (Richard Cromwell) is the one who is goaded into challenging Buck. In an unexpected twist, Ted emerges victorious; Buck is fatally shot.

Then something happens that overshadows everything else. As Pres and Dr. Livingstone had feared, a deadly epidemic of yellow fever sweeps the city, as it had numerous times before. Pres comes down with it and, like all other victims, is to be quarantined on an island. Amy prepares to go along to care for him, risking her own life, but Julie stops her. She tells the Northerner that she doesn't know how to deal with the slaves and Southerners on the island. She begs to go in her place, as an act of redemption. Amy agrees.


Some claim this film was developed as a vehicle for Bette Davis after she failed to win the part of Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind." However, the movie was filmed and released in 1938, before the part of Scarlett was even cast for the latter film - which was released in 1939. That said, it would have been a classic bit of stiff competition between rival studios for Warner Brothers to produce a film with some minor but marked similarities a year in advance of the Selznick. Additionally, Warner offered Davis's services to Selznick, along with Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland (who "did" appear in the picture). But despite a radio poll showing Bette Davis the audience favourite for the role, Selnick did not consider her suitable for it. [cite book |last= Haver |first= Ronald |title= David O. Selznick's Hollywood |year= 1980 |publisher= Bonanza Books |id= ISBN 0-517-47665-7 |pages= p 243 ]

Main cast and characters

* Margaret Lindsay as Amy Bradford Dillard
* Richard Cromwell as Ted Dillard
* Henry O'Neill as General Theopholus Bogardus
* Spring Byington as Mrs. Kendrick
* John Litel as Jean La Cour
* Gordon Oliver as Dick Allen
* Janet Shaw as Molly Allen
* Theresa Harris as Zette
* Margaret Early as Stephanie Kendrick
* Irving Pichel as Huger



* Academy Award for Best Actress - Bette Davis
* Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress - Fay Bainter
* Venice Film Festival: Special Recommendation for its overall artistic contribution - William Wyler


* Academy Award for Best Picture - Hal B. Wallis and Henry Blanke
* Academy Award for Best Cinematography - Ernest Haller
* Academy Award for Original Music Score - Max Steiner
* Venice Film Festival: Mussolini Cup for Best Film - William Wyler


The movie was adapted into an episode of the 60 minute radio program "Academy Award," with Bette Davis in the title role.

DVD commentary

In 2006, film historian Jeanine Basinger recorded a comprehensive scene-by-scene commentary as part of the re-issued DVD of the film. In her commentary about Davis, Basinger relates that this film is distinctive in the realm of women's pictures because of Orry-Kelly's brilliant costume designs for the actress. Basinger states that the viewer is compelled to watch Davis in four stylings in particular: the riding crop/outfit in the beginning of the film, the scandalous scarlet red dress at the Olympus Ball, the virginal white dress she wears when she attempts to woo back Henry Fonda, and finally the cape at the end of the film she dons when she must go to help care for Fonda. In Basinger's opinion, this was the performance at the height of Davis's career and that Jezebel is the quintessential American "woman's" film.




External links

*tcmdb title|id=673|title=Jezebel

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