Cher Public

A red dress to the Olympus Ball?

On this day in 1939, Bette Davis won her second Academy Award for Best Actress for Jezebel

Born on this day in 1525 composer Giovanni Perluigi da Palestrina.

Born on this day in 1809 composer Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.

Born on this day in 1887 writer Gertrude Stein.

Born on this day in 1904 composer Luigi Dallapiccola.

Born on this day in 1927 soprano Claire Watson.

  • Armerjacquino

    Joyce El-Khoury’s many fans hereabouts will be pleased to read this.

    And pretty much everyone will enjoy the photo of Sergey Romanovsky.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Any reports on the Adriana dress rehearsal at Covent Garden?

  • Ivy Lin

    It’s ironic that Bette Davis got the Oscar for Jezebel, which IMO is one of her worst performances. She just can’t convince as the type of woman who’d feel genuine remorse for wearing a red dress to a ball. The Little Foxes, Of Human Bondage, The Letter, Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Now, Voyager, are all much stronger Davis films.

    • Considering that her Best Actress competitors in 1938 were Fay Bainter (“White Banners”), Wendy Hiller (“Pygmalion”), Norma Shearer (“Marie Antoinette”), and Margaret Sullivan (“Three Comrades”), it’s not a huge surprise, considering Davis’ box office power plus the still-lingering guilt for not even nominating her for “Of Human Bondage” (technically she was a write-in vote in 1935; Claudette Colbert won for “It Happened One Night”), even though she got a mostly-compensatory award the next year for “Dangerous” (and said she thought Katharine Hepburn should have won for “Alice Adams”). By the way, Bainter won Best Supporting Actress for “Jezebel.”

      • Ivy Lin

        I actually love Wendy Hiller as Eliza. So earthy and like a real Cockney girl. But agreed, then and now the Academy doesn’t like to award those types of performances.

    • La Cieca

      I am going to play a bit of devil’s advocate here and suggest that Julie does not necessarily feel genuine remorse for wearing the red dress; rather, she believes it was simply a bad tactical move on her part. She wants Pres and so far as it is possible she loves him, and so she swallows her pride and apologizes.

      Not long after that Julie instigates the duel between Pres and Buck, and that, combined with the horror of the yellow fever epidemic, finally shakes some moral sense into her. She understands that apologies, even the most sincere ones, cannot overbalance the downright cruelty she has inflicted on Pres out of her pride and jealousy/ And so she begs for a chance to save his life even at the cost of her own.

      What Davis brings to this role, I think, is the moral content, the idea that Julie has all along had the intelligence and courage to make such a brave choice. With other actresses, the final scene might have turned sentimental and melodramatic, but Davis elevates the story to a level of tragedy.

      If you compare the final scene of Jezebel to the last moments of The Garden of Allah you can see that Davis’s acting choices really are elegant and heroic, whereas the generally canny Marlene Dietrich chooses (or has the choice made for her) to wallow in sentimental tears.

      Davis doesn’t weep and doesn’t look ecstatically toward the heavens in her last scene. For the first time in the film, in fact, she lets us see Julie in repose, Julie the calm, responsible adult.

      • Ivy Lin

        I agree with your points but I just think the role of Julie doesn’t fit organically into Bette Davis’s screen persona, whereas in some other roles you really can’t imagine anyone else playing the role. I know it was a consolation prize for not getting GWTW. It’s just not my idea of a great Bette Davis performance. I also don;t like Henry Fonda here — he’s really stiff and Davis can’t bring him out of his wooden shell.

        I think if you want to look at the genius of Bette Davis, the final scene of Little Foxes is perfect. Regina looks out the window at her daughter, and her face is stony and betrays no evident emotion, but somehow Davis gives enough ambiguity with her body language to suggest that somewhere in there Regina is hurting.

  • rapt

    What kills me is the clip from Four Saints: I had no idea that the “stylized movements” I’d read about included some Folies Bergere-style shimmying!