Jezebel (1938)

Director: William Wyler

1938, 103 minutes, Digital, NR

Cast: Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, George Brent

In one of her most renowned roles, Bette Davis portrays Julie Marsden, a spoiled Southern belle who risks losing her suitor with her impetuous behavior. Engaged to successful banker Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda), Julie pushes him away with her arrogant and contrary ways, leading to a scandalous scene at a major social event and his subsequent departure. When Preston eventually returns and Julie attempts to win him back, she discovers that it may be too late.

In 1938, Jezebel was widely regarded as Warner Bros.’ “compensation” to Bette Davis for her losing the opportunity to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. Resemblances between the two properties are inescapable: Jezebel heroine Julie Marsden (Davis) is a headstrong Southern belle not unlike Scarlett (Julie lives in New Orleans rather than Georgia); she loves fiancé Preston Dillard (played by Henry Fonda) but loses him when she makes a public spectacle of herself (to provoke envy in him) by wearing an inappropriate red dress at a ball, just as Scarlett O’Hara brazenly danced with Rhett Butler while still garbed in widow’s weeds. Bette Davis won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Julie.


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