In what is quickly becoming a tradition I spent the afternoon after the Academy Awards broadcast watching old films as a way to deal with the tiredness of staying up until 5 in the morning. Speaking of the Academy Awards – I know this goes up 6 months after the ceremony, but how awful was that mess up at the end. I felt physically sick as the whole thing unfurled. At least those awful rumours about Marisa Tomei’s win for My Cousin Vinny can finally be put to rest?
Anyway, this year’s old films was a double bill of All That Heaven Allows and Now, Voyager since melodrama is the best way to deal with tiredness. I don’t know what I expected from Now, Voyager. The title card made me expect something more along the lines of An Affair To Remember and instead got something with a lot of interesting depth.
The infinitely watchable Bette Davis plays Charlotte – a downtrodden and shabby woman who has been driven to a nervous breakdown by her tyrannical aristocratic mother. It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that most of Now, Voyager is about how Charlotte finds a way to heal and become a woman in her own right.
A lot of this growth comes courtesy of her lovely psychicatrist (Claude Riains) and sister-in-law (Ilka Chase). However, the largest proportion of personal growth and confidence is down to an affair that she has with an unhappily married man named Jerry (the very lovable Paul Henreid) and the fallout of them not being able to be together.
The most interesting (and slightly weird) part of the fallout relates to Jerry’s youngest daughter Tina. She plays a large part in the the final half hour of the film where she is de facto adopted by Charlotte because Tina’s mother wants nothing to do with her. In one way this is a win-win situation as Tina and Charlotte are able to give each other the love they have always been missing, but on the other hand it’s just that little bit creepy.
It is logicked out that in this way it is like Jerry and Charlotte are able to have a child together and this arrangement will allow them to be together despite the fact that he is still married. I can see how, for many people, this is an ending that should not work, but for me it was arguably the best ending possible for all the characters you cared about.
It’s a weird ride, but an ultimately satisfying one. Bette Davis and Paul Henreid have amazing chemistry and that helps to anchor the film in some sort of melodramatic reality.