Vintage Icons • Movies


9 October, 2013

Year: 1938

Director: William Wyler


Bette Davis (Jezebel, or Julie)

Henry Fonda (Preston Dillard)

George Brent (Buck Cantrell)

Margaret Lindsay (Amy)

William Wyler makes Bette Davis the indisputable main star of this Southern melodrama.


Bette plays the role of an authoritarian, impulsive and capricious mother. Her character is a disobedient young girl who refuses to follow the strict rules of the late nineteenth century Southern American society. Julie is astute, proud, intelligent, but above all she is provocative and manipulative. All this makes her an immature and capricious youngster, who is ready to do anything in order to reach her objectives.

The need to always be the center of attention and to push every situation to its limit is what provokes her fiancé, Preston Dillard, the cold, calculating and workaholic role starred by Henry Fonda, to abandon both her and the city upon not being able to dominate such a tornado of a woman.

There are scenes which brush with perfect interpretation; always, of course, with Davis as the main star.

These are my most memorable scenes:

The dance scene when she decides to attend wearing a red dress instead of the white dress requested by the dress code.

The entrances where she takes control of the screen, and brightly and elegantly descends down the staircase are spectacular.

I do not have the words to describe Bette Davis’ face when her ex-lover introduces her to his wife: astonished, cold, desperate, hateful… all these feelings mixed into one and shown in a few seconds on the screen.

Bette Davis’ expression when she’s dressed in white, singing at the foot of a staircase surrounded by children, broken by pain and trying to hide it, is simply unforgettable.

This is not only a story of impossible love in the life of a rebellious and manipulative woman, but also a critique of the archaic strict and almost medieval customs of the time; a time when Julie is despised for dressing inadequately, whilst facing the conventionalisms and not caring for the social rejection that it provokes. All in all, she is a rebellious and brave woman.

Bette is immense on each level. Those enormous dresses framed by a refined bourgeois style convert her into a real Queen of the film, eclipsing everyone who comes beside her. Bette fills every corner of the screen with a sublime interpretation that is worth watching if only to enjoy her gaze.




Award for Best Actress (Bette Davis)

Award for Best Supporting Actress (Fay Bainter – Aunt Belle)

Nominations: Best Film, Best Soundtrack and Best Photography.

It was one of the 10 Best films of 1938, according to the National board of Review.

Jezebel was awarded by the National Film Preservation in 2009.

A special Award went to William Wyler in the 1938 Venice Festival for his career. There was also a nomination for the Mussolini Cup in the same year.

Curious Facts:

  • A rumor that Bette Davis was offered the part of Jezebel upon having lost the opportunity to star in Gone with the Wind, is false. Jezebel began filming before they even decided who Scarlett would be.
  • According to Robert Osborne, the “red” dress was actually bronze, as it showed up better in black and white.
  • Henry Fonda was a last minute addition. The role was originally going to be played by Jeffrey Lynn.
  • The Oscar won by Bette Davis was auctioned by Christies for 57,800$ in 2001. Steven Spielberg bought it and immediately returned it to the Film Academy.
  • Bette Davis took 45 takes of the scene in which she lifts her riding skirt with the whip. An unforgettable shot that will definitely not go unnoticed.
  • One of the reasons for the film’s delay was due to the birth of Henry Fonda’s daughter Jane.
  • Warner Bros bought the rights of the film at a very low price as the Broadway Show had been a failure.


I leave you with a tribute video to Jezebel:

And a trailer for the film:

Images: Cine patas, wikipedia,, unapizcadecmha, retornoamanderleyblogspot,



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