Jezebel (1938)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film, Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Mar 10, 1938 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 103 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Dan Jardine

Jezebel, which wrapped up as Gone With the Wind was entering pre-production, was either Bette Davis' feature-length screen test for Scarlett O'Hara or a consolation prize for not getting the part. Regardless, she handles the title role with the catty, manipulative cruelty that characterized many of her best performances. As her beau, Henry Fonda appears a little uncomfortable in the period piece. Ultimately, the film's success is wrapped around Davis' steely performance and the elegant production values: it is filmed in evocative black-and-white, and the cinematography uses light and shadow to build texture and mood and to help us forget that Davis' scandalous red dress is left up to our imaginations. Composer Max Steiner's music (he also composed the score for Gone With the Wind) is atmospherically effective. The film's study of the conventions and gender roles of the antebellum South occasionally makes the film feel more like a socio-historical document than a drama. Jezebel was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, winning for Davis and for Fay Bainter as her aunt.