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Case Number 21179: Small Claims Court

Buy TCM Greatest Classic Film Legends: Bette Davis at Amazon

TCM Greatest Classic Film Legends: Bette Davis

Jezebel
1938 // 104 Minutes // Not Rated
Dark Victory
1939 // 104 Minutes // Not Rated
Now, Voyager
1942 // 117 Minutes // Not Rated
Old Acquaintance
1943 // 110 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // April 21st, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum loves any broad as difficult as Bette.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Romance (published April 17th, 2013), The Bette Davis Collection (published June 20th, 2005), Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection (published November 15th, 2010), Now, Voyager (published December 4th, 2001), Ronald Reagan Centennial Collection (published March 3rd, 2011), and TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Romance (published March 24th, 2010) are also available.

The Charge

She's precocious
And she knows just what it
Takes to make a pro blush
All the boys think she's a spy…

The Case

Bette Davis was never your run of the mill movie star, not in the slightest way. She wasn't classically pretty and she never shied away from playing parts that cast her in a negative light. She was rumored to be sometimes difficult on a set, but the audiences loved her. For TCM Greatest Classic Film Legends: Bette Davis they have chosen four outstanding films produced between 1938 to 1942 that Bette did for Warner Bros. It was a tumultuous time for Davis, as she went through a rather nasty public divorce from Ham Nelson. He claimed she was sexually involved with Howard Hughes and said she treated him with a "cruel and inhuman manner." She almost quit Dark Victory, but was convinced by its producer to channel her pain into the parts. This worked like gangbusters, and the Academy Awards followed soon after.

Included in the set are:

Now, Voyager (1942)
A domineering mother ruins her ugly duckling daughter's (Davis) life. But with the help of a good doctor the spinster transforms into a swan. Yet it won't be quite that easy, as old mothers remain determined to keep their daughters down. It's a psychiatric melodrama writ even larger thanks to some Hollywood glamour.

The transfer is nice and clean with the black and white looking luminous. Sound is mono. Extras include text biographies of cast and crew, audio only versions of the score, the theatrical trailer, and a nod that the film won the Academy award for the scoring by Max Steiner.

Dark Victory (1939)
Bette Davis plays a rich society girl on Long Island who learns that she has an inoperable brain tumor. She is given a year to live. The end will be swift, but she will go blind first. Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan are in the supporting cast, and Davis almost won an Oscar for her riveting role that suggests Paris Hilton transforming to Helen Keller. It's a romantic disease drama made glamorous by big Hollywood stars. This was always cited by Bette Davis as her favorite film of this period, so it makes sense to include here.

The transfer is a little soft on this one, but I am sure it is simply because of the era's film process. It has a lot of grain and lacks a little clarity overall. Special features include a commentary by film historian Jim Ursini and film critic Paul Clinton, and then a 1939 featurette about how Dark Victory got lost in the amazing shuffle of the year it came out. Mainly the film supplement is an extension of the commentary. Also included is an original trailer.

Old Acquaintance (1943)
This film starred Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins who play what modern audiences would call "frenemies" according to Sex and the City lingo. They basically cat fight their way through twenty years of tumultuous episodes of rising fortunes and falling romances. It was remade in 1981 as Rich and Famous, with Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen. It stands out as the one flick that doesn't belong with all the rest, but it's solid enough to include anyways. This sisterly melodrama is made huge by having two megastars bringing the glamour to the screen.

The transfer looks solid with a nice balance of black and white. It has an overall clarity that makes it look just fine. Special features include a commentary by Vincent Sherman and Boze Hadleigh. There is a featurette that looks at the film's aim to be a woman's picture. There's also a vintage featurette on stars on horses. There is a nice little Warner Bros. cartoon as well as a theatrical trailer.

Jezebel (1938)
This is the role that won Bette the Oscar, that of a manipulative New Orleans belle. Henry Fonda and George Brent costar in the story of a headstrong young Southern woman during the Antebellum period whose actions cost her the man she loves. It's a grand Southern melodrama that is made even grander by all the Hollywood glitz on display.

The transfer looks good; a little more care has been taken with this 1938 classic. There is grain and an overall softness, but it has a nice cinematic quality that elevates everything. Extras include a commentary by professor of film Jeanine Basinger as well as a featurette that looks at the production in context of the Southern tradition. Other features include a Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra short as well as a cartoon.

What we get with TCM Greatest Classic Film Legends: Bette Davis is a nice quartet of Bette Davis films from one of her most critically lauded periods. She may have been fighting a few personal demons, but her work was incredible. Each of these films represent a time before Davis became a caricature of herself, when she was just simply her own woman in front of the camera. This is a great bargain priced set that offers up four previously released films on two double-sided DVDs. Any fan of Bette Davis should be glad to see this set on shelves, although I wonder how they could have escaped buying at least half of these films before. Dark Victory and Jezebel are must owns, while the other two are strong contenders as well.

The Verdict

Not Guilty. Bette Davis has many decades of exquisite work, but this collection shows her at her peak. She was the ultimate escape for Americans just before World War II as well as during it. She was a golden legend that deserves many of these collections.

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Genres

• Classic
• Drama
• Romance

Scales of Justice, Jezebel

Judgment: 94

Perp Profile, Jezebel

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 1938
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Jezebel

• Commentary
• Featurette
• Short Film
• Vintage Cartoon
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Dark Victory

Judgment: 92

Perp Profile, Dark Victory

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 1939
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Dark Victory

• Commentary
• Featurette
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Now, Voyager

Judgment: 92

Perp Profile, Now, Voyager

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 1942
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Now, Voyager

• Scoring Session
• Biographies
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Old Acquaintance

Judgment: 88

Perp Profile, Old Acquaintance

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 1943
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Old Acquaintance

• Commentary
• Featurette
• Short Film
• Vintage Cartoon
• Trailer








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