Airing on TCM September 30 at 4 AM EST
“Now, Voyager” is one of the first, and the essential, “make-over” movie. The film stars Bette Davis as Charlotte Vance, a plain, shy spinster who lives with her mother (Gladys Cooper), who has never shown any signs of love for her daughter and often verbally abuses her. Charlotte’s sister-in-law Lisa (Ilka Chase) recommends that Charlotte spend some time in sanatorium, where she flourishes away from her mother and under the care of Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains). Following her treatment, Jaquith suggests Charlotte spend some weeks on a cruise before going home. By this time, Charlotte has transformed into a well-dressed, confident woman, and quickly falls in love with an unhappily married man, Jerry (Paul Henreid).
Bette Davis campaigned hard for the role of Charlotte—she wasn’t the first choice until director Irving Rapper signed on—and became involved in the production more than almost any other film she worked on, deciding everything from Charlotte’s wardrobe to the suitability of her costars (the wonderful Claude Rains was, she later claimed, her favorite actor to work with, while she initially had doubts about Paul Henreid). Davis’ performance is lovely, mainly because she is able to so convincingly play both sides of the character: both the fragile spinster and the glamorous socialite (part of this has to do with her unusual facial features being well suited to both hideous characters and beautiful ones, depending on what the role called for). Her character is so oppressed it’s easy get invested in her and root for her success from start to finish.
“Now, Voyager” also contains one of the most memorable quotes and memorable scenes in film history. The quote is, “Oh Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars,” from the movie’s finale, while the scene is when Charlotte first meets Jerry, and he lights two cigarettes at once, taking one from his mouth and handing it to her. There was some debate over whose idea that little gesture was— both Henreid and Davis tried to take credit for it for years—but it was actually written in Casey Robinson’s screenplay. Audiences went wild for the movie and this scene, and reportedly, Paul Henreid was unable to go anywhere for quite a while without women running up to him demanding he light their cigarette.
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