Director: William Wyler
Bette Davis films are woefully unrepresented in my list of seen films. Considering her standing in cinema history as one of the greatest actors to grace the screen, this is a huge blindspot for me. Jezebel is the first film I have seen from her early career, and is appropriately one of the roles that launched Davis into leading lady status.
While she is not classically beautiful, Davis has a wonderful face that captures one's attention when she is on screen, and though not tall she is a strong presence in any scene she is in. She wears the role of Julie Marsden well, giving her a vitality and independence that marks her as different from the other young women. Julie is a role that is similar to Scarlett O'Hara, a Southern belle set on getting her man. I like both these roles because they are flawed women, neither wholly bad or wholly good; I would not want to be friends with them necessarily, but I enjoy seeing complex, nuanced female characters on screen.
The other great star of the film is the costumes made by frequent Davis collaborator Orry-Kelly, an Australian who made it big in Hollywood. Though the film is not in colour, the red dress Davis' character wears is striking, its richness standing out against the white dresses of the other women. The white dress that Davis later wears is also gorgeous, contrasting wonderfully with the red gown, with all its lace and puffiness.
A great demonstration of Davis' acting, and an example of that genre of films referred to as 'women's pictures,' ie. a film where the main character is a woman (what a novel idea!).