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Posted October 1, 2010
Fiery Vixen Gets Hers In An Inferno of Melodrama
Bette Davis took home the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as spoiled Southern belle, Julie Marsden in 'Jezebel'. More than anything Julie wants to be loved. But her mean spirit and fiery desire seem to destroy her only chances for happiness. When Julie arrives at a debutante ball wearing a harlot-red gown amongst the virginal white ladies of the evening, she humiliates and alienates her rich lawyer beaux, Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda). Throughout the course of the film Julie will try in vane to win back Preston¿s love, a dream that is shattered when Preston retreats to the North, only to return on the arm of Molly Allen (Janet Shaw) ¿ his wife. Engorged by jealous rage, Julie attempts to instill jealousy in her old friend, Buck Cantrell (George Brent), but his feeble attempt to pistol duel his way to her honor results in his own death. Then 'yellow fever' hits and the south begins to fall down around Julie¿s ankles. Davis is superb and she is supported by a stellar cast of character actors, topped off by Faye Bainter, as her sympathetic aunt. This film really stirred the breeze in 1936. It also killed whatever small chances Bette Davis may have had to play Scarlett O'Hara in 'Gone With The Wind'. This is no 'Gone With The Wind' but, as told by director William Wyler, it¿s a finely crafted melodrama and a tour de force for Davis. So where's the problem? In the transfer: Warner doesn't give us much to hope for. Like 'Dark Victory' this DVD is riddled with artifacts and digital compression problems that leave most of the image looking excessively harsh and grainy. The audio is mono but nicely balanced. Black levels are good but the gray scale seems to be lacking - too much middle range and not enough high and low end balance so that everything registers a dismal gray rather than a vibrant silvery spectrum of lights and darks. There are no extras.
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