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Movie Info

In one of her most renowned roles, Bette Davis portrays Julie Marsden, a spoiled Southern belle who risks losing her suitor with her impetuous behavior. Engaged to successful banker Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda), Julie pushes him away with her arrogant and contrary ways, leading to a scandalous scene at a major social event and his subsequent departure. When Preston eventually returns and Julie attempts to win him back, she discovers that it may be too late.

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Critic Reviews for Jezebel

All Critics (21) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (1)

Audience Reviews for Jezebel

  • Mar 31, 2016
    Bette Davis made the most of this part that was given to her as a consolation after Vivien Leigh beat her out for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. She's excellent in the role as the lithe and spirited southern belle who shocks her fiancé and the rest of society by (gasp) wearing a red dress when white is the rule for unmarried women. Her fiancé is played by Henry Fonda, who's sporting a lot more hair at age 33 than I ever remember him having, and who mercilessly keeps her at the ball even though it's now clear to her that she's made a mistake, and everyone is treating her as a pariah (including clearing off the dance floor as they twirl around). There are so many great scenes with Davis. She gives Fonda a great slap when he leaves her that night for good. She humiliates herself when he comes back a year later and she's on her knees in the dress she should have worn that night, only to be introduced to his wife. However if Bette Davis had not been cast, this would be a pretty bad movie. Henry Fonda is wooden and awful. Black folks are content and happy to be slaves. Davis's character starts off by proclaiming this is 1852, she can dress as she wants, making us hopeful that she's independent and a pioneer, but she's soon cowed and contrite. She does deviously try to get Fonda back, and in an interesting, subtle parallel, he too becomes a pariah when he contacts yellow fever during an epidemic, but the ending is forced, melodramatic, and abrupt. Davis was 30 years old when the film was made but had already been in 36 movies, won one Oscar and been nominated for one other, and yet she said this was the role that truly established her. You can see why, and if you can watch it just for her, you'll probably enjoy it.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 15, 2013
    Bette Davis' depiction of Jezebel trumps Gone With the Wind in her portrayal of a Southern belle. It perhaps is even a career topper for Davis.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 16, 2013
    A Southern belle attempts to manipulate her societal standing and buck social norms. Half the film of its ilk, <i>Gone with the Wind</i> the best example, <i>Jezebel</i> is a classic Southern society drama that assumes as normative racism and misogyny. Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) attempts to pervert the typical Southern culture, but she is "put in her place" by happenstance and her male "betters." Her rebuke symbolizes the film's tacit acceptance that there is such a thing as a "woman's place," and though Davis's performance is enticing and often funny, there's nothing a great actress can do to recover a failed story. Most offensive is the film's portrayal of African-Americans. Elided are the whippings, yearnings for freedom, and the forced labor, and these depictions are replaced with numerous shots of "happy Negros," content with their lower caste and more than willing to serve their "better" white folk. They speak in affected accents, and conscious of the film's problematic portrayal, the modern closed caption writer translated the film's "Yessum" to "Yes, ma'am," a phrase no African-American character actually utters. Overall, despite strong performances by Henry Fonda and Davis, the film's offense and its plodding story cannot be forgiven.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Aug 28, 2011
    With many similarities to GWTW, this melodrama depicts New Orleanian genteel society directly before the War Between The States. Davis is a spoiled, manipulative ingenue with her intentions set on rising banker Fonda, only he refuses her golden puppet strings much to her consternation. An entertaining piece until its rushed and contrived ending.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer

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