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Golden Age of Film: Now, Voyager (1942)

Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, noon

Where: Angelika Film Center and Café, 11620 Carmel Mountain Road, San Diego | get directions

Cost: Not available

Age limit: Not available

Being dominated by a wealthy, almost maniacal mother was enough to send spinsterly Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) to a sanitarium for an emotional tuneup. Scribbled on the doc’s prescription pad: an ocean voyage, complete with white-hot romance in the arms of an already-spoken-for architect (Paul Henried). Long before makeovers made radical changes in physical appearance a commonplace talk show occurrence, Bette Davis went from meeskite to Ms. Right in this effective, dewy-eyed woman’s picture, directed with efficient anonymity by Irving Rapper. Along with Davis’ arresting transformation, the film contains her gallant leading man’s iconic sparking of the two butts dangling from his lips before offering one up to his co-star. Made today, the film would most certainly have earned an R rating for pervasive smoking. Then there’s Max Steiner’s lustrously overemotional orchestration. Davis was no fan, accusing the composer’s underscore of getting in the way of her performance.

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As Max Steiner’s biographer, I must point out an error in the above. Bette Davis was a great admirer of Steiner’s film music, praising his work in numerous interviews and private comments. She recorded Steiner’s song “It Can’t Be Wrong,” based on the love theme from his Oscar-winning score for Now, Voyager. She also asked him to score the only film she produced, A Stolen Life. An oft-repeated anecdote - that Davis disliked Steiner’s scoring of Dark Victory’s finale - is apocryphal; Davis praised that score in several interviews. Steven C. Smith, Los Angeles

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