6/9/16: Jezebel (1938)


NOLA Jerry

That’s my buddy Bob ===> Meehan <=== who I’ve known since I was 10. We went to some 75 Jerry & Grateful Dead shows together. In ’07, he met controlling Priscilla & we thought we’d seen the last of him. That’s his sister Barb, who calls him Rob. She was crushed over his new relationship “She told me she treats him like a chalice: ‘A frail, delicate chalice, to be cherished & protected. Rob’s messy & Priscilla tends the house as no house has ever been tended. She’s so particular, if he leaves an article a half inch out of place or there’s a speck of dust on anything, she notices it; and I bet she flails the living daylights out of him & loves it.’ ‘Well I always say ′Spare the rod & you spoil the child.′.’ One day she asked him ‘Rob, why did you do it? Why Rob?’ ‘Because I love her.’ ‘But you had our love & gave it up. Wasn’t that more real than anything she had to give to you?’ ‘Maybe I love her most when she’s her meanest.’ ‘I’m thinkin’ of a woman called Jezebel who did evil in the sight of God.’; and he walked away. ‘Oh, don’t be cross with me, Rob. Of course, it’s your right to go with her.’ ‘I am gonna make her my wife!’ ‘Your wife? When?’ ‘Within a year!’ ′Punctuality is the politeness of kings.′, I always say. Well that didn’t happen. They broke up for a year within that year. But then in ’09, they got married. ′Better late than never.′ I always say. No friends got invited but I did get him to meet me for a drink: ‘Do you remember going to see Jerry with us, Bob?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘How much do you remember?’ ‘Every show we went to. Everything we ever said or did. But that’s passed now, Paulie. Done. Finished.’ ‘We don’t understand. You don’t have to leave her. You just have to come back home, back to all of us? You have to come back to the lazy gate of winter’s summer home. Sometimes you have to visit your country & live in your home, because this is your home; because you belong here! Nothing can change that. Bob, Listen: Can you hear them? The nuthatch noises?’ ‘Well Paulie, sometimes we ride on your horses, sometimes we walk alone. But the heart has its beaches, its homeland & songs of its own.’ Well I always say ′Let sleeping dogs lie.′ Good thing too because I got an interesting bit of news in 2011: Bob came back! 


In William Wyler’s Jezebel, Preston’s (Henry Fonda) heart has a “song of its own” when he returns to Halcyon Plantation, outside NOLA in 1853 after a year in Boston. Her ex-fiancé Julie (Bette Davis), a strong & independent woman, has been waiting as patiently as she can to rekindle the engagement that Preston ended after her shocking behavior at NOLA’s Olympus Ball. Julie family has moved to their lazy country home as a result of a terrible outbreak of yellow fever.

I discovered something that I have been unable to find documented anywhere else. As such, I feel it is important to get it documented & therefore attain credit for its discovery before anyone else does; or worse, hears of the discovery & takes credit for it. Now, I find it amazing that what follows got by a director of Wyler’s magnitude but it did. So here it goes. At one point, Preston quotes Voltaire’s “I disagree with everything you say & I will defend to the death your right to say it”. The actual quote is “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, and it is misattributed to Voltaire when actually written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall (pseudonym S.G. Tallentyre, an English writer best known for her biographies “The Life of Voltaire” from 1903 and “The Friends of Voltaire” from 1906, from which the quote is taken). What Voltaire actually said in defense of French philosopher Helvétius’ 1758 book criticizing religion & morality, On Mind, was “What a fuss about an omelette.” Why is that quote in this in the film? Why would Preston quote Voltaire? Or more properly misquote Voltaire 53 years before the quote ever existed? Because Voltaire was among the leaders of the Age of Enlightenment. That movement embodied the ideals of liberty, tolerance, freedom, separation of church & state, societal fraternity, reliance of scientific thinking & proof through experimentation, and the questioning of generally accepted religious conventions. And those ideals are exactly what gave rise to abolitionism.

Jezebel won 2 Oscars in 1939 at the 11th Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Fay Baintner as Julie’s Aunt Belle); and Bette for Best Actress. On 7/19/01, Steven Spielberg purchased her Oscar at auction Christie’s, and returned it to the Academy. Jezebel was also nominated for Picture, Cinematography (Ernest Haller), and Max Steiner’s great Score. 

Steiner was born on 5/10/1888 in Vienna & died of heart failure on 12/28/71 in CA. A child prodigy of rich Jewish parents, he wrote his first operetta at 15 years of age; went to Broadway at 26 for 15 years conducting musicals of George Gershwin, Jerome Kern & others. He was one of the 1st composers to write original music for movies. His 1st movie score was 1914’s The Bondman; his final, 1965’s Those Calloways. He composed almost 250 film scores & was nominated for 24 Oscars, winning 3. He scored: King Kong; The Caine Mutiny; and Dark Victory, Gone with the Wind, and 11 others in 1939 alone. He worked with Bette Davis 21 times, including William Wyler’s Jezebel. So watch the trailer below then add it to your Netflix Queue. 4 Stars!





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