Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) is a beautiful Southern belle, but she isn’t as reserved and submissive as most of the women in her social circle. No, she is feisty and independent, which gets her a lot of attention and most of it winds up as negative. For instance, when a special social ball is held and the women are asked to wear white, Julie arrives in a crimson gown. This catches all the eyes of those in attendance, but not all are amused by her actions. Even her fiance Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda) isn’t always taken with her choices, especially since she often tries to spark a jealous streak in him. Her intentions are not to cause him pain, just to show her strength as a woman, but she often drives a wedge between them. When she tests him one too many times, Preston leaves town and Julie is left alone. Preston had been insecure about himself all the while, but she had pushed him too much, so he had to leave. This crushes Julie to no end, filling her with remorse and a sense of loss, to the extent that she changes her outlook on life. He returns about a year later, but he is now married and Julie is shocked, but not ready to give up her man. As she orchestrates a plan that plays off everything she can think of, can she manage to win back her true love?
This movie features an excellent performance from Bette Davis, one that earned her the Best Actress Oscar in fact. This movie is often compared and contrasted with Gone with the Wind, as both were made around the same time and both feature tales of Southern style romance. I won’t begin to do so myself, but Jezebel is often lost in the shadow of the other film, which is a shame. Davis is on fire here and burns through her scenes, but hers isn’t the lone standout performance. Henry Fonda is terrific as her love interest, George Brent is on his game, and Fay Bainter also won an Oscar for her work here. So the cast is just superb and with William Wyler in the director’s chair, you know direction will be top notch. Jezebel also offers ample visuals to soak in also, thanks to lavish costumes and production design. These elements help create a sense of immersion, which is important in a picture of this kind. So overall, this movie has it all, a great cast, skilled direction, well crafted storyline, and great production values. I am not much on romances like this, but I did enjoy this one and I can easily give this release a solid recommendation.
Video: How does it look?
Jezebel is presented in full frame, as intended. The restoration work was a success, as this transfer is a vast improvement over the previous release. The print still shows minor grain and debris at times, but is much, much cleaner this time around. The reduced grain and debris allow for a crisper, more refined visual presence that is sure to delight fans. The image is more detailed and shows more depth, though as I mentioned, this is not a pristine presentation. I found contrast to well balanced, never thrown off by the slight grain and never too dark or overly light. A welcome improvement and while not as thorough as Warner’s elite level restorations, the movie still looks very, very good in this edition.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio elements have been restored also, but I couldn’t tell much of a difference between the two releases in this department. This restored mono option might have been a little cleaner, but not enough to stand out as such. I didn’t notice much distortion, but there is a touch of harshness at times. The rest of the mix is up to par though, with no serious issues to mention in the end. The sound effects & dialogue seem clear and aside from some minor harshness, always come across in fine form and at a proper balance. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
An audio commentary with film historian Jeannine Basinger is up first and this is a well prepared, well executed session. She burns very little time, so a lot of information is covered and you can tell she was prepared to make the most of this track. Not the best track I’ve heard, but a good one. A featurette runs just over twenty minutes and offers a look behind the scenes, while other extras include a vintage musical short, a classic cartoon, and the film’s theatrical trailer.