A thank-you note to Charlotte Vale.
But let's back up a minute for those ignorant of this magnificent movie. Now, Voyager is about New England heiress Charlotte Vale, a woman so dominated by her mother (Gladys Cooper) that she's become labeled as an ugly spinster. Charlotte's sister-in-law Lisa (Ilka Chase) is worried that Charlotte is close to a nervous breakdown, so she introduces psychiatrist Dr. Jacquith (Claude Rains) to Charlotte. After a stay at Jacquith's sanitarium, Charlotte's mental health is still fragile, so instead of being sent home, she's sent on a cruise. Completely made-over to rid herself of the aesthetic confines her mother forced on her, Charlotte looks beautiful but still feels undesirable and distrustful. She meets fellow passenger Jerry (Paul Henreid), an unhappily married architect with a young daughter similar to Charlotte. Through their affair, Charlotte finds her confidence and joy for life, although she and Jerry have to go their separate ways.
Reinvigorated, Charlotte shocks everyone when she comes home from the cruise. Unwilling to be bullied, she tries to maintain a friendly relationship with her mother, which mostly works until she breaks off her engagement to Elliot Livingston (John Joder) after a chance encounter with Jerry at a friend's party. Realizing her relationship with Elliot lacks the passion and adventure she really wants, Charlotte is content to remain unmarried. While arguing this to her mother, Mrs. Vale dies, leaving Charlotte to blame herself. Hoping to give herself a rest, she checks back into Jacquith's sanitarium, where she discovers Jerry has placed his daughter, Tina. Seeing so much of herself reflected in Tina, Charlotte begins taking care of the girl, reciprocating the kindness and love Jerry showed her to his child. The film doesn't end with an embrace between the former lovers, but rather this indelible line: "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon -- we have the stars."
TCM). Bette had costume designer Orry-Kelly give her padding so she looked slightly overweight, and she asked makeup artist Perc Westmore to give her thicker eyebrows. The final look was a compromise between Davis and Wallis, who didn't want the star to look too extreme.
The ending is up for interpretation, due to its intense final scene and cryptic closing line. An option is that Charlotte and Jerry stay friends and
Bette Davis's interview with Dick Cavett where
this being the exception. Plus, I think Davis's great admiration for Claude Rains influenced what she said. She loved Henreid, but she frequently called Rains her favorite co-star.
Charlotte falling in love isn't what Now, Voyager is about. It's about acceptance and joy, and finding what makes you you and loving it. I have a lot of things about myself that others find strange -- my sister in particular likes to poke fun at my record collection and antiques -- but they make me happy and I couldn't change them even if I wanted to. The same thing goes for the stuff I don't like about myself; I have to come to terms with them or else I'll be miserable. None of this truly hit me until I watched Davis as Charlotte, until I saw the struggle and the fight she went through to be her authentic self.
This is my tribute to Bette for the great Bette Davis Blogathon, hosted by Crystal. You can find the roster here.