Southern Belle has Bite
Thoughts as I watch this:
Right away, quite a few black people on screen, all as servants, which for 1938 certainly means we're in the south. Bette Davis as Miss Julie simply exudes a reality of hidden agendas. When is this supposed to take place? Clearly the references to remembering '30 is 1830 - before or after the civil war? Okay, it's 1852 we see portrayed in front of us. How is it that the actor playing Uncle Cato (Lew Payton) was uncredited? He had quite a few lines and is referred to as well. It would seem an injustice to leave him out just because of his race, and apparently most of his roles were uncredited - though I can't vouch for the significance of them all. And what horrendously hokey music when these black children are on screen talking. Correction - Lew Payton is credited - the IMDB has it wrong, apparently, unless there's more than print floating around.
But the strength of a film is something other than the political circumstances surrounding it.
So, anyway, down to business. Our erstwhile Miss Julie is the "Jezebel" of the title, a self-interestedyoung southern belle, complete with plantation and the appropriate accoutrements. Alongside Bette Davis is Henry Fonda as Preston Dillard, her beau, long-suffering from her manipulations.
Jezebel is an interesting historical study, showing the concerns and cultural clashes of a particular time. I can't vouch for the level of authenticity of the setting, but it comes off as more than plausible. A more modern telling would certainly have played up the pre-civil war tensions, but what we see here is more genuine, putting only the required emphesis for setting as the story deals with other things.
And there really is a story here, and I'm not going to spoil it for you. It's an interesting melodrama that doesn't quite go where you'd expect it to, and that's always a good thing.
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