This just misses sock proportions. That’s due to an anti-climactic development on the one hand, and a somewhat static character study of the Dixie vixen, on the other.
Against an 1852 New Orleans locale, when the dread yellow jack (yellow fever epidemic) broke out, the astute scriveners have fashioned a rather convincing study of the flower of Southern chivalry, honor and hospitality. Detracting is the fact that Bette Davis’ ‘Jezebel’ suddenly metamorphoses into a figure of noble sacrifice and complete contriteness.
However, William Wyler’s direction draws an engrossing cross-section of old southern manners and hospitality. It’s undoubtedly faithful to a degree, and not without its charm. At times it’s even completely captivating.
Henry Fonda and George Brent are the two whom Davis viciously pits against each other; and later, Richard Cromwell must likewise challenge the champ dueling Brent. Latter’s conception of the southern gentleman who exaggeratedly arranges pistols-for-two, whether in tavern or drawing room, and with equal eclat and Dixie elan, is in keeping with what is the most virile characterization in the picture.
Particularly noteworthy is Max Steiner’s expert musical score, which more than merely sets the moods.
1938: Best Actress (Bette Davis), Supp. Actress (Fay Bainter).
Nominations: Best Picture, Cinematography, Score