Now, Voyager, an excursion into psychiatry, is almost episodic in its writing. It affords Bette Davis one of her superlative acting roles, that of a neurotic spinster fighting to free herself from the shackles of a tyrannical mother. A spinster still recalling the frustration of a girlhood love.
The first scenes show Davis as dowdy, plump and possessed of a phobia that fairly cries for the ministrations of a psychiatrist. Treatment by the doctor, played by Claude Rains, transforms the patient into a glamorous, modish, attractive woman who soon finds herself, after long being starved for love.
The yarn’s major love crisis focuses on Davis and Paul Henreid, the latter unable to upset the conventions of a complicated marital life. The remote satisfaction of their love, via the emotionally unstable daughter of Henreid, upon whom Davis lavishes a mother’s attention, is, perhaps, a rather questionable conclusion, but it’s the kind of drama [from a novel by Oliver Higgins Pronty] that demands little credibility.
Henried neatly dovetails and makes believable the sometimes-underplayed character of the man who finds love too late. As the curer of Davis’ mental ills, Rains gives his usual restrained, above-par performance. Gladys Cooper is the domineering mother, weighted by Boston’s Back Bay traditions and she’s also within her metier.
1942: Best Score for a Dramatic Picture.
Nominations: Best Actress (Bette Davis), Supp. Actress (Gladys Cooper)