Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper, Bonita Granville, John Loder, Ilka Chase, Lee Patrick, Franklin Pangborn, Katharine Alexander, James Rennie, Mary Wickes
Written by: Casey Robinson, based on a novel by Olive Higgins Prouty
Directed by: Irving Rapper
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 117
Date: 10/22/1942

Now, Voyager (1942)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Crummy Mommy

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Bette Davis stars in this compulsively watchable four-hankie weepie, considered by many to be a cult classic. Davis plays a shy, bookish nerd kept locked away by her hideously domineering mother. Claude Rains plays a shrink who takes her away and saves her life, and Paul Henreid plays the man who finally falls for her. But before anyone gets too happy, the mother (Gladys Cooper, who was nominated for an Oscar) re-enters the picture. Fans will recognize many of the Warner Brothers contract workers who helped make Casablanca the same year, including future director Don Siegel (Dirty Harry), who shot the film's montage sequences. Max Steiner won an Oscar for his score, and Davis received one of her 11 acting nominations.

In 2019, the Criterion Collection released a superior Blu-ray edition with a restored image and uncompressed monaural soundtrack, and it looks heartbreakingly good. Bonuses include an episode of The Dick Cavett Show, from 1971 featuring actor Bette Davis, an interview with actor Paul Henreid from 1980, two radio adaptations (from 1943 and 1946), a new select-scene commentary track by scholar Jeff Smith, a new interview with critic Farran Smith Nehme on the making of the film, and a new interview with costume historian Larry McQueen. The liner notes booklet includes an essay by scholar Patricia White, and a 1937 reflection on acting by Davis.

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