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Bette Davis goes from frumpy to fabulous as a repressed spinster who blossoms after emerging from psychoanalysis, in this classic romantic melodrama.
Davis campaigned for the lead role of Charlotte Vale in this adaptation of the Olive Higgins Prouty bestseller, which quickly became a much-loved classic of the "makeover" genre. Controlling much about the film's production (including the casting), Davis even took the step of personally selecting the dowdy wardrobe for Charlotte, the repressed "spinster" who, finally freed of her dowager mother's verbal onslaughts through the intervention of an understanding psychiatrist (Claude Rains), blossoms into a beauty after a spell in a sanatorium. (Always happens.) On a cruise ship to Buenos Aires, the now glamorous and self-assured Charlotte encounters her soulmate Jerry (Paul Henreid), who also suffers domination by a domestic dictator: a wife who resents his devotion to their daughter Tina (Janis Wilson) and his dreams of becoming an architect. Drawing close to the troubled Tina, Charlotte must decide how to maintain her newfound happiness without breaking up her beloved's troubled home. A true trove of trivia that includes both the famous line about making do with the stars and the celebrated scene of Henreid lighting two cigarettes and passing one to Davis, Now, Voyager is "a tightrope walk above a tub of scalding bathos, but Davis, [screenwriter Casey] Robinson, and director Irving Rapper pull the act off with dignity.... [They show] no hesitation in tackling situations which, if poorly realized, might have evoked snickers instead [of] tears" (Richard Corliss).