What I Learned From Now, Voyager (1942)

Now, Voyager is one of the great melodramas from the 1940s. It is an emotional roller coaster with Bette Davis delivering one of her best performances as Charlott Vale, a repressed, dowdy spinster who is controlled by her dominating mother (Gladys Cooper). A psychiatrist (Claude Rains) intervenes just as Charlotte is about to have a nervous breakdown and helps her transform into a more self-assured woman. Rather than return to her evil mother’s lair, Charlotte embarks on a cruise where she meets a married man, Jeremiah Duvaux Durrance (Paul Henreid) and the two begin a complicated romance. When Charlotte returns home, she must stand up to her mother while dealing with the lingering affects of her romance.

Here are some very important lessons we can learn from Now, Voyager.

1. Your mother doesn’t love you. So she keeps you around, financially supports you, belittles you, and slowly drives you insane.

Now, Voyager has helped me realize why I won’t be a bad parent. If I hated my child, my natural inclination would be to send them away so I wouldn’t have to look at them. But Mama Vale (Gladys Cooper) keeps Charlotte around so she can control everything Charlotte does from the clothes she wears to the books she reads. Most of all, Mama Vale wants to control Charlotte so that she doesn’t step out with some man.

Fun fact: While searching for pictures of Gladys Cooper, you will find a few pictures of Mo'Nique in Precious. Ponder that for a moment.

2. Pre-spinster Charlotte Vale was kind of a hussy.

Charlotte Vale goes through three stages: pre-spinster, crazy spinster, and sexy spinster. During her pre-spinster stage, Charlotte has an ill-fated romance with a cruise ship’s officer. Charlotte is convinced that she is in love. She even stops wearing her glasses. And because all hell will break loose once a woman stops wearing her glasses, Mama Vale immediately stops her daughter’s sexcapade and turns her daughter in a sexless, crazy spinster.

Unfortunately, pre-spinster Charlotte vale was also a fan of milkmaid braids.

3. Nervous breakdowns never looked this much fun.

I don’t know about you, but the sanatorium Charlotte gets sent to looks fun and relaxing. You can play tennis and take up weaving. By the end of your stay, you can get an awesome makeover and Claude Rains is your BFF.

4. Bette Davis pioneered the movie makeover long before The Breakfast Club ruined it. 

Charlotte Vale’s physical transformation is remarkable. Before she’s so unattractive, even her giant caterpillars eyebrows are trying to escape from her face.

Spinster on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

But after some therapy and a major makeover, Charlotte is a total babe.

Nothing therapy can't buy you.

5. Boats. They’re a metaphor. A metaphor for sex. 

Who knew that cruises were the best place to get busy?

Everyone knows this. James Cameron made a movie about it.

6. Smoking is good for you.

It’s cruel how good smoking is for you in Now, Voyager.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-KGiwGn1d8]

7. Kind of kidnapping a child gets you closer to a man’s… heart.

Poor Tina Durrance. She’s unloved by her mother. She has unfortunate glasses. She’s been sent away to Dr. Jaquith’s sanatorium. Essentially she is a mini-Charlotte Vale. Since Charlotte has had enough therapy to be considered a licensed therapist, she becomes Tina’s surrogate mother. This has nothing to do with the fact that Charlotte is in love with Tina’s father and if Charlotte cares for Tina, she gets a perfect excuse to spend time with Jerry.

8. Spinsters get to have all the fun

Now, Voyager is yet another movie that has convinced me why being a spinster is awesome. You can take up crafting, go on cruises, wear fancy clothes, hang out with married men without anyone questioning it, and eventually become the surrogate mother to his emotionally unbalanced teenage daughter so you two can be together forever. That is, if you don’t have a crazy, manipulative mother.

You also get to smoke and smoking is awesome.

4 thoughts on “What I Learned From Now, Voyager (1942)”

  1. Haha. No words, I just love this post.

    PS. Is it odd that this is one of my favourite….perhaps THE favourite…Bette Davis performance of mine? I need to rewatch her filmography but I’m sort of so-so about her.

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