Although financially successful, the movie was panned by some critics who thought the story contrived but it received three Academy Award nominations, winning the Best Musical Score for Max Steiner. Bette Davis lost the Best Actress Award to Greer Garson for 'Mrs Miniver and Gladys Cooper lost the Best Supporting Actress Award to Teresa Wright, also for 'Mrs Miniver'.
The last words of the film: "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars," is ranked #46 in the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 movie quotes in American cinema. In 2007 the Library of Congress selected 'Now Voyager' for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
PlotBette Davis plays Charlotte Vale, the frumpy, repressed daughter of Mrs Windle Vale, played by Gladys Cooper, a thoroughly unpleasant maternal harridan who never misses a chance to put her daughter down.
Helped by eminent psychiatrist, Dr Jacquith, played by Claude Rains, Charlotte begins to blossom into an attractive young woman. On a cruise organised by Dr Jacquith she falls in love with Jeremiah Durrance, played by Paul Henreid but because he is already married they agree to part and never see each other again.
Charlotte returns home a changed woman and during an argument with her mother talks back strongly and her mother has a heart attack and dies. Shaken and feeling guilty, Charlotte returns to the clinic where she meets Tina, Jerry's daughter (played by Janis Wilson). Tina is suffering in exactly the same way that Charlotte suffered at the hands of a domineering mother and Charlotte is able to give her the help and support she needs. She now has a better understanding of what she values in life and she can tell Jerry that if she has the stars, she doesn't need the moon. She is the Voyager who set out to "seek and find." She found a sense of her true worth and inner peace.
ProductionDuring the late 1930's and early 1940's, many excellent melodramas were produced in Hollywood. Higgins Prouty's best-selling 1923 novel "Stella Dallas" had proved a major success when adapted for the screen in 1937 with Barbara Stanwyck in the title role, so it seemed logical for Warner Brothers to repeat the formula of putting a big name star into a good melodramatic story from the same author.
It took some very active campaigning by Bette Davis to finally win her the plum role of Charlotte Vale. She was not the original choice of producer Hal B. Wallis for the lead and he considered Irene Dunne, Norma Shearer and Ginger Rogers for the part. Similarly other directors were considered by Wallis, such as Michael Curtiz and Edmund Goulding before Irving Rapper was chosen. Bette Davis liked his calm, non-antagonistic approach and he became an important influence on her career over the next decade, directing her in 'The Corn Is Green' in 1945, 'Deception' the following year and 'Another Man's Poison' in 1951.
The success of the movie was helped in no small way by the beautiful music by Max Steiner which enhances the drama and the romance. Similarly the transformation of Charlotte from browbeaten frump to glamorous woman of the world is highlighted and accentuated by her wonderful wardrobe, designed by the talented Orry-Kelly.
SummaryA beautiful, romantic film with a very strong cast and an outstanding music score, combining pure escapist romance with a host of beautiful people, foreign locations, and sumptuous clothes. The ending is wonderful when Charlotte agrees to bring up Jerry's child as hers. She cannot marry Jerry but they still have the purity of their love for the child and for each other. The famous final words are very comforting: "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars."
Main CastBette Davis ... Charlotte Vale
Paul Henreid ... Jeremiah Duvaux Durrance
Claude Rains ... Dr. Jaquith
Gladys Cooper ... Mrs. Windle Vale
Ilka Chase ... Lisa Vale
Bonita Granville ... June Vale
John Loder ... Elliot Livingston
Lee Patrick ... Deb McIntyre
James Rennie ... Frank McIntyre
Mary Wickes ... Nurse Dora Pickford
Janis Wilson ... Christine "Tina" Durrance (uncredited)
David Clyde ... William
Bette Davis (1908-1989)
This is her film from first to last and she gives an outstanding performance, showing the startling change from plain, downtrodden child to a glowing, liberated young lady. Bette Davis was one of the best actresses ever to grace the screen. She was nominated for the Best Actress Award ten times and won the oscar twice in 1935 for 'Dangerous' and 1938 for 'Jezebel'.
Paul Henreid (1908- 1992)
Henreid plays perfectly the charming Jerry who is trapped in a loveless marriage. The movie established him as a genuine Hollywood romantic star and later in the year the Trieste-born actor continued in the same vein playing Ingrid Bergman's Resistance hero husband in the classic 'Casablanca'.
Claude Rains (1889-1967)
Rains gives a very convincing performance as the psychiatrist who rescues Charlotte from her mother. He speaks eloquently and at the perfect pitch and pace and is totally believable. In her autobiography Bette Davis confides that Rains was her favorite actor to work with. Born in England, Rains had a long movie career and was nominated four times for Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor.
Gladys Cooper (1888-1971)
Gladys Cooper gives an acting masterclass in her portrayal of Charlotte's terrifyingly strict and controlling mother. Born in England, Cooper had a hugely successful career in stage, film and television. She was nominated for three Academy Awards, the last one for 'My Fair Lady' in 1964 when she was 76.
CreditsDirector ... Irving Rapper
Producer ... Hal B. Wallis
Screenplay ... Casey Robinson
Music ... Max Steiner
Cinematography ... Sol Polito
Distribution Company ... Warner Bros.
Release date ... October 22, 1942
Running time ... 117 minutes
Academy AwardsOne Win:
Best Original Score ... Max Steiner
Two Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Actress ... Bette Davis
Best Supporting Actress ... Gladys Cooper