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Now, Voyager is a 1942 American drama film directed by Irving Rapper. The screenplay by Casey Robinson is based on the 1941 novel of the same name by Olive Higgins Prouty.

Prouty borrowed her title from a line in the Walt Whitman poem "The Untold Want," which reads in its entirety,
"The untold want by life and land ne'er granted,
Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find."

In 2007, Now, Voyager was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congressmarker as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." The film ranks #23 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions, a list of the top love stories in American cinema. Film critic Steven Jay Schneider suggests the film continues to be popular due not only to its star power but also the "emotional crescendos" engendered in the storyline.


Charlotte Vale is an unattractive, overweight, repressed spinster whose life is dominated by her dictatorial mother, an aristocratic Bostonmarker dowager whose verbal and emotional abuse of her daughter has contributed to the woman's complete lack of self-confidence. Fearing Charlotte is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, her sister-in-law Lisa introduces her to psychiatrist Dr. Jaquith, who recommends she spend time in his sanatorium.

Away from her mother's control, Charlotte blossoms. The transformed woman opts to take a lengthy cruise rather than immediately return home. On board ship, she meets married Jeremiah Duvaux Durrance, who is traveling with his friends Deb and Frank McIntyre. It is from them that Charlotte learns of Jerry's devotion to his young daughter Tina and how it keeps him from divorcing his wife, a manipulative, jealous woman who keeps Jerry from engaging in his chosen career of architecture, despite the fulfillment he gets from it.

Charlotte and Jerry become friendly, and in Rio de Janeiromarker the two are stranded on Sugarloaf Mountain when their car crashes. They miss the ship and spend five days together before Charlotte flies to Buenos Airesmarker to rejoin the cruise. Although they have fallen in love, they decide it would be best not to see each other again.

When she arrives home, Charlotte's family is stunned by the dramatic changes in her appearance and demeanor. Her mother is determined to regain control over her daughter, but Charlotte is resolved to remain independent. The memory of Jerry's love and devotion help to give her the strength she needs to remain resolute.

Charlotte becomes engaged to wealthy, well-connected widower Elliot Livingston, but after a chance meeting with Jerry, she breaks off the engagement, about which she quarrels with her mother. Her mother becomes so angry that she has a heart attack and dies. Guilty and distraught, Charlotte returns to the sanatorium.

She is shaken out of her depression when she meets lonely, unhappy Tina, who greatly reminds her of herself; both were unwanted and unloved by their mothers. She becomes interested in Tina's welfare and with Dr. Jaquith's permission takes the girl under her wing. When she improves, Charlotte takes her home to Boston.

Jerry and Dr. Jaquith visit the Vale home, where Jerry is delighted to see the changes in his daughter. Dr. Jaquith has agreed to allow Charlotte to keep Tina there with the understanding that her relationship with Jerry will remain platonic. She tells Jerry that she sees Tina as his gift to her and her way of being close to him. When Jerry asks her if she's happy, Charlotte responds, "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon... we have the stars," a line ranked #46 in the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 movie quotes in American cinema.


Producer Hal B. Wallis made Now, Voyager his first independent production at Warner Bros. under a new arrangement with the studio. He took an active role in the production, including casting decisions. The initial choices for Charlotte were Irene Dunne, Norma Shearer, and Ginger Rogers. When Bette Davis learned about the project, she campaigned for and successfully won the role. More than any other of her previous films, Davis became absorbed in the role, not only reading the original novel but becoming involved in details such as choosing her wardrobe personally. Consulting with designer Orry-Kelly, she suggested a drab outfit, including an ugly foulard dress for Charlotte initially, to contrast with the stylish, "timeless" creations that mark her later appearance on the cruise ship.

The choice of Davis's leading men became important as well. Davis was aghast at the initial costume and makeup tests of Austrianmarker actor Paul Henreid; she thought the "slicked back" gigolo-like appearance made him look "just like Valentino." Henreid was similarly uncomfortable with the brilliantine image and when Davis insisted on another screen test with a more natural hairstyle, he was finally accepted as the choice for her screen lover. In her 1987 memoir This 'N That, Davis revealed another co-star on the film, Claude Rains (with whom she shared the screen in Juarez, Mr. Skeffington, and Deception) was her favorite co-star.

One of the famous cigarette scenes
production of the Prouty novel had to take into account that European locales would not be possible in the midst of a war, despite the novelist's insistence on using Italy as the main setting. Her quirky demands for vibrant colors and flashbacks shot in black and white with subtitles were similarly disregarded. Principal photography was shifted to Warner's sound stage 18 and various locations around California including the San Bernardino National Forestmarker, while European scenes were replaced by stock footage of the Caribbean. One of the primary reasons for Davis becoming interested in the original project was that photography would also take place in her hometown of Boston.

The film highlighted Davis's ability to shape her future artistic ventures, as not only did she have a significant role in influencing the decisions over her co-stars, the choice of director was predicated on a need to have a compliant individual at the helm. Davis previously had worked with Irving Rapper on films where he served as a dialogue director, but his gratitude for her support turned into a grudging realization that Davis could control the film. Although his approach was conciliatory, the to-and-fro with Davis slowed production and "he would go home evenings angry and exhausted." The dailies, however showed a "surprisingly effective" Davis at the top of her form.

For years, Davis and co-star Paul Henreid claimed the moment in which Jerry puts two cigarettes in his mouth, lights both, then passes one to Charlotte, was developed by them during rehearsals, inspired by a habit Henreid shared with his wife, but drafts of Casey Robinson's script on file at the University of Southern Californiamarker indicate it was included by the screenwriter in his original script. The scene remained an indelible trademark that Davis later would exploit as "hers."


Critical reception

Theodore Strauss of the New York Times observed, "Casey Robinson has created a deliberate and workmanlike script which more than once reaches into troubled emotions. Director Irving Rapper has screened it with frequent effectiveness. But either because of the Hays office or its own spurious logic, [the film] endlessly complicates an essentially simple theme. For all its emotional hair-splitting, it fails to resolve its problems as truthfully as it pretends. In fact, a little more truth would have made the film a good deal shorter . . . Although Now, Voyager starts out bravely, it ends exactly where it started — and after two lachrymose hours."

Time Out London said, "The women's weepie angle gets to be a bit of a slog later on, but it is all wrapped up as a mesmerically glittering package by Rapper's direction, Sol Polito's camerawork, and Max Steiner's lushly romantic score."

Channel 4 called it "the ultimate melodramatic, atmospheric (and very smoky) glum to glamour chick flick. The many highlights include a magnificent swelling score from Max Steiner and a scintillating performance by Bette Davis."

Awards and nominations


  1. Schneider, p. 183
  2. Leaming, pp. 204-205
  3. Higham, pp. 159-167
  4. Quirk, p. 248
  5. Spada, pp. 189-190
  6. Davis and Herskowitz, p. 26
  7. Now, Voyager at Turner Classic Movies
  8. Moseley, p. 70
  9. New York Times review
  10. Time Out Londonreview
  11. Channel 4 review


  • Davis, Bette, with Herskowitz, Michael, This 'N That. New York: G.P Putnam's Sons 1987. ISBN 0-399-13246-5
  • Leaming, Barbara, Bette Davis: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster 1992. ISBN 0-671-70955-0
  • Higham, Charles, Bette: The Life of Bette Davis. New York: Dell Publishing 1981. ISBN 0-440-10662-1
  • Moseley, Roy, Bette Davis: An Intimate Memoir. New York: Donald I. Fine 1990. ISBN 1-55611-218-1
  • Quirk, Lawrence J., Fasten Your Seat Belts: The Passionate Life of Bette Davis. New York: William Morrow and Company 1990. ISBN 0-688-08427-3
  • Schneider, Steven Jay, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Hauppauge, New York: Barron's Educational Series 2005. ISBN 0-76415-907-0
  • Spada, James, More Than a Woman: An Intimate Biography of Bette Davis. New York: Bantam Books 1993. ISBN 0-553-09512-9

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