This month I salute novelist Olive Higgins Prouty.
Olive Higgins Prouty (January 10, 1882 – March 24, 1974) is best known for writing the story Now, Voyager. In 1942, the story received an excellent Hollywood movie adaptation by Warner Brothers. It's probably among the top ten best love
story pictures ever made!
I know my mother could never get tired of watching this gem. For years, it seemed to be the one and only movie she asked me replay on video every other month. Each time I would play Now, Voyager for her, I would also watch it. Indeed, every time I watched it, I would find another layer of meaning or something that would fascinate me about it.
The story is about a repressed Boston woman named Charlotte Vale
(Bette Davis) who suffers from the poisoning effects of a domineering
mother played to perfection by British actress Gladys Cooper. Eventually,
through the assistance of an understanding therapist Jr. Jaquith (Claude Rains),
Charlotte finds love at first, and ultimately the peace that empowerment
and self-assurance brings. In addition, a married man named Jerry Duvaux Durrance (Paul Henried) plays a part in her recovery.
Bette Davis is compelling and fascinating in playing
this part. Davis' success as an actress came from staying in movies with
her superb talent, just as Shirley Booth successfully stayed on the
stage and avoided the movies as much as she could. Both Davis and Booth
excelled at what they did, and were definitely among the 20th century's
finest actresses. Along with Shirley Booth, Bette Davis is among my
favorite actresses of all time.
the fine acting from a stellar cast of Bette Davis, Paul Henried (January 10, 1908 – March 29, 1992)
Claude Rains, and Gladys Cooper, there's Max Steiner's beautiful score
which rightly won the Academy Award that year.
The men are very
likeable in this film (Paul Henried & Claude Rains), but the
women certainly leave much to be desired - from Henried's miserable wife
who we never see, Charlotte's niece June (Bonita Granville) who certainly sickeningly
loves to torture her aunt with nasty jibes, and most importantly,
Charlotte's tyrannical mother who thinks that being a good mother means
controlling everything your adult child feels and does. Even Jerry's depressed daughter Tina (Janis Wilson) is a mess - suffering from low self-esteem and feelings of isolation. [Footnote: it was Wilson's first film.]
For many reasons Now, Voyager has stood the test of time as "The Woman's
Film." The story, written by Prouty, has a screen adaptation by Casey
Robinson, which leaves amazingly intact much of the original story and
actual lines of dialogue. Irving Rapper directed this wonderful story of a woman suffering
serious psychological problems and how she breaks free of her mother's
domination to choose her own destiny.
initially sensed that the writer seemed to have studied this situation
or went through such an ordeal. Prouty's writing is keen on women and
mental issues. There's an interesting autobiographical element to Now, Voyager.
Indeed Prouty was the right person to tell such an unusual story about
the mentally ill Charlotte Vale. She herself was from a fine Boston
family and she too herself suffered a mental breakdown as an adult in
1925 after the death of her one-year old infant (She also had an earlier
breakdown at the age of twelve). Prouty went to a sanitarium for
recovery where she met two therapists - one of them encouraged her in
her writing career.
So Prouty knew what she was writing about when she created Charlotte Vale. Do you remember the story Stella Dallas? That too was written by Prouty. However, she was not too happy with the melodramatic screen and radio adaptations.
The point that seems evident is that Charlotte Vale is not really
better off at the bittersweet conclusion than she was at the
start....She might still seem to have some issues to work on, depending
on how you want to see her decision to play surrogate mother to a
married man's child. However, at least she has finally stood up and
chosen her own destiny despite the consequences. Charlotte is liberated
finally....That's what I especially like about Now, Voyager.
In short, Charlotte overcomes her mental
problems and becomes a complete person. She learns to win and assert her
independence, first by dumping repressive family ties, and then
overcoming those limiting class and gender restrictions which society brainwashes
us at an early age to accept as normal and the only sensible way.
Charlotte is a character that finally
exhibits strong empowerment. She even achieves her stated goals of having a
home (inheriting her tyrannical mother's house), having a child (through
being a surrogate caretaker of her "ex-lover's" daughter) and having a
man to call her own (via a very non-traditional friendship with
a married man).
Now, Voyager's character of
Charlotte Vale is interesting, especially when you consider the time
when this story was written. In achieving her goals in an unusual manner, she
frees herself from the repressive upper class stuffiness and patriarchy of the traditional male-dominated,
anti-feminine, Western gender code.
Olive Higgins Prouty's Now, Voyager is worthy of your attention for challenging these things!
5 Stars out of 5
THANKS FOR VISITING!
JOIN ME AGAIN SOON!
For purchasing any of my books, you can visit Amazon.com
You can also check www.bookfinder.com
which offers the best prices on new & used copies.
For Bill, His Pinup Girl: The Shirley Booth & Bill Baker Story
by Jim Manago
Foreword by Leslie SodaroPublished December 1, 2010