The Moral Lessons of "Now, Voyager"

The poor quality of the movies up for this year’s Academy Award for best motion picture reminds me of the time when movies were indeed better than ever, which was the period of the late Thirties and the early Forties, which produced not only “The Wizard of Oz” and “Stagecoach” (I am still leary of “Gone With the Wind”, another 1939 blockbuster) but also, in the early war years, such movies as “Random Harvest” and “Now, Voyager”, both from 1942, and both heavily melodramatic in that people were given psychological excuses for being out of touch with their own lives and so needed to find ways to integrate themselves back into a social life somewhat abbreviated from a normal life, all the while the characters managing to retain their self respect and not give in to feeling sorry for themselves, which is the constant risk in melodrama. In “Random Harvest” that meant Greer Garson had to settle for a sexless marriage to the man she had known as her husband before he fell into amnesia and in “Now, Voyager” that meant Bette Davis settling for a long term affair with Paul Henreid because circumstances, including themselves, stand in the way of marriage.

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