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Her role in Wyler’s sensitive Antebellum drama garnered Bette Davis the second—and somewhat shockingly, final—Oscar of her burgeoning career, unforgettably playing the careening New Orleans society belle Julie Marsden. Julie is engaged to Preston “Pres” Dillard (Henry Fonda in a particularly headstrong role), a banker in the midst of the biggest deal of his career, who refuses to drop his work obligations at Julie’s beck and call. Julie lashes out and Pres, unwilling to capitulate, fights back—most prominently in an unforgettable, lavish Olympus Ball sequence. But in Jezebel, where lovers freely quarrel and North-South politics collide, a yellow fever outbreak looms and the couple’s fighting soon takes a back seat to more substantial concerns—namely, life and death. In the end, Davis steals the show, for Jezebel is “a lurid Deep South women’s picture that allows Davis first to scheme then repent: it is lit up by her little girl’s conviction—a trash heap glowing at twilight…Now at last she was in her tortured element.”—David Thomson, A Biographical Dictionary of Film. 35mm print courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Appears in: Bette & Joan

Genres: Drama

Other Films by William Wyler

The Little Foxes

The Little Foxes was the final collaboration of Bette Davis and William Wyler, a tumultuous creative—and sometimes romantic—partnership that brought Hollywood key works such as Jezebel and The Letter. Davis plays Regina Hubbard Giddens, a wealthy, independent Southern woman passed over for a huge inheritance, but between her scheming, already-wealthy brothers and her near-death husband,

The Letter

This second adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s 1927 stage play features Bette Davis’ turn as Leslie Crosbie, an adulterous yet misunderstood plantation wife in what is now Malaysia. Leslie, married to Robert (Herbert Marshall) yet unapologetically in love with another man, is caught in a bind when she kills her lover, ostensibly out of self-defense.