• U.S.

The New Pictures, Nov. 2, 1942

3 minute read

Now, Voyager (Warner) is the Warner Bros.’ solemn contribution to the study of the mother complex. Sympathetically directed by Irving Rapper, sensibly acted by Bette Davis, Paul Henreid and a massive supporting cast, the picture often succeeds (in the course of two hours) in looking like the moving and intelligent drama it thinks it is.

The film’s neurosis occurs in Beacon Hill Boston. The agonists are: mother-complicated Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis, looking 20 lb. overweight in flat heels and the inevitable spectacles) and Mrs. Henry Windle Vale ( Gladys Cooper, whose discreet, sociologically exact portrayal of the mother is the best thing in the film). Claude Rains, in a role reminiscent of upper-class New England’s late Psycho-messiah Dr. Austen Fox Riggs, helps Charlotte escape from Boston and mother by taking a cruise. On shipboard Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid), a voyaging architect, takes the cure a step further by falling in love with Charlotte. By the time she gets home, Charlotte is ready to give mother a complex all her own.

But Charlotte’s architect proves already to be married to a neurotic. So Charlotte finds happiness in foster-mothering his neurotic little daughter Tina (Janis Wilson), seeing Jerry now & then on platonic flying visits.

Claude Rains’s brainside manner may well fill noncinematic neuropaths with a profound sense of insecurity. As Charlotte, Bette Davis is recognizably neurasthenic. Little Janis Wilson deserves special handling after her tender debut as Tina. By using a simple unfamiliar formula the Austrian newcomer, Paul Henreid (Night Train), makes himself one of Hollywood’s likeliest leading men. His formula: When he is in a tough emotional spot he acts like a kind and morally responsible human being.

The Forest Rangers (Paramount) is the story of two fights, of which the first is a Technicolor natural. Fight No. 1 is waged by the Rangers against fire in U.S. National Forests. Fight No. 2 is the cat-spat which Paulette Goddard and Susan Hayward wage over Fred MacMurray, while Rival Regis Toomey watches enviously at the ringside.

Technicolor makes the landscapes of the U.S. Northwest look as handsome and healthy as skookum apples. It also makes fire look very fiery while the sound of rushing flames suggests the rumpling of tons of cellophane. So long as The Forest Rangers sticks to these simple properties, and to firefighting methods, the picture is gaudy, noisy, unsafe and sane. But all too soon Cinemactress Goddard falls off a horse and flattens Cinemactor MacMurray, who immediately feels (or so he says) “like I had swallowed a comet.” While he digests it, which takes a long time, fires are in abeyance.

Miss Goddard, a tenderfoot, acts cute and brattish. Jealous, woods-wise Miss Hayward makes life in the tall timber as unpleasant for her as possible. Ranger MacMurray is too interested in hunting down a firebug to pay much attention to either of them. But there is a long-drawn, sniggering bundling scene, deep in the night woods, in which the young ladies struggle for a place beside the snoring Ranger. Before they get it, another big fire starts. Intrepid Miss Hayward shows a white feather. Squealing Miss Goddard flashes the red badge of courage. Cinemactor Toomey turns his coat, and Hero MacMurray manages to parachute at night from a hog-wild plane into a flaming forest, and land within five yards of the clinch which ends everybody’s troubles.

Technical note: a forest fire looks fine in Technicolor. An actor, after completing a lipsticky kiss, looks gruesome.

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