My wife is a huge Bette Davis fan and years ago she introduced me to one of Bette’s best films: Now, Voyager.
Based on the popular romantic novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, Now, Voyager was released in 1942. Mega-star Bette Davis was Oscar-nominated for her performance in the film, which was selected in 2007 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry. Like all the great movies accorded that honor, Now, Voyager was deemed to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Now Voyager may be a timeless classic – but there’s one central aspect of the film that has not aged very well: all that smoking.
Of course, until the last 20 years or so, everybody smoked in the movies – and in the 40’s and 50’s, cigarette smoke filled nearly every romantic drama, gangster movie, western and film noir frame. But Now, Voyager made smoking a central character.
In the film’s signature moment, Paul Henreid lights two cigarettes in his mouth at the same time and hands one to Bette. Henreid’s ultra-romantic two-cigarette move was first used ten years earlier in the film, The Rich Are Always With Us – but when Paul Henreid did it in Now, Voyager — it caused a sensation. For years afterward, Henreid couldn’t go anywhere without women begging him to pop two cigarettes in his mouth and fire them up.
Back then — unlike Bette and Paul’s relatively chaste and unrequited lovers — Hollywood and the cigarette companies were in bed together. Check out this fine article for some eye-opening details on this unhealthy alliance, including Bette’s contract with Lucky Strikes – and Paul Henreid’s own radio promotion, using his role in Now, Voyager to flog cigarettes.
68 years later, Now, Voyager’s smoky and sensual signature bit of dramatic business just wouldn’t fly in today’s more health conscious, socially and politically correct Hollywood.
Here’s our answer to that question, performed puff by puff at the Push Lounge in Woodland Hills in June 2010.