In 1942, Warners wanted to borrow Irene Dunne from Columbia to play the Yankee heroine of Olive Higgins Prouty’s bestselling novel. Until Bette Davis got wind of it. She campaigned hard for the role and had to convince both Jack Warner and producer Hal Wallis that as a New Englander (and an actress already under contract to Warners,) she was the right person for the role.

Charlotte Vale was a plum part. A repressed Boston spinster who has a nervous breakdown, gets a makeover, and is sent on a Caribbean pleasure cruise. Then she returns home, kills her frosty mother and takes her gold. All this, and cigarettes. Lots and lots of cigarettes.

Davis rode director Irving Rapper hard, fought him the whole way, changed Paul Henreid’s hairstyle, and in nearly every scene restored original dialogue from the Prouty novel that had been altered for the script.

Newcomer Henreid, who years later directed Davis in Dead Ringer (1964,) remembered, “She was the soul of kindness to me all through the shooting, as she was to all the cast. I have never understood these stories of how difficult she was to other cast members. On the contrary, she would fight their battles with the director.”

Now, Voyager emerged an instant, enduring classic and was Davis’s biggest hit, making a profit of $2.3 million for Warners and bringing Davis her fifth straight Oscar nomination.

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