So I saw Now, Voyager today, arguably one of Bette Davis's finest performances. She plays a spinster (although not that old) who is repressed by her mother do the point of a breakdown, who, with the help of her sister-in-law and a psychiatrist at a sanitarium, finds the strength to leave home and explore the world. One makeover later, she takes a cruise ship to Rio and meets the man of her dreams (Claude Rains), who happens to be married. They fall in love, and then vow to never see each other again. She tries to move on, but realizes she'll never love anyone else. When her mother dies she goes back to the sanitarium, only to find her lover's 12 year old daughter is there as well, and takes her under her wing.
The first thing I was impressed with was Davis' ability to transform herself into a dowdy spinster, overweight ("Mother doesn't believe in dieting") afraid to speak or be proud of herself, into a svelt, beautiful, poised woman, full of confidence. The best thing about this transformation? It takes a while. Of course the makeover is a big part of it, but even after she appears on the ship in her new clothes and hairdo, freshly plucked brows lifted in her signature expression, she still has a tension about her that belies the underlying reticence to join the outside world. Basically, she feels out of place, like she's wearing a mask, that she could be outed at any moment for the sad spinster aunt she believes she is. Her relationship with Rains' character draws her out of her shell and gives her the confidence to really interact with the world around her. Even after she leaves him in Rio, instead of dwelling on the pain of separation, she makes friends with pretty much everyone on the ship. She physicalizes all of these phases beautifully and subtly.
One of the best moments is the first time she sees her mother after her trip. Moment to moment, you can see her fighting to keep her new confidence, and the dangerous precipice she's on, where she could slip back under her mother's control again. Each little victory over her mother though gives her strength, and you can see this in Davis' eyes. Another good moment is when she breaks off her engagement with Livingston, a man she meets when she comes home from her trip. The decision process is written all over her face. She doesn't start the scene with her mind made up, but you can tell the moment when it is.
So basically, I'm in awe! Next on the list is Dark Victory.
By the way, all this acting business is expensive! IMDBPro is $12.95 a month, acting classes (at the really good places) are around $300, casting websites are between $10 and $50 a month, web hosting is $5-$10 a month...not to mention the cost of postage, new headshots, business cards, postcards, gas...it's a lot to consider! Basically I need at least $100 a month just for acting expenses, not including classes etc. Guess I better find a day job soon!