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Monday, January 16, 2006





Born This Day In 1898 --- Director Irving Rapper


When you think about those poor directors Bette Davis used to kick around during her Warner Bros. reign, Irving Rapper’s name may spring to mind. He didn’t make a lot of great pictures, but for a while during the forties, did get important assignments on the Warner lot (Adventures Of Mark Twain, Rhapsody In Blue, One Foot In Heaven). Davis ended up trusting Rapper enough to bring him along for an independently produced 50's meller, Another Man's Poison. The remarkable thing about Irving Rapper is how long he lived --- 101 years!! We recall a wire story seven or eight years ago which presupposed he was dead, only to announce days later the triumphant discovery that Rapper was alive and well somewhere in England. It was as if they’d found a pterodactyl. We think Irving’s birthday deserves a mention just because he directed that all-time great Bette Davis vehicle, Now, Voyager, which showcases not only the First Lady Of WB, but also that Greatest Of All Thespic Gods, Claude Rains. The first time we saw Now, Voyager was actually in another movie, Summer Of ’42 (where they used clips during a theatre-going sequence), and I well remember sitting there in 1972 and thinking, why can’t we just watch this neat-looking Bette Davis picture instead of some lame, cold-crème-on-the-lens, phony-baloney, would-be nostalgia indulgence? You remember how Bette shaved her hairline for Queen Elizabeth in 1939? Well here, she really let them flog her with an ugly stick as the pre-transformation Charlotte Vale, and if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember that great scene where she hides her cigarettes before giving Claude Rains a reluctant tour of her sanctum sanctorum. The DVD of Now, Voyager is a marvel. It’s just about the most stunning B/W thing Warners Video has produced to date.


As always, we’ve tried to provide some images that haven’t been published or posted to death elsewhere. First off, that’s birthday boy Irving Rapper (our excuse for talking about this movie!) "directing" Bette on Now, Voyager (as if anyone could). She looks obedient and cooperative, but she knows that still man’s on the stage, and soon as he’s gone, she’ll take the blue pencil to that script again, and show Irving who’s boss! This other shot illustrates a sequence that was cut in its entirety. All the details of Charlotte’s transformation from ugly duckling to still-tormented swan were excised by producer Hal Wallis (if only we had him, and his scissors, around today to put the finishing touch on contemporary films!).


The pressbook stuff includes typical ad art for the 1942 release, and the tie-in page once again shows us the multiple means by which a major feature could be delivered to the attention of the widest possible audience. It paid off, too, for Now, Voyager, with its negative cost of $877,000, took a wow $2.1 million in domestic rentals, another $2.0 foreign, for a worldwide total of $4.1. The final profit of $2.1 million was the biggest pay-off of all the Davis/Warner pics.

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