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The Bette Davis Collection (The Star / Mr. Skeffington / Dark Victory / Now, Voyager / The Letter)

4.6 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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(Jun 14, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Bette Davis Collection includes 3 new-to-DVD classics, featuring Davis in multiple Emmy-nominated performances as a captivating adulteress, a manipulative beauty, and a former Oscar-winning actress recovering from the end of her career.

Even in the 21st century, very few film stars create and define their own genre--and certainly not in the complete way Bette Davis did. The Bette Davis Collection gives an exceptionally good survey of essential Bette, with four of the five films absolute knock-down classics from her long reign at Warner Bros. Davis's personality was so strong that she tended to overpower her directors, but William Wyler was one of the few to maintain his own distinctive style with her, and The Letter (1940) is a triumph for both of them. At a humid Malaysian plantation, Davis kills a man in the brilliant opening sequence, and the remainder is a darkly suggestive unraveling of the complicated explanation.

Dark Victory (1939) and Now, Voyager (1942) would be on anybody's list of most representative Davis pictures. In the former, she's a doomed heiress nobly losing her eyesight, a multiple-handkerchief situation that proved one of her biggest hits. Voyager allows Davis one of her favored techniques (appearing frumpy for at least part of her performance) as a mother-dominated spinster who comes out of her shell. Her match with Paul Henreid--and the music of Max Steiner--turns this into one luscious melodrama.

If Mr. Skeffington (1944) is not as celebrated as those films, it is nevertheless a characteristic Warners work-out. Davis wasn't shy about playing unsympathetic roles, and Fanny Skeffington--vain, selfish, married for practicality--is an exasperating tour de force. She gets good support from Claude Rains as the sensible, adoring husband. The Star (1952) is no classic, but its Pirandellian aspects will appeal to the actress's fans: Bette plays a washed-up Oscar-winning star desperate to get herself back in the public eye (think if it as a less witty postscript to All About Eve). There's some hint the main character is modeled more on Joan Crawford than Bette herself, in which case Davis must have loved playing it.

Extras are modest, with short featurettes giving background on three of the discs, and director Vincent Sherman providing commentary for Mr. Skeffington. But the films themselves, and their neurotically intense star, are quite capable of standing alone. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • Mr. Skeffington (1944)
  • Commentary by the film's Director Vincent Sherman
  • New Featurette Mr. Skeffington: A Picture of Strength
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • The Star (1952)
  • New Featurette How Real is The Star?
  • Dark Victory (1939)
  • Commentary by Film Historian James Ursini and CNN film critic Paul Clinton
  • New Featurette 1939: Tough Competition for Dark Victory
  • The Letter (1940)
  • Lux Radio Theater broadcast featuring performances by Davis and Marshall
  • Alternate Ending
  • Now Voyager (1942)
  • Max Steiner Scoring Session Music Cues
  • Cast Career Highlights

Product Details

  • Actors: Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, George Brent, Humphrey Bogart, Geraldine Fitzgerald
  • Directors: Edmund Goulding, Irving Rapper, Stuart Heisler, Vincent Sherman, William Wyler
  • Writers: Bertram Bloch, Casey Robinson, Dale Eunson
  • Format: Box set, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: June 14, 2005
  • Run Time: 553 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0008ENIOI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,222 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Bette Davis Collection (The Star / Mr. Skeffington / Dark Victory / Now, Voyager / The Letter)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Byron Kolln HALL OF FAME on March 6, 2008
Format: DVD
This is actually a re-packaged version of the first Warners' Bette Davis set (previously available as The Bette Davis Collection (The Star / Mr. Skeffington / Dark Victory / Now, Voyager / The Letter)). 2008 will mark Bette Davis's 100th birthday, and Warner Bros. is celebrating by re-releasing their first two Davis DVD box sets in brand-new packaging, to accompany the new third volume.

The set includes:

NOW, VOYAGER - Based on the novel by Olive Higgins Prouty. Charlotte Vale (Davis) flees her mother's suffocating grip and finds romance with a handsome divorcee (Paul Henreid). Co-starring Claude Rains and Gladys Cooper. Extra features: music scoring sessions.

MR. SKEFFINGTON - Based on a story by "Elizabeth". Davis shines as Fanny Trellis, a vain and self-centered beauty who only learns the lesson of true love after suffering the ravages of diphtheria. Extra features: "Mr. Skeffington - A Picture of Strength" documentary, and audio commentary by director Vincent Sherman.

THE STAR - Alcoholic washed-up diva Margaret Elliot (Davis) is saved by a former co-star (Sterling Hayden) and discovers a life beyond the false facade of Hollywood. Davis plays a thinly-veiled caricature of Joan Crawford! Extra features: "How Real is The Star?" documentary.

THE LETTER - Based on the novel by Somerset Maugham. Davis is Leslie Crosbie, a woman guilty of murdering her lover in cold blood. Although she later gets acquitted of the crime, vengeance is only a heartbeat away. Extra features: alternate ending, plus two Lux Theater radio presentations.
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Format: DVD
I do not have the good fortune yet to have a copy of this set yet.

However, a friend of mine reviews DVDs for a living, and received it a few days ago. It is stunning.

Whereas previously the only DVD of DARK VICTORY was muddy,dirty, and downright ugly, Warner Bros. has restored it, and the difference is like "night and days". The new DVD is beautiful and one of Bette's best.

The previously released NOW, VOYAGER and THE LETTER are here, also, restored to their original theatrical glow in gorgeous presentations.

But, best of all, we get a bew to DVD transfer of the COMPLETE version of MR. SKEFFINGTON, with commentary from its (god-bless-him, 98 year old director, Mr. Vincent Sherman!). SKEFFINGTON was cut from its nearly 150 minute version to about 127 minutes soon after release, until 1988 when certain talented folks at MGM/UA knew that there WAS a longer version! And it was wonderful!

How lucky are we that Warner Home Video had the panache and taste to put this GREAT package together at such a value price!

Even if you have one of the old DVD versions, it makes sense to buy this new box as the price is hard to resist. 5 of Bette's best in a beautiful case for less than 50 bucks? Amazing!

Grab it!
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This box-set really is a must-have for all Bette fans. Bar the titles already on DVD - and if you find that in buying this set that you will end up with some doubles, get it anyway, it's excellent value at under $40 - the rest of the movies are really some of Bette's best efforts, and are well-worth your hard-earned cash.

Rather than a lengthy mini-review of each title, let me just say that overall: The Star is possibly the weakest of the movies contained herein, and it is still a fantastically entertaining piece of film. It's funny, touching, and a fascinating look at a long-dead Hollywood system. Also, the rumours that the character and portrayal were based on Joan Crawford are completely proven here!! Dark Victory, in my opinion, is the strongest film - as an Actress, Ms. Davis' performance here is far better than merely Oscar-worthy - it's Oscar-defining. Never OTT or melodramatic, it's a strong testament to the power of this particular performance that it's every bit as emotionally relevant today as it was when it was made - some sixty-five years ago!!

The DVD quality, I have to say, blew me away. These remastered movies are sharp, smooth and absolutely gorgeous to look at. Dark black areas are truly black, contrast balance is never an issue, and the crystal-clear sharpness of the images remains intact, overall. Some parts of The Letter and Now, Voyager are maybe not as good as the other movies - but are still some of the best examples of digital resotration going. Sound is mono, but a decent sort of mono, and with decent TV speakers it's not such a big deal.

Each DVD has its own mini-extras, all come with some interesting comments from Historians, Biographers and Directors, and this makes for a great accompaniment of factoids to already-worthwhile movies.
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Bette Davis is close to my favorite actress. She drove studio boss Jack Warner nuts because of her uncanny ability to pick excellent properties that would challenge her as an actress and roles that her millions of fans would love her in. If Joan Crawford was a movie star who always insisted on looking glamorous, Davis was a serious and demanding actress who was not afraid to look awful if the role was great (MR. SKEFFINGTON, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE).

Bette Davis is at her absolute peak in THE BETTE DAVIS COLLECTION: VOLUME ONE from Warner Home Video. DARK VICTORY (1939), THE LETTER (1940), NOW, VOYAGER (1942), MR. SKEFFINGTON (1944), and THE STAR (1952) all got her Best Actress Oscar nominations. In most cases, I feel she should have won over the eventual winner. Her performances hold up better.

Directed by Edmund Goulding (GRAND HOTEL), DARK VICTORY has Miss Davis as a young woman going blind from brain cancer. Made during Hollywood's greatest year, 1939, it is a supremely well made tearjerker that is too well acted by Bette to be depressing. Max Steiner did the music, Casey Robinson wrote the screenplay, and the co-stars include Geraldine Fitzgerald and Ronald Reagan.

THE LETTER, one of three masterpieces Bette Davis made with director William Wyler, is based on a W. Somerset Maugham story. It is about murder and adultery on a Southeast Asian rubber plantation. Nominated for seven Oscars, including Picture and Direction and Actress, this is a gorgeously photographed and gripping tale of a woman who kills her lover, then tries to get away with it. Herbert Marshall is flawless as her likeable husband and Henry Stephenson is her lawyer. With this, OF HUMAN BONDAGE, and THE RAZOR'S EDGE, Maugham hit gold with Hollywood adaptations of his work.
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