Away from her mother's control, Charlotte blossoms, and the transformed woman opts to take a lengthy cruise rather than immediately return home. On board ship, she meets married Jeremiah Duvaux Durrance, who is traveling with his friends Deb and Frank McIntyre, from whom Charlotte learns Jerry's devotion to his young daughter Tina keeps him from divorcing his wife. Charlotte and Jerry become friendly, and in Rio de Janeiro the two are stranded on Sugarloaf Mountain when the car in which they are touring crashes. They miss the ship and spend five days together before Charlotte flies to Buenos Aires to rejoin the cruise. Although they have fallen in love, they decide it would be best not to see each other again.
When she arrives home, Charlotte's family is stunned by the dramatic changes in her appearance and demeanor. Her mother is determined to regain control over her daughter, but Charlotte is resolved to remain independent while forging a better relationship with her mother. She becomes engaged to widower Elliot Livingston, but after a chance meeting with Jerry, she breaks off the engagement, as a result of which her mother becomes so angry that she has a heart attack and dies. Guilty and distraught, Charlotte returns to the sanatorium, where she meets lonely, unhappy Tina, who greatly reminds her of herself. She becomes interested in her welfare and with Dr. Jaquith's permission takes the girl under her wing. When she improves, Charlotte takes her home to Boston with her.
Jerry and Dr. Jaquith visit the Vale home, and Jerry is delighted to see the changes in his daughter. Charlotte agrees to keep Tina with her with the understanding her relationship with Jerry will remain platonic. She tells him she sees Tina as his gift to her and her way of being close to him. When Jerry asks her if she's happy, Charlotte responds, "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon... we have the stars," a line ranked #46 in the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 movie quotes in American cinema.
The choice of Davis' leading men became important as well, and after the initial costume and makeup tests of Paul Henreid, Bette was aghast at the "slicked back" gigolo appearance of the Austrian actor. Her comment, "He looked just like Valentino" was shared with Henreid who agreed that he was very uncomfortable with that brilliantine image and when she insisted on another screen test with a more natural hairstyle, he was finally accepted as the choice for her screen lover. In her 1987 memoir This 'N That, Davis also revealed that another co-star on the film, Claude Rains (with whom she shared the screen in Juarez, Mr. Skeffington, and Deception) was her favorite co-star.
Initial production of the Prouty novel had to take into account that European locales would not be possible in the midst of a war, despite the novelist's insistence in using Italy as the main setting. Her quirky demands for vibrant colors and flashbacks shot in black and white with subtitles were similarly disregarded.Principal photography was shifted to Warner's sound stage 18 and various locations around California including the San Bernardino National Forest while European scenes were replaced by stock footage of the Caribbean. One of the primary reasons for Davis becoming interested in the original project was that photography would also take place in her hometown, Boston.
The film represented Davis' ability to shape her future artistic ventures, as not only did she have a significant role in influencing the decisions over her co-stars, the choice of director was predicated on a need to have a compliant individual at the helm. Davis had previously worked with talented writer Irving Rapper on films where he served as a dialogue director, but his gratitude for her support, turned into a grudging realization that Davis could control the film.Although his approach was conciliatory, the to-and-fro with Davis slowed production and "he would go home evenings angry and exhausted." The dailies, however showed a "surprisingly effective" Davis, at the top of her form.
For years, Davis and co-star Paul Henreid claimed the scene in which Jerry puts two cigarettes in his mouth, lights both, then passes one to Charlotte, was developed by them during rehearsals, inspired by a habit Henreid shared with his wife, but drafts of Casey Robinson's script on file at the University of Southern California indicate the scene was included by the screenwriter in his original script. The scene remained an indelible trademark that Davis later would exploit as "hers.
|Bette Davis||Charlotte Vale|
|Paul Henreid||Jeremiah Duvaux 'Jerry' Durrance|
|Claude Rains||Dr. Jaquith|
|Gladys Cooper||Mrs. Windle Vale|
|Ilka Chase||Lisa Vale|
|Bonita Granville||June Vale|
|John Loder||Elliot Livingston|
|Lee Patrick||Deb McIntyre|
|James Rennie||Frank McIntyre|
|Mary Wickes||Nurse Dora Pickford|
|Janis Wilson||Christine 'Tina' Durrance|
Time Out London says, "The women's weepie angle gets to be a bit of a slog later on, but it is all wrapped up as a mesmerically glittering package by Rapper's direction, Sol Polito's camerawork, and Max Steiner's lushly romantic score."
Channel 4 calls it "the ultimate melodramatic, atmospheric (and very smoky) glum to glamour chick flick. The many highlights include a magnificent swelling score from Max Steiner and a scintillating performance by Bette Davis."
In 2007, Now, Voyager was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." The film ranks #23 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions, a list of the top 100 love stories in American cinema.