I’ve been on a tear, watching all the classic 1930s movies I should have seen and never did. I started with Pygmalion (Leslie Howard, yum), then Leslie brought me to Of Human Bondage, then Bette Davis took my hand and I watched Jezebel.
Three films in a row with puzzling endings. Pygmalion, of course, had to end romantically. Even George Bernard Shaw bowed to the pressure and consigned Higgins and Eliza to what was fated to be a miserable five-week relationship.
Then, in Of Human Bondage, the hero’s motivations were baffling. Perhaps I just don’t remember what is is to be young and hate yourself. Why did the protagonist do anything or end up with anyone?
After those two peculiar endings, [spoiler] Bette Davis was suddenly cured of her Borderline Personality Disorder at the end of Jezebel. I just accepted it. Still, in what world would a woman in a hoop skirt hop a wagon headed to a leper colony?
After doubting the movie’s realism, I noticed the obvious modern-day parallel with Jezebel: infectious disease. It portrays New Orleans as cloudy with mosquitoes carrying yellow fever. (Henry Fonda even swats one and is as doomed as Bette when she coughs in Of Human Bondage.) Today, bug-filled barges coming down the Mississippi are replaced by cruise ships carrying coronavirus. The 2020 Olympics might be affected, instead of the Olympus Ball.
Perhaps coronavirus just needs a few good cannon volleys, the germ defense of choice in the movie.