the film takes place in new orleans circa 1850 during a yellow fever epidemic – pretty timely. it’s quaint and historically interesting to see the antebellum south depicted here, but the real draw of this southern drama is bette davis’ performance. she plays a headstrong firebrand whose object of affection is henry fonda. early in the film her stubborn ways drive fonda away. later in the film, when he returns – married, she attempts to win him back through a series of (mostly juvenile) tactics. by the end of the film she redeems herself as a martyr character. there’s a bit of north/south rivalry thrown in, but i couldn’t really read the film as an allegory for pre-civil war america. certainly there is that aspect to it, but that didn’t seem to be the main thrust of the film.
other highlights were the music (steiner), the dialogue (co-written by john huston), the cinematography and the polite feuding that went on between (mostly) fonda and brent.