A once-in-a-lifetime cast of veterans performs David Berry's play about Libby Strong (Bette Davis) and Sarah Webber (Lillian Gish), widowed sisters vacationing on a Philadelphia island for their 60th consecutive summer. Libby is blind and embittered, while Sarah is healthy, supportive, and almost annoyingly chipper. Their neighbor Tisha (Ann Sothern) tries to convince Sarah to put Libby in the care of her daughter, but Sarah hasn't forgotten Libby's moral support when her own husband died, and she won't entertain such notions – until she is swept off her feet by an aging roué (Vincent Price). When Libby spitefully sabotages this romance, an infuriated Sarah decides that gratitude has its limits. But when it actually comes down to selling their summer house and sending Libby packing, Sarah can't do it. In the film's flashback sequences, Libby is played by Margaret Ladd, Sarah by Mary Steenburgen, and Tisha by Ann Sothern's real-life daughter Tisha Sterling. Another film personality of long standing, Harry Carey Jr., is well cast as the sisters' handyman.
In 1938, Jezebel was widely regarded as Warner Bros.' "compensation" to Bette Davis for her losing the opportunity to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. Resemblances between the two properties are inescapable: Jezebel heroine Julie Marsden (Davis) is a headstrong Southern belle not unlike Scarlett (Julie lives in New Orleans rather than Georgia); she loves fiance Preston Dillard (played by Henry Fonda) but loses him when she makes a public spectacle of herself (to provoke envy in him) by wearing an inappropriate red dress at a ball, just as Scarlett O'Hara brazenly danced with Rhett Butler while still garbed in widow's weeds. There are several other similarities between the works, but it is important to note that Jezebel is set in the 1850s, several years before Gone With the Wind's Civil War milieu; and we must observe that, unlike Scarlett O'Hara, Julie Marsden is humbled by her experiences and ends up giving of her time, energy, and health during a deadly yellow jack outbreak. Bette Davis won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Julie.