Portrait Of Jennie

  • 1948
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Romance

An eerie love story, PORTRAIT OF JENNIE offers superb performances from Cotten, as a struggling painter, and Jones, as a girl from the past with whom he falls in love. It is 1932, the nadir of the Depression, and Cotten, a young painter who feels that his work lacks depth, sits glumly in New York City's Central Park, contemplating his not-so-bright future....read more

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An eerie love story, PORTRAIT OF JENNIE offers superb performances from Cotten, as a struggling painter, and Jones, as a girl from the past with whom he falls in love. It is 1932, the nadir of the Depression, and Cotten, a young painter who feels that his work lacks depth, sits glumly in

New York City's Central Park, contemplating his not-so-bright future. A beautiful young girl, Jones, approaches him and begins to speak with him, using strange words that belong to a previous era, mentioning that she attends a convent school and that her parents are trapeze artists at

Hammerstein's Opera House. She sings Cotten a haunting song, then disappears as abruptly as she appeared. Afterwards, Cotten struggles on with his art, encouraged by wealthy art dealer Barrymore, who takes a motherly interest in him, buying his water colors even though she knows they are poor, and

suggesting that he try a new medium. Jones turns up periodically throughout that winter, while Cotten finds work painting a mural on the wall of an Irish saloon, a commission arranged by Cotten's good friend Wayne, a cab driver. Each time Jones reappears through the following spring and summer,

she seems older by years, growing up from adolescence to young womanhood. Cotten asks her to sit for a portrait and finishes it just as she tells him she's about to graduate from college. When Barrymore and her associate, Kellaway, see the portrait of Jones, they hail it as a startling, innovative

work by the hitherto unpromising Cotten that will surely establish his artistic reputation. Yet Cotten is haunted by Jones and begins to look into her background, discovering that her parents were killed in a highwire accident. Moreover, he finds out from Gish, the mother superior at an all-girl

college, that Jones was in fact killed during a hurricane in New England in the 1920s. Cotten refuses to believe that the girl he painted is a ghost, but on the eve of the hurricane's anniversary, he rushes to New England. There, Jones comes to him during a raging storm and tells him that their

love will live across the barriers of time, then vanishes for good. Eventually, Cotten begins to doubt he ever really met the beautiful girl, but when he finds her scarf, he begins to believe that he will meet his true love again in the afterlife after all.

Dieterle's direction is sensitive and the sequences are wonderfully constructed, with no scene bruising the next. He draws forth stellar performances, especially from Cotten; Jones is seen too briefly, but projects a genuinely ethereal quality during her moments on the screen. August's photography

is stunning, and Tiomkin's lyrical score, drawn from Claude Debussy's themes (principally "The Afternoon of a Faun") is highly memorable. The foreword of the film, written by Ben Hecht, sums up the story's effect: "Out of the shadows of knowledge, and out of a painting that hung on a museum wall,

comes our story, the truth of which lies not on our screen but in your heart." (A similar story of love that crosses mortal boundaries is at the core of a Hecht romance of considerable note, MIRACLE IN THE RAIN.)

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: An eerie love story, PORTRAIT OF JENNIE offers superb performances from Cotten, as a struggling painter, and Jones, as a girl from the past with whom he falls in love. It is 1932, the nadir of the Depression, and Cotten, a young painter who feels that his… (more)

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