A touch too plodding, but an atmospheric reduction of Bronte. This was the fifth time around for the doughty English lady: In 1913 Irving Cummings and Ethel Grand did it. In 1915 it was Alan Hale and Louise Vale. Mabel Ballin and Norman Trevor tried again in 1921; then Virginia Bruce and
Colin Clive made the first talkie version in 1934. Although shot on the West Los Angeles sound stages of 20th Century-Fox, Barnes's eerie cinematography truly evokes the bleakness of the novel.
Fontaine is Jane Eyre, an orphan girl who has been tossed about by fate and managed to survive a sordid upbringing. (In the early scenes the role is touchingly played by Peggy Ann Garner.) Fontaine takes a job as governess to Yorkshireman Welles's ward, O'Brien. They live on the Yorkshire moors in
a huge house called Thornfield Hall. Fontaine appears as though she'll remain a spinster for the rest of her days, but there is an attraction growing between her and Welles. He is a troubled man, brooding and enigmatic, yet Fontaine has come to love him; a wedding is planned, but it fails to take
This is Bronte as gothic paperback romance, and the music, by longtime Welles associate Bernard Herrmann, richly slathers over discrepancies between Welles's and Fontaine's acting styles (after Welles makes his entrance, everything seems to swirl about him--or at least out of his way). In the
original book Jane was the protagonist and Rochester was more of a large supporting part. To accommodate Welles, who was emerging as one of the country's most popular actors, the male role was expanded and he received billing above Fontaine.
The Peggy Ann Garner sequences are the best in the film, with Jane's dismal schooling realized very well. You can bet there wasn't a dry eye in the house when strange, beautiful little Helen Burns (Elizabeth Taylor), dies from gross neglect. Later, in 1957, it was done with Patrick Macnee and Joan
Elan and then again in 1971 with George C. Scott and Susannah York, both of these versions for television.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A touch too plodding, but an atmospheric reduction of Bronte. This was the fifth time around for the doughty English lady: In 1913 Irving Cummings and Ethel Grand did it. In 1915 it was Alan Hale and Louise Vale. Mabel Ballin and Norman Trevor tried again… (more)