John Trent, a World War I British officer, finds an ancient sword in his trench bunker just prior to volunteering for what will amount to a suicide mission the next day. That night he is visited by the spirit of Joan of Arc and is transported back to the 15th Century. Joan's career begins when, as a peasant girl, she meets Trent's ancestor, also an English soldier, fighting for the Burgundians. After Trent is captured, Joan is brought to the attention of the beleaguered Dauphin, heir to the French throne, who cannot be crowned because the English hold the royal city of Orleans. The weak Dauphin is impressed by her vision and apparently heaven-sent powers which border on the supernatural and ultimately gives her command of the armies. She is victorious at Orleans and the new King is crowned. Joan resists Trent's entreaties of love and continues her struggle to free the rest of her country from English occupation. Sinister forces, both English and French, conspire against her and she is... Written by
Gabe Taverney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
First film to use the Handschiegl Color Process. See more »
When Trent discovers the sword, he holds the hilt in his right hand. In the insert close-up the hilt is in his left hand. In the cutback, it has returned to the right. (In fact, the insert shot has been spliced in upside-down.) See more »
Geraldine Farrar's performance as Joan of Arc, along with some memorable visual sequences, are the main reasons why "Joan the Woman" is still worth seeing today, despite the availability of many other movies about the celebrated French heroine. Although Farrar is not as remarkable as Maria Falconetti was 11 years later (which is by no means a criticism of Farrar - no one else has come close to Falconetti in the role of Joan, and most probably no one will for many years to come), she is very good, especially given the limitations of the time.
Except for clearly being older than the historical Joan was, Farrar conveys pretty well the most important characteristics of the heroine. She and DeMille did well to avoid making her too feminine, instead making her a strong and interesting leader with a limited but heartfelt set of priorities. The story does include some rather fanciful DeMille touches, but as cinema they work well enough, even if on a handful of occasions they may seem out of place in Joan's story. The screenplay also gives Farrar a chance to show many different sides of her character.
Some of the large-scale sequences are also nicely done for an era in which film-makers usually had to work out by themselves how to film such scenes, with only a handful of previous examples to go by. While some of the seams might show now, they did a very good job with what was available, and they must have looked rather impressive in their day.
Raymond Hatton performs well enough in the rather thankless role of the weak king Charles, and Theodore Roberts has some good villainous moments as Cauchon. Some of the other characters, while satisfactory, are a bit too non-descript to be a fully effective complement to Joan.
The one real weakness of the movie is the now-extraneous sequence set in the World War that was in progress when the film was made. It's not bad in itself, and contemporary audiences might have found it worthwhile, but the story of Joan of Arc is really powerful enough that it should be allowed to stand on its own.
Overall, "Joan the Woman" is a good to very good movie in just about every respect, and it is still among the better Joan of Arc films. Perhaps the only one that is clearly superior is the amazing 1928 Dreyer/Falconetti masterpiece "The Passion of Joan of Arc". Since there are a number of sound movies about Joan available, this one unfortunately may not get much attention anymore, but for those who still enjoy the silents, it's worth seeing.
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