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In 1858 France, Bernadette, an adolescent peasant girl, has a vision of "a beautiful lady" in the city dump. She never claims it to be anything other than this, but the townspeople all assume it to be the virgin Mary. The pompous government officials think she is nuts, and do their best to suppress the girl and her followers, and the church wants nothing to do with the whole matter. But as Bernadette attracts wider and wider attention, the phenomenon overtakes everyone in the the town, and transforms their lives. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
When the Lady asks Bernadette to wash herself in the spring, Bernadette digs a hole and smears her face and hands with dark black mud. Moments later as the onlookers mock her, her aunt and mother take her away and the mud is gone from both her hands, while only slight fingermarks of mud remain on her cheeks. See more »
Dr. St. Cyr:
Well, in addition to the large tumor on the knee, she has tuberculosis of the bone. She has never complained of pain?
Sister Marie Therese Verzous:
[stunned by the news]
She never mentioned it.
Dr. St. Cyr:
I can't understand it. She's had this affliction for a long time, and the constant pain and suffering associated with this disease is almost too horrible to describe.
Sister Marie Therese Verzous:
[Sister Marie Therese looks as if she had been struck a violent blow and walks off as if under a trance]
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The opening titles include " For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible". See more »
Bernadette Soubirous, 1844-1879, was a modest, shy, retiring religious girl of strong convictions in her faith who would have passed through this world unnoticed by many, but for an incident in her hometown of Lourdes in France. If you believe it was all a hallucination than this film will mean nothing to you.
But there are a great many people who believe that the pious young lady was chosen for a visit from the Virgin Mary one day when she was an adolescent teen. The Virgin Mary appeared to her several times in that location which in fact was the town garbage dump. In that spot an underground spring was discovered that had healing properties.
The film is based on a historical novel by Franz Werfel and Darryl F. Zanuck decided on an unknown to play young Bernadette. The girl chosen was Phyllis Isley of Oklahoma whose name was changed to Jennifer Jones and in her third film and first under her new identity, Jennifer Jones walked off with Best Actress Award of 1943. She beat out such seasoned veterans as Ingrid Bergman, Joan Fontaine, Jean Arthur, and Greer Garson. I'm sure it helped Jones that Fontaine and Garson were the previous two year's winners, that the film was such a hit, and that David O. Selznick had totally flipped for her and used every bit of influence to get that Oscar.
With all of that and a great performance as well. Jones captures both the simple beauty and piety of the young girl who may have been given insights into matters spiritual. Playing the Virgin Mary in an unbilled part was Linda Darnell, a fact I believe that did not come out until after Ms. Darnell's death in 1963.
Director Henry King gave his young unknown a lot of support by assembling a thoroughly professional cast without a bad performance in the lot. Such people as Lee J. Cobb, Vincent Price, Charles Dingle, Gladys Cooper, Roman Bohnen, and Anne Revere were just perfect in their parts.
As was Charles Bickford in the role of the priest and director of the Catholic school in Lourdes. He's very skeptical at first, but becomes her firm champion. Jones and Bickford became extremely close in this film, she looked up to Bickford for the rest of his life as a father figure in Hollywood. Bickford was nominated for Best Supportin Actor, but lost to Charles Coburn and Cooper and Revere both received nominations for Best Supporting Actress, but lost to Katina Paxinou.
Even with a more recent film telling the Bernadette Soubirous story that came out in 1989 with Sydney Penny, this film is still owned and shown in many Catholic churches and schools to this day. But even the most hardened of unbelievers will be blown away by Jones's performance.
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