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It is based on the eponymous play by Elmer Blaney Harris, inspired by
real events. Directed by Jean Negulesco, was filmed in Fort Bragg,
Mendocino and the northern coast of California. Nominated for 12
Oscars, won 1 (actiz). Won 2 Golden Globes. Produced by Jerry Wald,
opened on 14-IX-1948.
The main action takes place in Cape Breton Island (Nova Scotia / Canada)), over about 2 years (1947-1948). It tells the story of Belinda McDonald (Jane Wyman), deaf children sick, about 18, who lives and works in his father's farm Black (Charles Bickford), the care of her aunt Aggie (Agnes Morehead). The population of fishermen on the island they professed little appreciation for his work as farmers, atypical in place.
The great director Jean Negulesco offers this wonderful film in black and white and which won the "Oscar" of interpretation Jane Wyman, seconded by a few big players that further enrich this story of good feelings. This drama is very interested in you, not only the great performances, but also for the great script that contains this production of Warner Studio 1948.
Music by Max Steiner, highlights the idyllic world that surrounds "Belinda" and introduces dramatic passages in the rape scene and ends with a melody that glosses over the fragility of the protagonist. His initial loneliness is expressed through beautiful cello solos. The photograph recreates the drama inside the girl with frames, shadows, and planes, of great beauty. The script divides the book into three parts: the initial isolation, the discovery of communication and the fragility of the girl in the final third. Wyman's interpretation is memorable, in a character that combines absence, tenderness and pain. They are excellent co-stars. Directed by Jean Negulesco, creates a work that exudes natural and truthful drama. The trial scene is offered in bright ellipses. Of the violation is resolved with the implication of a black cast.
"Johnny Belinda" surprised by the moral of the story and a great deal of positive values it contains. The film, beyond the psychological drama, it shows the capabilities of people with disabilities.
A classic film of great success at a time where the movie shone Hollywwod all its glory, and that after many years deserves seen by their high quality in all aspects.
Dr Richardson (Lew Ayres) plays a likable doctor who spends time
teaching a deaf, mute farm-girl Belinda (Jane Wyman) to communicate in
sign language and falls in love with her. She is referred to by
everyone in the village as the "Dummy" and even her father Black
MacDonald (Charles Bickford) has no belief in her intelligence. He is
won over when he sees her rapid improvement thanks to the doctor. The
village bad guy McCormick (Stephen McNally) rapes her when he gets her
alone and she becomes pregnant. The baby is born and McCormick wants
what is his so pays Belinda another visit....
The story is filmed at an excellent location where the loneliness on the farm is conveyed effectively. Even more effective is when this loneliness is given an extra element of gloom when the storm appears and the animals need to be brought in. We also get a mist descending and a tragic confrontation between Black and McCormick. It's powerful film-making and the stand-out scene for me. It brought home the injustice of the situation and really got me rooting for the bad guy to get his come-uppance. Another memorable scene is the rape scene where we hear a very discordant attempt at violin playing by McCormick while poor deaf Belinda thinks that something wonderful is being created. It's another powerful moment and also a good reason to support the tag of "vile din" that could replace the term "violin".
The cast are fine with my favourite characters being Bickford, McNally and Jan Sterling as McNally's girlfriend "Stella". Whenever these characters appeared you felt that the film was going somewhere. Unfortunately, the film drags in parts - scenes of niceness just go on for too long.
There are a few dodgy Irish/Scottish accents now and then. Why not employ Irish actors or Scottish actors if that was the accent that they were after. Or better still, do what Lew Ayres did - just talk normally! There are also a few almost laughable moments when Wyman is using sign language and I couldn't help but think "They are taking the p*ss here!" but on the whole, the film gets away with it. The scene where Belinda signs "The Lord's Prayer" and after each mime we are encouraged to pause as the rest of the cast speak the words is just excruciatingly crass.
The story also has a major flaw in that no-one seems to be interested in finding out who the father of Belinda's child is. What's more, her father has the solution in his hand as he gives a book with everyone's coded name to Belinda to her so she can pick out the offender. This is never followed up and it makes the situation a complete nonsense. A further confusion comes with the role of Lew Ayres in that we are told he has suffered in a relationship before yet we are given no reason as to what this suffering entailed. Instead of giving his character some depth, I found that his actions were a straightforward case of having the hots for someone. And I definitely would have assumed he was the rapist - something which is not dwelled upon enough. Bickford's character would have clobbered him one in real life. Also Jane Wyman, while pretty, just looks a little plain - the wardrobe department could have given her a tight outfit to wear that showed us her bum or something like that so that we can understand McNally's attraction to her. I call into question her desirability although I understand that rape is apparently more about power and control.
Overall, the film is OK if a little slow in parts.
JOHNNY BELINDA (Warner Brothers, 1948), directed by Jean Negulesco, is
not exactly the one about an individual character named Johnny Belinda,
but that of Belinda MacDonald, a deaf mute girl who gives birth to a
child she calls Johnny. Although quite confusing in regards to name
reference, there's nothing confusing about the dramatic theme taken
from a 1940 stage play by Elmer Harris that served not only as one of
the finest movies from the 1940s, but a poignant and touching
performance by Jane Wyman.
As the story unfolds with off-screen narration about of the residential workers in Cape Breton Island off Nova Scotia, Canada, the plot leads towards its introduction of Robert Richardson (Lew Ayres), a young medical doctor whose taken up residence in the area, with Stella Maguire (Jan Sterling) acting as his secretary who has a secret crush on him. One evening, Aggie (Agnes Moorehead), a poor farm woman living with her brother, Black MacDonald (Charles Bickford), comes to Richardson's home for assistance with her pregnant heifer. During the delivery, Richardson notices a quiet girl in the darkness, Belinda (Jane Wyman), McDonald's daughter, holding a lantern. Told by her father that she's a deaf mute, the doctor takes it upon himself devoting his time educating Belinda in teaching her sign language and lip reading. A quick learner, Belinda proves herself a capable student. One night as her father takes Aggie to visit with her sick sister, Belinda, home alone, is approached by the drunken Locky McCormick (Stephen McNally), one of her father's steady customers, who takes advantage of the situation by making his attack on "the dummy." Afterwards, MacDonald, who notices daughter acting strangely, advises Richardson for help. Feeling Belinda depressed in her own quiet world, he decides taking her to the city for a medical examination. Discovering from the doctor (Jonathan Hale) of Belinda's pregnancy, Richardson does everything in his power to make her life more easier. After giving birth to her boy, Johnny, matters become more complex as the gossiping villagers, believing Richardson to be the father, put him locally out of medical practice and discontinue purchasing wheat from the MacDonalds.
With changing tastes in regards to types of movies audiences wanted to see during the post World War II years, tough and graphic "film noir" suspensers and/ or Technicolor musicals were the prime factors of the time. For its melodramatic theme and doses of sentiment, JOHNNY BELINDA seems like an outcast from the silent film era. Jane Wyman's Belinda, whose sensitive portrayal and fragile face could very well have been the sort of role awarded to Lillian Gish under D.W. Griffith's direction had such a product been possible in the twenties. JOHNNY BELINDA does parallel somewhat with Griffith's silent classic, WAY DOWN EAST (1920) set in a poor rural community with a tragic heroine (Gish) who falls victim of gossip after giving birth to a child fathered by a cad. JOHNNY BELINDA, goes a step further with its child-like deaf girl who falls victim of rape, a sequence handled quite discreetly.
Regardless of Academy Award nominations for Lew Ayres (Best Actor); Charles Bickford and Agnes Moorehead (with Scottish accents down to the rolled Rs) in the supporting category, the most worthy award went to Wyman whose convincing character portrayal without uttering a single sound ranked one of the best accomplishes ever captured on screen. Once seen, it's hard to forget such key scenes as Belinda's rhapsodic discovery of music at the village dance; the tapping of her feet to the "felt" musical beat; her facial expression of happiness, sadness fear and courage; the reciting the Lord's prayer completely in sign language at her father's funeral; Belinda's tense trial for murder, and Max Steiner's unforgettable musical score. Ayres is a natural as the kind doctor, a role reminiscent to his "Doctor Kildare" portrayal in the medical film series for MGM (1938-1942), with mustache adding to his mature features. Stephen McNally does exceptionally well as the most unsympathetic character, along with Jan Sterling, in her motion picture debut, as his bride whose crucial scenes coming much later in the screenplay.
With several TV adaptations to JOHNNY BELINDA over the years, the most recent being the 1982 remake with Richard Thomas and Roseanna Arquette, the original remains quite a moving and unforgettable experience if movie watching. Distributed to home video in the 1980s, and years later on DVD, it's commonly presented on Turner Classic Movies. As JOHNNY BELINDA paved the way for Jane Wyman with better leading roles ahead, nothing can really compare to the one as the quiet girl. (****)
When Jane Wyman won the 1948 best actress award for "Johnny Belinda,"
she stated that as she did in the picture, she would keep her mouth
Ms. Wyman had to learn sign language for her role as the deaf mute who is raped, but must prove her innocence. No one in town will believe or support her with the exception of a kindly doctor, played by Oscar nominated Lew Ayres.(It must be remembered that Ayres was a conscientious objector during World War 11. Under those circumstances, it is amazing that his career went as far as it did.)
The film is enhanced by the great supporting performances of Agnes Moorehead, as Johnny's aunt and her father, the always supporting actor nominee Charles Bickford.Both Bickford and Moorehead were perennial losers.
The film tries to convey that deaf mute people must be accepted by society and that the latter can't frown when they are molested in any way. Just as people who can speak, the deaf mute did not want this to happen to her.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Stellar performances are the order of the day in this tear-jerker with some profound moments ! Jane Wyman give the performance of her career, as the deaf mute, who has a great compassion for living and learning , and wanting acceptance ! Unfortunately , McCormack , the local lout, has designs on her and rapes her one night . Lew Ayres, the new town Doctor, and mentor to Belinda , discovers her pregnancy, and helps her through this difficult time. Charles Bickford, Belinda's father , rediscovers his feelings for her, and tries to mend their relationship. Agnes Moorehead, gives a very good performance, despite the lack of material to work with. Hardened by her working conditions , has made her bitter with age. The flaws in the story are pronounced, as to how the pregnancy period is dealt with by a male authors way of thinking, no morning sickness, how the rape is handled, little compassion for Belinda's feelings, i.e. she must be guilty if she is pregnant. But that being said, Wyman's flawless performance is compelling and heartfelt ! A triumph of the human spirit ! See the Piano for another triumph ! A must see ! A 10 !
This movie is really good. Jane Wyman is touching as the deaf mute, Belinda
MacDonald, and Lew Ayres is magnificent as Dr. Richardson, the kind-hearted
man who helps her. The only thing that disappoints me is that the film only
won the Best Actress Academy Award, after being nominated for 12. You know
it must be great if it was nominated for all four "actor" categories. (Best
Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting
"Johnny Belinda" is great because it shows how two people help each other and love each other. Robert Richardson helps Belinda learn how to communicate with people, and understand them. And even though Belinda can't talk or hear, she helps Robert by truly loving him, which is what he needed after being hurt in a relationship. So if you've never seen "Johnny Belinda", you really should! That's why I'm not revealing the entire story...you have to see it for yourself. =)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Movie about a young Deaf woman who was taken advantage of by the wanna be strong bully of the town and then the same man kills her father and tries to take her baby away from her. This movie was very profoundly movie and brought tears to my eyes to see what this town could do to this poor vulnerable young woman. People need to realize that because someone is different from you does not mean that they are stupid.
Those eyes. Those eyes tell the story of love, loneliness, and a soul who wants to give and feel needed. The story of deaf-mute Jane Wyman goes beyond what most of today's movies could ever do. Agnes Moorehead (who should have won the Oscar) and Charles Bickford are simply wonderful, with Jan Sterling, good as the lady in love with the kind doctor. The scenes between Belinda and her father are very touching. I love the scenes between Belinda and the doctor, as they communicate and she learns the words for tree and day, etc. Seeing this always makes me want to know more about sign language. It's not only an entertaining movie, but the viewer learns what it's like to be in Belinda's world. This film shows how we are all connected to each other and how the most important message isn't merely conveyed in words. Those who have not been blessed to see this masterpiece need to right the wrong and buy this DVD today, and see Jane Wyman at her Oscar-winning best.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I found this to be a very interesting film for the 40's for it's strong
subject matter, and the performances. Jane Wyman won the Best Actress
Oscar here, and she's superb (though I still would have given the nod
to De Havilland for "The Snake Pit", but that's strictly my opinion).
Lew Ayres underplays beautifully. I would love to see some appreciation
for this actor, I thought his performances in this, "The Dark Mirror"
and "All Quiet On The Western Front" were all natural, subtle yet
exemplary. Bickford and Moorehead are quite wonderful, and not
forgetting Jan Sterling and Stephen McNally...did this typecast him
forever as villain? I'm sure it did...
I also thought it was beautifully told. There are many moments it could have slipped into pure melodrama, but there is a level of restraint to Jean Negulesco's work. I also found it to be deeply honest, and I loved the relationship between Belinda and the doctor. Instead of just inviting sympathy for her plight, we are also intrigued by his loneliness and how he needs her to help him, too. Their scenes together, particularly near the end, are very touching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director Negulesco and his whole creative team worked together as one
in a concerted effort to make this into the fine example of the
Cinematic Arts of the Late 1940's Post War Era. Where it would be easy
to turn this Play into corny near-Melodrama or an overly preachy and
sanctimonious lecture to the public at large; it is well maintained
inside rather understated parameters.
Instead, in JOHNNY BELINDA (Warner Brothers-First National, 1948), we have a fine, sensitive and one of a kind film that ANYONE can enjoy regardless of age, sex, race or station in life. The choice of players in the story is most strikingly right-on in creating realistic screen portrayals; sprung from the written page.
Starting with Miss Jane Wyman who, without benefit of having any dialogue, creates a multi-faceted Personality of many, mostly unseen qualities; who is forced to live in a silent world and is pigeon-holed into being thought of as a low intellect persona non grata.
Making fine use of a wide array of excellent facial expressions, body language and pantomime; Miss Wyman is able to get her character's personality and plight across to the audience just as well or even better than use of the spoken word would have accomplished.
IT is apparent from the scene when we first encounter the character of Belinda in the barn scene, assisting her Father (Mr. Charles Bickford) with the lantern; that a modified version of Silent Film Acting Technique was to be employed. We use the term "modified" as what we see in her speechless acting is refined, somewhat subdued and lacks that bigger than life "Operatic" grandeur that characterized so many performers of the Silent Screen Era had displayed. Emil Jannings, Greta Garbo, the Barrymores (Ethel, Lionel & John), Valentino and (especially) Lon Chaney were all leading exponents of the form; which would come to be seen as "Overacting" or "Ham", once sound was added to the Cinematic Equation.
Miss Wyman's natural beauty and hauntingly unforgettable eyes are the main means of conveying a depth of personality that no one in the World seemed to recognize. No one, that is, until: Enter new town Doctor, Robert Richardson (Mr. Lew Ayers).
Mr. Ayers characterization is one of that who is truly noble and serious about upholding that Hippocratic Oath, to which he has pledged his undying support. But alas, he is also a truly red-blooded young man (if you get my drift) and has all the needs and desires that makes the male what he is by nature.
The good Doctor first of all, notices the plight of the poor, neglected Belinda and pities her; but takes positive action in seeking to have her Father, Mr. Black McDonald send her to Special School for Classes for the Deaf. The Classes work and it becomes obvious during the interim that Dr. Richardson is falling in Love with the handicapped young Lady.
AS for Belinda, she has been smitten ever since her first meeting with the young Dr. Richardson and almost immediately shows indications of her own infatuation. But the road is never easy as neither the Town nor Belinda's Aunt Aggie (Agnes Moorehead) approve of any relationship between the Town Doctor and Miss Belinda McDonald; even they suggest that there are improprieties going on between the two. Of course, as we the viewers with the nearly omnipotent point of view know that it is not true.
Another local resident, Locky McCormick (Stephen McNally) has been seen as pushy, gruff, disrespectful and totally ruthless. He has been a threatening, bullying monster in his dealings with Mr. McDonald's Grain Mill; but he suddenly takes notice when Belinda begins to fix her self up, communicates via signing and begins to enter in with and participate in community activities, such Community Dances.
Locky gets Belinda off by herself, and when his dalliance is not met with enthusiasm or any acceptance even; he rapes her. She is left pregnant; through no fault of her own. Once again, the Town busy-bodies declare that it is Dr. Richardson who is the bad guy here.
Meanwhile, Locky who has been wooing a young local Lass, announces their engagement. And just who is the Lucky Girl? It's Towns girl, Stella (Miss Jan Sterling, in about as fine a performance as she ever gave).
The Baby is born and named Johnny (hence the title!) and again, the local gentry start the whispering campaign; this time in plotting to have the baby legally taken from the young Mother. But the pompous and arrogant Locky McCormick just can't stay away and when he blurts the truth to Mr. McDonald, the blackguard Locky kills him.
When the Murderous Rapist later attempts to take the baby Johnny, Belinda shoots him dead and is put on trial for Murder, herself. After a veritable Mt. Everest of circumstantial evidence piles up against her and things seem to be the most grim, the goodness in the now Mrs. McCormick (Jan Sterling, remember?) has a change of heart and confesses in Open Court that her husband had bragged to her that the baby Johnny Belinda was his son.
IN a wonderfully quaint and beautifully filmed fade-out scene, Belinda and Dr. Richardson leave together; to Live Happily Ever After! THE END! A WARNER BROTHERS-FIRST NATIONAL PICTURE.
THE mounting of the Production, set in the Canadian Maritime Province of Nova Scotia was done on the California Coast of the Northern Part of the State; but not once did our mind say, "California", but rather we could feel a chilling Noreasterly blowing in or the damp and penetrating fog chilling our bones and penetrating our joints.
Although a work of Fiction, the Play's Storyline does bear a striking resemblance to the real life story of Helen Keller; who of course was both blind and deaf. Perhaps the story of the deaf & blind girl served as inspiration. POODLE SCHNITZ!!
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