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 town, and transforms their lives.Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Using an actress to play "the lady" was controversial enough, and further controversy fulminated when Loretta Young was passed over in favour of sultry Linda Darnell. At that time, Darnell had an almost pornographic reputation. Franz Werfel, the author of the book on which the film was based, threatened to remove his name from the project. To make matters worse, Darnell was pregnant. Nothing would change Darryl F. Zanuck's mind, and Werfel was told that an unknown actress was chosen. Wearing a little more drapery than the simple dress and veil described by the historical Bernadette, Darnell played the role in bright light. See more »
In the beginning of the movie, when Soubirous goes out to seek a work for the day, we see the name of the street, written in French "Rue des Petites Fossées". The name is actually "Rue des Petits Fossés". See more »
The credits say "Introducing Jennifer Jones as Bernadette", even though she had already appeared in 1939 in a Dick Tracy serial and a Western feature under her real name, Phyllis Isley. See more »
The Spanish-language version (available on the DVD) does not use the Academy Award-winning Alfred Newman score. The entire score, except for two of the "vision" sequences, is replaced with music from an uncredited composer. See more »
The weighty subject matter and emotional performances overshadow the film's flaws, which are numerous. Characters and events are not adequately introduced, leaving the viewer with a persistent, though not overwhelming, confusion. It runs a little long, and at times loses focus. But "The Song of Bernadette" has much to redeem it. This is true black and white cinematography, and Henry King uses highly effective lighting techniques to enhance his actors' performances. The bright lighting and soft focus on Jennifer Jones, for example, makes her angelic pose of peace believable.
One scene near the end of the film is utterly beautiful, and truly makes the movie. It takes place at a convent after Bernadette has been accepted as a nun. Sister Marie Vauzous, who has doubted Bernadette the entire film, stands over her in a pose of authority and accuses her of trying to get attention. Sister Marie is lit from an angle at sharp focus, which accentuates the lines and imperfections of her face as she asks for "proof" and laments about her own suffering. Meanwhile, Bernadette is lit straight on with a soft focus as usual, and the smoothness of her peaceful, humble face is perfect and divine. She agrees with Sister Marie that she is "a hundred times more worthy" than herself, all the while hiding the true nature of her own suffering. It is at this point that the Christian theme of salvation through suffering which has meandered its way through the film really makes its point, and it is a genuinely moving moment.
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