Small, plain and poor, Jane Eyre (Joan Fontaine) comes to Thornfield Hall as governess to the young ward of Edward Rochester (Orson Welles). Denied love all of her life, Jane can't help but be attracted to the intelligent, vibrant, energetic Mr. Rochester, a man twice her age. But just when Mr. Rochester seems to be returning the attention, he invites the beautiful and wealthy Blanche Ingraham (Hillary Brooke) and her party to stay at his estate. Meanwhile, the secret of Thornfield Hall could ruin all of their chances for happiness.Written by
When the carriage takes Jane away from the George Inn towards Thornfield, it leaves only a single set of tracks - although it's going back up the same road it just came down. See more »
My name is Jane Eyre... I was born in 1820, a harsh time of change in England. Money and position seemed all that mattered. Charity was a cold and disagreeable word. Religion too often wore a mask of bigotry and cruelty. There was no proper place for the poor or the unfortunate. I had no father or mother, brother or sister. As a child I lived with my aunt, Mrs. Reed of Gateshead Hall. I do not remember that she ever spoke one kind word to me.
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Charlotte Bronte's novel, Jane Eyre is by far one of the great classics of all time. Bronte somehow manages to bring to life a tear-jerker of a romance out of the lives of sad and dreary people, living dark and secretive lives. It's no wonder that this book has gone on to be one of the great classics of all time, and that it has been the basis of many film and television projects. The book is irresistable.
Jane Erye is orphaned as a young girl. Her relatives find her too precocious to deal with and send her off to a strict boarding school. Completely cut off from her family, Jane undergoes verbal and physical torture as the school attempts to beat her spirit out of her. She comes out of the school well-educated, however a little mousy, but she still hasn't lost that attitude that they all seemed to loathe in her. When the school offers her a teaching position she flatly refuses, advising them that she is still bitter.
Jane takes a job as a governess for a Mr Rochester. She is hired by the housekeeper to tend to Rochester's child, an annoyingly sweet young thing complete with a French accent and petticoats. Like Jane, this child is lonely. Her father is never around and it is assumed that the mother died. Unlike Jane, the child is comfortable in a large mansion with plenty of people around to take care of her needs, however, as Ms. Bronte points out, child abuse is not necessarily a product of being poor.
Mr. Rochester travels for a living and rarely comes home. Jane has already bonded with the child long before she even meets her father. Jane is led to believe that Mr. Rochester is an angry, driven man, bitter over the tragic demise of his first wife. When Jane finally meets him she finds that there is also a great deal of sadness. Hence the beginning of a very quirky romance.
Jane is described in the book as a shy, but strong young girl. In the book we are able to see into the brilliant mind, whereas with a film adaptation, and by the way it is played by Joan Fontaine, we only ever see the waif-like exterior. We all remember Joan in other 'frightened little chipmunk' roles in films like Rebecca and Suspicion. While she was capable in those parts, she isn't quite as effective here. She isn't able to convey Jane's unique perceptions and her stubborn bitterness, therefore stripping away an important layer to the story. If only she would put into her work, some of that spunk she showed in real life when she went to the mat with her feuding sister, Olivia.
Orson Welles, on the other hand, is perfectly cast as the male lead. Bronte presents Mr. Rochester as a large man, somewhat ugly but still a robust sex machine. Welles is going through that period in the mid-forties, between the time that it took him to realize that he would never make a film like Citizen Kane again, and the time that he started to put on weight and lose his hair. Welles is a burly guy, not handsome, but certainly prime!
I would rate the movie as something worth seeing, but I strongly recommend that one read the book first. The film was nominated for Best Picture and Fontaine was mentioned for Best Actress. It was very good in its day, and it does hold up fairly well, in large part because of the big names that star in it. On the other hand, it does not come close to the pleasure of sitting down and reading the story. To put it another way, this is the difference between going to Disney World or looking at someone else's photographs.
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