Jane Eyre (Anna Paquin and Charlotte Gainsbourg) is an orphan cast out as a young girl by her aunt, Mrs. Reed (Fiona Shaw), and sent to be raised in a harsh charity school for girls. There ... See full summary »
Jane Eyre is an orphan, sent to Lowood school, and eventually becomes a governess at Thornfield hall to a girl named Adele. While she is there, many strange things happen and eventually she... See full summary »
Charlotte Bronte's classic novel is filmed yet again. The story of the Yorkshire orphan who becomes a governess to a young French girl and finds love with the brooding lord of the manor is ... See full summary »
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 Jane arrives at Thorndale and alights her carriage, the dark shot is immediately brightened by rays of light beaming from an open door (off screen to the left). When we cut immediately to the entrance, the room has no lights at all, so no such effect would occur. 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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Are you always drawn to the loveless and unfriended?
Jane Eyre is directed by Robert Stevenson who co-adapts the screenplay with John Houseman, Aldous Huxley and Henry Koster. Based on the Charlotte Brontë novel of the same name, it stars Orson Welles, Joan Fontaine and Peggy Ann Garner. Music is scored by Bernard Herrmann and George Barnes is the cinematographer.
After a harsh and eye opening childhood, orphan Jane Eyre gains employment at Thornfield Hall as governess to the young ward of Edward Rochester. A Difference in class and life outlook, Jane and Rochester are by definition polar opposites, but a bond exists, a bond that surely can't conquer the mysteries of Rochester the man, and the secret of his estate - can it?
Stevenson's version of the often filmed Jane Eyre has been pored over numerous times before, the constant question that arises is that of just how much input and work did Orson Welles have in the production? Knowing what we now know of Welles' 40s output, Jane Eyre undeniably has the Wellesian stamp all over it, with Fontaine herself quoted as saying the big man was often found behind the camera. This is not to decry Stevenson in any way, he himself would carve out a good career in directing further down the line, but this take on Brontë's famous novel shines because of Welles' presence in front and behind the camera.
With that comes one of only two quibbles with the film as a whole, namely it's Welles' portrayal of Rochester that dominates the film, and not that of Fontaine's Eyre. Which is quite staggering considering he doesn't enter the fray until 34 minutes into ty epic. The other problem, naturally, is that with a running time of just over an hour and thirty five minutes, it was never going to be a detailed adaptation of the novel. However, what exists is still an excellent mounted production, a film pulsing with aggressive atmospherics and simmering emotional passions.
It has been argued that the opposing acting styles of Fontaine and Welles are a distraction, I don't see it that way at all, as one of classic cinemas greatest voices emotionally spars with one of its most beautiful faces, this is monochrome gold dust. In mind of the difference of characters as written on the page, it actually comes off as inspired casting. With the production that surrounds them perfectly in keeping with the characters' state of mind.
The look is assuredly what would become known as film noir, with George Barnes' (Rebecca/Spellbound/Force of Evil) vivid black and white photography dovetailing splendidly with the matte paintings and Gothic set designs. It still amazes me to this day that this film was entirely produced on stage 2 at 20th Century Fox. So many images burn into the memory. From the shards of shadows that accompany young Jane as she stands on the punishment stool at Lowood Institution, put there by the despotic Henry Brocklehurst (a menacing Henry Daniell), to each chiaroscuro lit composition of Rochester in and around the oppressive like family home, the film has visual moodiness in abundance.
Herrmann's (The Devil and Daniel Webster/Citizen Kane) score is crucially in tune as well. Orchestral swirls to portray Jane's longing are counter pointed by the menacing down beats that attack the viewer for Rochester's bluster. Away from the two leads it's young Peggy Ann Garner who delivers the most telling performance. She gives the child version of Jane a sorrowful edge that sets the tone of the film, her early scenes with an uncredited Elizabeth Taylor (beautiful and effectively correct in vocals) are a lesson in child acting. The rest of the cast is filled out with admirable performances from Margaret O'Brien (Meet Me in St. Louis), John Sutton (Captain from Castille), Sara Allgood (The Lodger) and Agnes Moorehead (The Magnificent Ambersons).
This may not be a definitive Jane Eyre adaptation, and the compromised ending does knock it down a point, but all told it's still a top piece of classic cinema. 9/10
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