Johnny Belinda (1948) Poster

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  • Dr Robert Richardson (Lew Ayres), the new general practitioner in a small fishing village on the island of Cape Breton (Canada), meets young Belinda McDonald (Jane Wyman), who has been a deaf-mute since she was a year old and is known to the locals as "the dummy". Having worked with deaf children before, the doctor teaches her sign language and lip-reading, which opens Belinda to the world of communication and demonstrates her innate intelligence. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when Belinda is raped by Laughlin "Locky" McCormick (Stephen McNally), a local fisherman and bully. Due to the assault, Belinda becomes pregnant, and the town turns against the McDonalds and Dr Richardson.

  • Johnny Belinda is based on a stage play (same title) by American playwright Elmer Harris. The play was adapted for the screen by screenwriters Allen Vincent and Irma von Cube. The movie has been remade for television a number of times, including Johnny Belinda (1958) (1958), Johnny Belinda (1967) (1967), and Johnny Belinda (1982) (1982).

  • Yes, Harris based the story on an incident that happened to Lydia Dingwell [1852-1931], a deaf-mute girl living on Prince Edward Island near Harris' summer home in Fortune Bridge.

  • Johnny Belinda is the name of Belinda's son, who was named in Gaelic patronymic tradition. In Scotland, as well as parts of Scottish Canada (e.g., Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island), people are often referred to by their first name followed by the first name of their father (or husband, in the case of married women). So a man could be officially named John MacDonald, whose father is Alec MacDonald, but might be called John Alec. If John marries Catherine, she will be called Catherine John or even Catherine Alec. Usually it's the father's name that is taken, but occasionally it's the mother's name, as is the case in this movie.

  • The book that Dr Richardson used to learn sign language was authored by the Abbé de l'Épée, a French educator who, in the 1760s, founded a school for the deaf in Paris and is often referred to as the "Father of the Deaf". Although de l'Épée's sign language was based on the French language, it was brought to North America by Laurent Clerc, a deaf pupil in de l'Épée's school, and became the basis of modern American Sign Language.

  • Robert moves to Toronto to take a new position, buy a house, and arrange for Belinda and Johnny to join him. Meanwhile, the Town Council has decided to declare Belinda an unfit mother, take Johnny away from her, and adopt him out to Locky and Stella (Jan Sterling). Everyone in town thinks that Belinda will be grateful to let someone else raise Johnny because, as a deaf-mute, they believe that "she doesn't have feelings". However, when Stella tries to convince Belinda to let her take Johnny home with her, Belinda throws her out of the house. Seeing how motherly Belinda actually is with Johnny, Stella tells Locky that they can't take the baby away from his mother. Locky then drops the bomb that he is Johnny's father and attempts to take him by force. Fearing for Johnny's safety, Belinda shoots Locky with a shotgun, killing him. The final scenes of the movie center around Belinda's trial. The prosecutor attempts to question Belinda about the shooting, but she doesn't understand what is going on and responds only by signing, "I want my baby." Robert attempts to translate for Belinda, but the prosecutor turns on him, painting him as immoral, the actual father of Johnny, and arguing that he should have his medical license revoked. Stella, who can take it no further, announces to the court that Locky admitted to being Johnny's father, conceived when he raped Belinda. Belinda is subsequently set free, Johnny is returned to her, and she, Robert, and Aggie (Agnes Moorehead) return home together.


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