Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jane Eyre (1943)

Are you always drawn to the loveless and unfriended?”
“When it's deserved.”

            The novel of Jan Eyre was written by Charlotte Brontë in 1847 under the penname Currer Bell. The novel was very successful when it was first published. It was only natural that in Hollywood’s Golden Age that the novel should be adapted to film with Joan Fontaine playing the title character and Orson Welles as the mysterious Edward Rochester.
            Jane Eyre’s early life was not easy. Her parents had died when she was young and she was raised by an aunt who lied and said that the girl was evil. The aunt put Jane in a strict Catholic boarding school for girls called Lowood. Ten years later Jane is given a job as a teacher in the school but she declines, she has put an ad in the paper for a position of a governess.
            Jane receives a job in an old English home called Thornfield owned by a man named Edward Rochester. When she arrives the man of the house is nowhere to be found the maid tells Jane that Mr. Rochester frequently leaves and no one knows for sure when he will return. Jane is governess for Rochester’s little girl Adele (Margaret O’Brien). One day Jane was walking the ground surrounded by heavy fog. A man comes riding furiously on his horse but is knocked off when the horse is frightened by her. The man is angry but for some reason Jane seems drawn to him. The man gets on his horse and rides off. Back at the house Jane sees the man on the horse is Mr. Rochester.
            A month goes by and all seems to be going well except sometimes at night Jane hears strange noises and a piercing screech. Everyone tells her it is nothing or it must be one of the house workers who has a tendency to be a little crazy. Later on Rochester confides who the screams and screeches come from.

            Not to give too much of the plot away, Jane and Rochester do fall in love as they are strangely drawn towards each other for he carries mystery and she innocence.
            Now I really do not know what to think of Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles as the main characters. I have yet to read the novel so I do not know if they acted the way the characters did or just did their own thing. As much as I adore Fontaine I think she gave too little a performance but I will say she had an excellent way of showing great emotion through her facial expressions. I thought it was interesting that her sister, Olivia de Havilland, played Charlotte Brontë in the very good film Devotion about the Brontë family, it is another link the sisters have in Hollywood history (Warner Bros. wanted Fontaine to be in Devotion but Selznick would not loan her out. It kills me to think what could have been). Orson Welles is alright I am not a huge fan of his and just the opposite of Fontaine I think he gave too much and was a little over dramatic. I did like the two actors together; however, I wish they had done another film together.
            Peggy Anne Gardner plays the young Jane at the beginning and is quite adorable. Elizabeth Taylor goes uncredited as Jane’s young friend at Lowood. Right off the bat you know the girl is Elizabeth Taylor she never changed only she was much cuter.
            The cinematography deserves much attention. It added so much to a somewhat bland film. It brought a creepiness and a feeling of unease to Thornfield and the story. The best scene was when Jane and Rochester unknowingly meet outside Thornfield.
            Jane Eyre has an interesting and intriguing story with many twists and suspenseful moments. I in no way find it to be a great love story but that is how I have found most Gothic novels I have read to be (Rebecca is also considered Gothic and it is not in any way a love story). I found the film to be a little bit boring but it did have some good points. After seeing the story of Jane Eyre on film I cannot wait to sit through the novel.
            Jane Eyre is available on DVD is available to view on Youtube