Thursday, 24 March 2011

JANE EYRE (1943)

English director Robert Stevenson's career divides neatly into three periods. The first making feature films in both England and America after which he spent almost ten years working in television before settling down as Walt Disney's in-house director responsible for such mega hits as MARY POPPINS and BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS. He was never a great stylist but he had what Disney wanted - the ability to get the job done and do it efficiently. JANE EYRE is probably the best film from the first phase of his career. Watching it with hindsight it is hard not to believe that Orson Welles who plays Edward Rochester didn't influence the style of the film but that tends to be said about any good film Welles lends his talent to even when there is little evidence to support it. The film is dark and moody and very gothic which, of course, applies to the novel as well and Janes journey to Thornfield might just as well be to Castle Dracula or, at least to Baskerville Hall. Joan Fontaine must have had a strong sense of deja vu having not long before starred in Hitchcock's REBECCA from Daphne DuMaurier's novel which was heavily influenced by Bronte. Visually the film is a treat and besides Fontaine and Welles there are fine performances by Agnes Moorhead, John Sutton and particularly by the great Henry Daniell. Of course, special mention must be made of the uncredited performance by the very young Elizabeth Taylor and Janes doomed school friend - ironically I watched the film on the day she died before having heard the sad news. There have been several good versions of JANE EYRE (and another on the way) but this remains my favourite. Rating ****

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

A movie I loved when I first saw it about 15 years ago and havent seen since. But rest assured its going into my netflix queue. A funny side note: the photo you chose to illustrate your spot-on review of film features Orson looking very much like the wonderfully wacky Mischa Collins otherwise known as Castiel the Angel in the SUPERNATURAL series. Must be the camera angle . . . or just the way he's holding the spear. Either way, Collins does resemble a young Orson - a fact I never noticed before.