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Friday, 9 March 2012

Classic Film Review: Jane Eyre (1943)

I became interested in Joan Fontaine after watching her with Fred Astaire in A Damsel in Distress (1937). To put it bluntly, I was bewitched. When I saw that she was in Jane Eyre opposite Orson Welles I was fairly excited.

The film does have the melodramatic feel of the era but also manages to recreate some of the foreboding atmosphere of Lowood and Thornfield. Fontaine - despite her beauty - makes a very good plain Jane because they don't glamorise her as much as I feared they would. As for Welles as Mr Rochester... Well, that was just an excellent bit of casting. He's got the presence of Rochester, the humour lingering beneath the surface and I felt he had real chemistry with Fontaine. The supporting cast was pretty good as well: Margaret O'Brien's pre-Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) French accent as young Adele was much better than I expected, though I'm not a huge fan of her. Agnes Moorehead was the perfect Mrs Reed while Henry Daniell played the terrible Mr Brocklehurst to perfection. The plot is slimmed down from the book and misses out some interesting scenes (I'm assuming Orson Welles wasn't keen on dressing up like a gypsy). Nevertheless, this was a good adaptation and one that never pretended to be more than the entertainment it was.

If I had to pick one favourite scene it would probably be Rochester's horse being spooked by Jane on the moors. Wonderfully shot and a nice precursor to the movement of their relationship. All in all, thoroughly enjoyable and, yes, my obsession with Joan Fontaine is growing.

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