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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Jane Eyre (1944)



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Although the story is older than both, modern viewers might consider this 1944 production of Jane Eyre to be Rebecca crossed with The Sound of Music. The story is of a governess -- deprived of love and compassion while growing up -- who comes to fall in love with a tempermental employer with a tortured, mysterious past. The mood and cinematography (and star Joan Fontaine) make up the Rebecca part. Thornfield Hall, with its shady halls and winding passageways, recalls the gothic atmosphere of Manderlay.

Orson Welles is at the top of his form as the male lead, and he's given the kind of harshly eloquent dialogue he handles so well. Joan Fontaine also turns in a good performance, although she's rarely given anything more to do than look insecure and teary-eyed. The drama of the characters and the mystery of the past are both engaging, but the story's resolution is rushed. A fine, but flawed, film, and undoubtedly the best of the adaptations of Charlotte Bronte's classic novel.

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