Small, plain and poor, Jane Eyre (Joan Fontaine) comes to Thornfield Hall as governess to the young ward of Edward Rochester (Orson Welles). Denied love all of her life, Jane can't help but be attracted to the intelligent, vibrant, energetic Mr. Rochester, a man twice her age. But just when Mr. Rochester seems to be returning the attention, he invites the beautiful and wealthy Blanche Ingraham (Hillary Brooke) and her party to stay at his estate. Meanwhile, the secret of Thornfield Hall could ruin all of their chances for happiness.Written by
Edward Rochester's "guaranteed income" of $8,000 per year in 1839 is the equivalent to $216,114.41 in 2019. See more »
When Jane is first awakened by Adele, she has long thick braids. At other times, she has a small bun at the base of her neck. There is no way the volume of such braids would fit into such a tiny bun. See more »
My name is Jane Eyre... I was born in 1820, a harsh time of change in England. Money and position seemed all that mattered. Charity was a cold and disagreeable word. Religion too often wore a mask of bigotry and cruelty. There was no proper place for the poor or the unfortunate. I had no father or mother, brother or sister. As a child I lived with my aunt, Mrs. Reed of Gateshead Hall. I do not remember that she ever spoke one kind word to me.
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Well, either Orson had a lot to do with this movie's production directly, or he had at least one early acolyte in director Robert Stevenson. A handful of Mercury Theatre/Kane actors holdover here, as well as a score by the great Bernard Herrman.
It's hard to describe which is the most jaw-dropping surprise in this movie: the Kane-esque gothic expressionism of the cinematography, or the stunning acting performances. Welles plays probably the most romantic leading role of his career as the brooding Rochester, while Fontaine postively glows in an understated turn as the title character. Of particular note are two child actors: Peggy Ann Garner, as the young Jane, who has a brief but dazzling turn to open the picture, and who was better known shortly thereafter for her lead in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; and the never-yet-equaled Margaret O'Brien, the oscar-winner who played 'Tootie' in 'Meet Me in St. Louis' as Rochester's ward and Jane's charge. Oh, and nearly incidentally, one of Elizabeth Taylor's first performances, as Jane's doomed friend Helen.
One can only speculate how the history of film would've been different had Welles somehow started a trend in Hollywood story-telling like that of this rendition of 'Jane Eyre'. He certainly had enough classics pitched in his early and still hopeful days in Hollywood, and this film, whether or not he deserve direct credit for it, is one of the strongest -- and, despite the pacing, most concise -- retellings of a literary classic in film history. Without too much hyperbole, it's as if Charlotte Brontë were on the level of Shakespeare and Fontaine and Welles forgotten archetypes of deep myth. It's not a stretch to say that this film version is far more accessible to the modern sensibility than the book itself is, without losing the period feel and contemporary feeling of the original text.
8/10, a forgotten classic.
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