Jane Eyre (1944)

Jane Eyre (1944), directed by Robert Stevenson.

People seem to think of this as an Orson Welles picture: it has that accentuated dark look and an intense Bernard Herrmann score, just like Citizen Kane (1941). Welles did do some of the producing and I don't doubt some directing, whether anyone asked him to or not.

The story has been filmed many times. I Walked with a Zombie (1943) from that same time is called "Jane Eyre on a voodoo island". For a steamier version see Firelight (1997). Wide Sargasso Sea (1993) is a race-conscious prequel in the West Indies.

Charlotte Brontë's story contains a lot of her autobiography. She survived girl school hell where two of her younger sisters died of TB, as a girl does in the book. She worked as a governess for a while, a difficult in-between position: you are expected to be genteel but are still a servant. Be cautious around the man of the house.

We have:

This is all catnip for romance audiences and the director lays it on pretty thickly.

Watching Mr Rochester and his society fiancée: have you noticed that during the Code period, a man and woman could enjoy lingering glances at the bedroom door when saying goodnight? Audience mind reading was allowed as long as the words weren't spoken: "Door's open. You coming in? That would be bold and very wrong. Let's stand here and imagine it for a while".

Cast notes:

Score by Bernard Herrmann, photographed by George Barnes (Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Spellbound (1945), Samson and Delilah (1949)).

Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time. The source seems rather worn.

Two commentary tracks: in the first, Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo and Herrmann biographer Steven Smith split their time between the story, the production and the composer. The second has Welles biographer Joseph McBride with inserted reminiscences by Margaret O'Brien who played Adèle at age 7.