Jane Eyre (1944)

“Do you think because I’m poor and obscure and plain that I’m soulless and heartless? I have as much soul as you and fully as much heart.” A skillful, atmospheric and haunting black-and-white adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 novel, Jane Eyre was directed by Robert Stevenson (Mary Poppins) and features magnificent performances from Joan Fontaine in the title role and Orson Welles as “Edward Rochester.” After a horrific childhood, Jane takes a position as governess at Thornfield, a mysterious, foreboding mansion owned by the brooding Rochester. The two broken individuals soon fall in love and plan to get married but a terrible secret in Rochester’s past becomes gradually exposed – leading to tragedy. The solid cast includes Peggy Ann Garner as the young “Jane,” Agnes Moorehead as Jane’s cruel aunt “Mrs. Reed,” Henry Daniell as the even more cruel “Reverend Brocklehurst,” Margaret O’Brien as “Adele,” Edith Barrett as “Alice Fairfax,” Ethel Griffies as “Grace Poole,” Sara Allgood as “Bessie,” Hillary Brooke as “Blanche Ingram,” John Abbott as “Mason” and John Sutton as “Dr. Rivers.” Also look for a brief (though very moving) early appearance by a young Elizabeth Taylor as “Helen Burns,” Jane’s only friend at the boarding school. The film’s tagline proclaimed, “A Love Story Every Woman Would Die a Thousand Deaths to Live!” Jane Eyre features a score by Bernard Herrmann and cinematography by George Barnes. Both Aldous Huxley and John Houseman contributed to the Jane Eyre screenplay.

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