Monday, October 09, 2017
Jane Eyre (1943)
Who’s In It: Joan Fontaine (Rebecca, Ivanhoe), Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil, The Muppet Movie), Margaret O'Brien (Little Women, The Secret Garden), Agnes Moorehead (Citizen Kane, Bewitched), and a very young Elizabeth Taylor.
What It’s About: After a childhood of abuse, a young woman (Fontaine) hopes for change as governess in a house with a brooding master (Welles) and dark secret.
How It Is: I don't know how I've missed this adaptation for so long, but it was cool to watch so closely after Rebecca, Fontaine's other big gothic romance. She's fantastic in it and Welles is awesome, too. They have chemistry and O'Brien is delightful as Rochester's (Welles) ward Adele. They make a nice family that I hate to see struggle with the weight of Rochester's baggage.
Agnes Moorehead is beautifully cold as Jane's cruel aunt who sends Jane's life into a dangerous spiral. And I get a kick out of 11-year-old Elizabeth Taylor playing the only friend of young Jane, because she and Fontaine would go on to play romantic rivals nine years later in Ivanhoe.
The sets in Jane Eyre are magnificent and there's a ton of mood around the whole thing. It's a really cool production. My only complaint is that it rushes through the story a bit, so some of the emotional punches aren't as powerful as they could be, but it's an excellent introduction to the story. I'm eager to rewatch Cary Fukunaga's 2011 version now and compare.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 cantankerous cavaliers