The Song of Bernadette (R) (20th Century Fox Studio Classics) product details page

The Song of Bernadette (R) (20th Century Fox Studio Classics)

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This 1943 motion picture about a peasant girl who sees the Virgin Mary was itself something of a miracle. Consider that 20th Century Fox hired a no-name actress to play the lead role of a Roman Catholic saint, used a script based on a book by a Jewish writer (Franz Werfel), and relied primarily on a Protestant U.S. market to buy the tickets at a time when World War II limited film distribution abroad. But the film succeeded, not only financially and ecumenically, but also artistically, winning four Academy Awards and three Golden Globes. One reason for its success was the 24-year-old in the starring role, dark-eyed beauty Jennifer Jones, who had previously appeared only in minor roles for Republic Pictures under her birth name, Phylis Lee Isley. She portrays the visionary French peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, with an elusive, other-worldly quality that makes supernaturalism believable. When skeptics denounce Bernadette, Jones projects both childlike vulnerability and ironclad resolve. Her Bernadette is a naïve, modest, quiet teenager who yearns only for a husband and children. She is also a determined young woman who does not cower before authoritarian accusers. Charles Bickford supports her with a stunning performance as a gruff parish priest who doubts Bernadette's story, subjects her to endless questioning, and finally accepts her visions as genuine. Equally impressive is Gladys Cooper as a jealous nun who subjects herself to severe trials to win God's favor -- but never once receives a vision of her own. Although the film occasionally slips into sentimentality, it never loses its dignity. Excellent cinematography and a fine Alfred Newman music score complement the production. Mike Cummings, All Movie Guide