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The Song of Bernadette (film): Wikis

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The Song of Bernadette

Poster art by Norman Rockwell
Directed by Henry King
Produced by William Perlberg
Written by George Seaton
Starring Jennifer Jones
William Eythe
Charles Bickford
Vincent Price
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography Arthur C. Miller
Editing by Barbara McLean
Distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox
Release date(s) April 1945
Running time 156 minutes
Country USA
Language English

The Song of Bernadette is a 1943 drama film which tells the story of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, who, from February to July 1858 in Lourdes, France, reported 18 visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was directed by Henry King.

The film was adapted by George Seaton from a novelization of Bernadette's story, written by Franz Werfel. The novel was published in 1942 and was extremely popular, spending more than a year on the New York Times Best Seller list and 13 weeks heading the list.

Contents

Story

On an errand with her sister Marie (Ermadean Walters) and school friend Jeanne (Mary Anderson) to collect firewood outside the town of Lourdes, Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones) is left behind when her companions warn her not to wade through the cold river by the Massabielle caves for fear of taking ill. About to cross anyway, Bernadette is distracted by a strange breeze and a change in the light. Investigating the cave, she finds a beautiful lady standing in brilliant light, holding a pearl rosary. She tells her sister and friend, who promise not to tell anyone else, but of course they do, and the story soon spreads all over town.

Many, including Bernadette's Aunt Bernarde (Blanche Yurka), believe her and stand up for her against her disbelieving parents, but Bernadette faces civil and church authorities alone. Repeatedly questioned, she stands solidly behind her outlandish story and continues to return to the cave as the lady has asked. She faces ridicule as the lady tells her to drink and wash at a spring that doesn't exist, but digs a hole in the ground and uses the wet sand and mud. The water begins to flow later and exhibits miraculous healing properties. The lady finally identifies herself as "the Immaculate Conception". Civil authorities try to have her declared insane, while Bishop Peyramale (Charles Bickford), the fatherly cleric who once doubted her and now becomes her staunchest ally, asks for a formal investigation to find out if Bernadette is a fraud, insane, or genuine. The grotto is closed and the Bishop of Nevers (Charles Waldron) declares that unless the Emperor demands that it be opened again, it will remain closed. Shortly thereafter, the Emperor's infant son falls ill and, under instructions from the Empress (Patricia Morison), the child's nanny demands and is given a bottle of water from the spring. The Emperor's son then miraculously recovers. After the Emperor's "defeat" by the Lady, the grotto is re-opened. The commission meets, and eventually it concludes that Bernadette's experiences are real.

Bernadette prefers to go on with an ordinary life, work, and possible marriage, but because she has seen the Virgin Mary, she is forced to take the veil instead. She is subjected to normal although rigorous spiritual training and hard work, but also emotional abuse from a cold and sinister novitiate director (Gladys Cooper) - her former teacher at school, who is skeptically jealous of all the attention Bernadette has been receiving as a result of the visions.

Bernadette is diagnosed with tuberculosis of the bone, which causes intense pain, yet she has never complained or so much as mentioned it. The novice mistress, for whom pain and suffering are the only path to holiness, realizes Bernadette's saintliness, begs for forgiveness in the chapel, and becomes an ally of Bernadette. Knowing she is dying, Bernadette sends for Bishop Peyramale and tells him of her feelings of unworthiness and her concern that she will never see the lady again. But the lady appears in the room, smiling and holding out her arms. Only Bernadette can see her, however, and with a cry of "I love you!. "I love you! Holy Mary Mother of God", she reaches out to the apparition, and falls back dead.

Cast

Analysis

The plot follows the novel by Franz Werfel, which is not a documentary but a historical novel blending fact and fiction. Bernadette's real-life friend Antoine Nicolau is portrayed as being deeply in love with her, and vowing to remain unmarried when Bernadette enters the convent. No such relationship is documented as existing between them. The government authorities, in particular Imperial Prosecutor Vital Dutour (played by Vincent Price) are portrayed as being much more anti-religion than they actually were,[1] and in fact Dutour was himself a devout Catholic who simply thought Bernadette was hallucinating. Other portrayals come closer to historical accuracy, particularly Anne Revere and Roman Bohnen as Bernadette's overworked parents, Charles Bickford as Father Peyramale, and Blanche Yurka as formidable Aunt Bernarde.

Bernadette's death in particular is cinematic. She would not have had enough breath to talk that much. Peyramale was not present at her deathbed, having himself died two years before. What is uncertain is whether or not she had a vision before she died. Witnesses said that some hours prior to her death, they saw Bernadette looking across the room with great concentration as she did when experiencing a vision, but she didn't say anything. Her last words were a phrase from the Hail Mary.

Jennifer Jones had made two minor films earlier, under her real name of Phylis Isley. Zanuck had her credited as "introducing Jennifer Jones as Bernadette" in order to make the public think she was an unknown.

Many of the production staff believed The Lady should not be visible to the audience but that Bernadette's adoration of something she saw plainly should "render the invisible visible to others", as Werfel's book said the real Bernadette did. The choice of Darnell (then a few months pregnant) with her reputation as a so-called soft-porn model[citation needed] angered Werfel, who threatened to take his name off the picture. Selznick[citation needed] was determined to use her, so he told Werfel that he had picked an unknown for the role of the Virgin Mary. He draped Darnell in heavier garments and veiling than the historical Bernadette reported for her lady, and filmed her in brilliant light. Darnell is recognizable in the final scene where she comes into Bernadette's room. The lady's few lines are also spoken by Darnell.

It may be difficult for modern viewers to understand the fuss made about Darnell's casting. The 'soft porn' items in question were not films, but a series of photographs, in some of which Darnell is topless. Werfel apparently saw the pictures and demanded that she be removed from production. At the time, mildly erotic or risqué photos or films were called 'blue', and this expression was used to describe the photographs in Selznick's biography Showman (Abacus, 1993). Darnell often portrayed sexy or sultry characters in films, most notably dance hall girl Chihuahua in the famous John Ford Western, My Darling Clementine, but also played faithful wives, such as the wives in Blood and Sand and Unfaithfully Yours, as well as virginal sweethearts in such films as The Mark of Zorro. She is not known to have made any 'blue' films. Ironically, in later years she became well-known for doing charitable work.

Awards

The Song of Bernadette won four Oscars in the 1943 Academy Awards;[2] for

In addition, the film was nominated for a further eight categories:

In the first Golden Globe Awards in 1944, the film won three awards, for

See also

References

  1. ^ Trochu, Francois, Saint Bernadette Soubirous Tan Books 1993. Trochu provides background information on Bernadette's "inquisitors", revealing that they were not atheists or even freethinkers.
  2. ^ "NY Times: The Song of Bernadette". NY Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/45643/The-Song-of-Bernadette/awards. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  • John Bear, The #1 New York Times Best Seller: intriguing facts about the 484 books that have been #1 New York Times bestsellers since the first list, 50 years ago, Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1992

External links

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