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4.8 out of 5 stars
The Song of Bernadette
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204 of 208 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
There are very few "religious" films that actually achieve a sense of spirituality that makes them work for believers and non-believers alike. "The Song of Bernadette" is one of those rare films, and owes a lot of its power to the Oscar winning performance of Jennifer Jones as Bernadette Soubirous, the young French peasant girl who in 1858 saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near the town of Lourdes. While gathering firewood with her sister and a friend, Bernadette was told by the "beautiful lady" to return to the grotto every day for fifteen days. The common folk of Lourdes come to belief in young Bernadette's visions, while the authorities try to put a stop to the nonsense, and the church keeps its distance for the moment.
As Bernadette, Jones is the calm center at the heart of the storm. The scenes in which Bernadette sees the Lady (an unbilled and pregnant Linda Darnell) are presented by director Henry King with a elegant simplicity. Bernadette has a strong and simple faith, which is how she is able to endure the battering by those around her. It is in her victory over these opponents that make this story work, and Bernadette's opponents are a superb cast of supporting players. Charles Bickford is Peyramale Dean of Lourdes, who has to deal with the idea that this lazy and less than intelligent peasant girl has seen the Virgin Mother, Vincent Price the cold hearted local prosecutor Dutour, Lee J. Cobb as the reasonable and scientific Dr. Dozous, Anne Revere as Bernadett's mother, and Gladys Cooper as Sister Vauzous, the nun whose jealousy of Bernadette has quite an emotional payoff in the film.
A best selling version of Bernadette's story was written by Franz Werfel in 1942 and 20th Century Fox bought the rights to make an ambitious screen version which manages to avoid the faults of sentimentality. They also searched for a newcomer for the title role and looked at Anne Baxter, Teresa Wright, Linda Darnell and Gene Tierney before settling on Jones, who had small parts in two previous films as Phylis Isley and was renamed to have a clean slate as an actress. Winning the Oscar pretty much speaks to the success of their efforts. The film also deservedly won Oscars for Arthur Miller's cinematography and Alfred Newman's score. Ironically, Newman replaced the famous composer Igor Stravinsky on the film, and the second movement of Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements evolved from his original unused score.
The long awaited DVD version of "The Song of Bernadette" makes up for the delay with some excellent extras, including the A&E "Biography" of Jones, a theatrical trailer, a World War II newsreel of Jones visiting the troops, and an excellent commentary track by two of Jones' biographers. This is classy treatment for one of Hollywood's classiest films.
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85 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2004
Format: DVD
"The Song of Bernadette" led all movies with 12 Oscar nominations (including Best Picture and 4 acting nods) as the most predigious film of 1943. A stellar ensemble cast examines the conflict between faith and reason when Bernadette Soubirious (played by Jennifer Jones in her major screen debut) has visons of the Virgin Mary in the garbage dump of Lourdes, France in 1858.

Ridiculed, scorned and threatened by the ecclesiastical and political establishments, Bernadette must hold on to her integrity in order to survive. The realistic plotting and manipulations of the petty local politicians (led by Vincent Price) is worth the price of the DVD alone. Charles Bickford (nominated for best supporting actor) portrays the skeptical local priest who believes that he knows what is best for Bernadette in the end.

Gladys Cooper (nominated for best supporting actress) is the vitriolic nun who despises and persecutes the poorly educated, sickly and simple minded Bernadette. The shattering emotional climax where the nun realizes the enormity of her sin is a master class in acting.

This remains the most realistic religious film of the Studio era. Its hard hitting depictions of the poverty of Bernadette's family, of the blindness of the Church and of a town's small-mindedness is balanced by its literal depiction of the validity of Bernadette's visions.

As the big winner of its year with 4 Oscars for best actress (Jennifer Jones), cinematgraphy, art direction, and musical score, it was upset by "Casablanca" for the best picture and director awards. This B/W film rewards repeated viewings as something new is seen everytime. Bernadette was later canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1933.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 9, 2003
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Finally, one of the greatest films from the 40s gets released on dvd and Fox has done a wonderful job here. I will skip the details about the film itself (which have already been written here) except to say that it is a very compelling film and features one of the best casts ever. You don't have to be religious to enjoy the film either (I'm not) and despite the length, it doesn't seem that long (it's that good). Jennifer Jones gives an inspired performance and is luminous in her Oscar winning performance.
The image quality is very good - there are a few noticeable nicks and scratches but nothing to be concerned about. A restoration comparison is provided and when compared with the older prints, it is excellent indeed.
Extras include a brief clip of a visibly nervous Jennifer Jones accepting an award from the GIs. Also, a superb A&E Biography titled "Jennifer Jones - Portrait of a Lady" which covers her life in detail and provides many excellent clips from her illustrous film career.
Commentary is provided by Jones biographer Edward Epstein, Hollywood historian Donald Spoto and Alfred Newman biographer John Burlingame. I was a tad disappointed with the commentary. Epstein is by far the most interesting with his commentary that discusses Jennifer Jones. Spoto is an expert on religion (as well as Hollywood history) and I found his thoughts on the relgious aspects of the film to be quite boring and seemingly pompous. Burlingame's comments on Newman are interesting but I would have rather heard about the film itself. What would have been wonderful - a commentary with Jennifer Jones! I wonder if Fox tried to contact her?
Overall, well worth the price and a valuable addition to your dvd library!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2003
Format: DVD
Jennifer Jones gives the performance of her career in The Song of Bernadette. She plays a fourteen-year-old girl who, while out collecting firewood, sees a vision of a beautiful lady. When it becomes apparent that this lady is the Virgin Mary, Bernadette finds herself in conflict with both the secular and church authorities. Jones is utterly convincing in her performance. Somehow she is able to portray faith in such a way that it becomes impossible to doubt her. Everyone, to begin with, is against Bernadette. Her claims seem unbelievable, the product of a deranged mind or the schemes of a charlatan. But through the faith that can be seen in her face and her simple determination to tell only the truth, she gradually wins over the doubters. For this process to be depicted on film something very special is required from an actress. Anyone who views the story with an open mind cannot fail to be moved deeply by a performance which has the power to suspend disbelief.
The Song of Bernadette is one of the best religious films, because it shows the life of a Saint without being too pious. Moreover it is willing to be critical of a church which could at times be harsh and even cruel. The town prosecutor scoffs at religion as much as he scoffs at Bernadette, but initially he has an ally in the local priest. A nun treats Bernadette with cruelty and ridicule. It is the opposition that the girl has to overcome which gives the film its dramatic power. This conflict works so well because the actors who perform opposite Jones give fine performances. Vincent Price as the cynical prosecutor is particularly good and shows that he was capable of dramatic acting of the highest quality.
The print used on the Fox DVD is very good indeed. The DVD includes a restoration comparison, which shows how the print has been cleaned up. There are still a few visible scratches, but overall the film looks wonderful with clear sharp images and beautiful black and white photography. The sound is likewise very good. The music and dialogue sound find and there is no hiss. As extras the DVD includes a trailer for the reissue of the film in the late fifties, a brief piece of newsreel of Jones accepting an award from the GIs, a commentary and a documentary. The documentary lasts about an hour and is fairly interesting with a good number of clips from Jones's films. This is a fine DVD of a classic film. It should interest anyone who is the least bit curious about Saint Bernadette of Lourdes.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
...for those who do not, no explanation is possible." This title card at the beginning of "The Song of Bernadette" prepares us for what is to come in this magnificiently crafted depiction of the real-life drama of Bernadette Soubirous. This film has an extremely strong cast. One of my favorite scenes doesn't even include Jennifer Jones; it's when the agnostic doctor played by Lee J. Cobb makes his report to the mayor and his council. His description of questioning and examing Bernadette at the grotto demonstrates his own internal conflict between science and the faith he claims not to have. Vincent Price adds his usual sarcasm in just the right amounts to the mix as well. Ann Revere turns in an exceptional job as Bernadette's worn-out mother, struggling for some kind of dignity in the midst of the squalor the family find themselves in at the movie's start. The leading cleric of Lourdes is presented by Charles Bickford, who is skeptical of Bernadette, even telling her to ask the Lady for a specific miracle to be performed; when the miraculous spring appears he learns to curb his own pride. His best line is when he defends Bernadette against police who have come to arrest her, "Load well your guns, for your path lies over my dead body! Gladys Cooper gives us an almost inhuman performance as the nun who refuses to accept Bernadette's story. Her eyes have the cold intensity of a medieval statue, and she is just as unbending. She finally has one great scene when she rebukes Bernadette, and we understand what her problem is, that she cannot accept Bernadette's being chosen as the visionary when she the nun has observed every fast and mortification she can, only to have no tangible reward. And then, when Bernadette reveals her long secret physical illness, the nun recoils in horror, dashing off to the chapel to beg God's forgiveness. That conversion experience is probably the most powerful single scene in the movie. And of course, there's Jennifer Jones herself. If she hadn't been as good as she was, this movie would have suffered tremendously, excellent supporting cast notwithstanding. She conveys such childlike simplicity yet underlying it is the unshakable conviction that she sees what she sees. Not a false note in the performance. The one thing I would have changed with the movie is the apparition itself. I've learned from reading other reviewer's comments that the Lady is played by Linda Darnell--I'll check my copy later and see if I recognize her. However, were I to have made this movie, I wouldn't have shown the vision at all. This movie is about faith, and the ability of Bernadette to convince others about what she alone saw. In keeping with that opening title card about belief, I don't think the audience should see anything either. They too should be in the role of the townspeople: can you believe what this ignorant girl is telling you about the grotto of Lourdes? I don't know whether Jennifer Jones had anything to interact with when she was filming these scenes, whether Linda Darnell was in place or added later, but if we saw her talking to thin air, then we would have to decide whether she was a liar, a madwoman, or as the bishop puts it to Charles Bickford, "that most rare of beings". Watching "The Song of Bernadette" is always an emotional experience for me--I hope those who have yet to see it will share that sentiment.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
There are very few "religious" films that actually achieve a sense of spirituality that makes them work for believers and non-believers alike. "The Song of Bernadette" is one of those rare films, and owes a lot of its power to the Oscar winning performance of Jennifer Jones as Bernadette Soubirous, the young French peasant girl who in 1858 saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near the town of Lourdes. While gathering firewood with her sister and a friend, Bernadette was told by the "beautiful lady" to return to the grotto every day for fifteen days. The common folk of Lourdes come to belief in young Bernadette's visions, while the authorities try to put a stop to the nonsense, and the church keeps its distance for the moment.
As Bernadette, Jones is the calm center at the heart of the storm. The scenes in which Bernadette sees the Lady (an unbilled and pregnant Linda Darnell) are presented by director Henry King with a elegant simplicity. Bernadette has a strong and simple faith, which is how she is able to endure the battering by those around her. It is in her victory over these opponents that make this story work, and Bernadette's opponents are a superb cast of supporting players. Charles Bickford is Peyramale Dean of Lourdes, who has to deal with the idea that this lazy and less than intelligent peasant girl has seen the Virgin Mother, Vincent Price the cold hearted local prosecutor Dutour, Lee J. Cobb as the reasonable and scientific Dr. Dozous, Anne Revere as Bernadett's mother, and Gladys Cooper as Sister Vauzous, the nun whose jealousy of Bernadette has quite an emotional payoff in the film.
A best selling version of Bernadette's story was written by Franz Werfel in 1942 and 20th Century Fox bought the rights to make an ambitious screen version which manages to avoid the faults of sentimentality. They also searched for a newcomer for the title role and looked at Anne Baxter, Teresa Wright, Linda Darnell and Gene Tierney before settling on Jones, who had small parts in two previous films as Phylis Isley and was renamed to have a clean slate as an actress. Winning the Oscar pretty much speaks to the success of their efforts. The film also deservedly won Oscars for Arthur Miller's cinematography and Alfred Newman's score. Ironically, Newman replaced the famous composer Igor Stravinsky on the film, and the second movement of Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements evolved from his original unused score.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
This film is a must for any devout Catholic or other individual that believes in apparations of the Blessed Virgin Mary, specifically that in Lourdes, France, in 1858.
For the rest of us, it is a spiritual think piece and a superb Oscar-winning performance by Jennifer Jones, still alive and now the Executive Director of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA (she is the widow of the industrialist whose collection of art formed the foundation for this wonderful and often overlooked institution). She plays the role of a simple country girl, who has 15 visions of the Virgin and must contend with the disbelief of her Church, village and family, with great sensitivity and remarkable warmth. Ms. Jones is very effectively supported by bravura performances by Charles Bickford, as the pragmatic local parish priest; Vincent Price, as the skeptical prosecuting attorney; Lee J. Cobb as an agnostic physician and Gladys Cooper as a jealous self-absorbed nun. Linda Darnell has an uncredited cameo role as the Virgin.
For those of you unable to personally visit Lourdes, there is a full-scale replica of the Grotto on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, right off of Exit 79 of I-80/90, just north of South Bend, Indiana.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Based upon the real life story of St. Bernadette Soubirous, the film revolves around the events in which Bernadette (Jennifer Jones) sees the Blessed Virgin Mary. Jennifer Jones gives an excellent performance as Bernadette, in which she won the 1945 Acadamy Award for Best Actress, & alongside with co-star Charles Bickford & director Harry King she brings the story to life.
When gathering wood with her sister & friend, Bernadette stops when they reach a small creek while the other two go on. Sitting on a rock in the grotto she suddenly sees a beautiful women with golden roses on her feet. She kneels down to pray with the lady when her friends return, they think that their friend is dead, & when she wakes as if from a dream they ask her what she was doing.
After she tells them, her sister instantly blabs to their mother & then it gets all through the town causing many mis-fortunes for Bernadette after the authorities gets ahold of the story. The same women appears many times to Bernadette telling her the location of healing water in which help heals thousands of people.
The film won three Acadamy Awards including Best Actress, Best Score & Best Cinematography.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2008
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This has got to be one of the least and in my opinion probably the least appreciated films of all time. I'm convinced that if "Casablanca" wasn't also nominated in the same category that year that this movie would have won the Best Picture award. And the acting! Excellent performances from the entire cast and especially so for Jennifer Jones. I have never seen such great acting from a female lead in my life!

Irrespective of your religious beliefs, this movie is extremely moving and concerns themes that we all can identify with such as abject poverty and despair and a miraculous event which changes not only the lives of the villagers but also that of many, many others throughout the world bringing a message of hope among so much despair. This movie also represents the triumph of hope over despair, jealousy and arrogance. Why this film isn't among the AFI's list of 100 Best American Movies of all time escapes me unless there is a bias because of the Catholic theme but in any case regardless of whether or not this is on any movie critics list, the sheer quality of this film makes this a must have in any self-respecting film-lover's dvd library.

The picture quality is good but not great though as the original master must have deteriorated greatly although the restoration job although not perfect is still very well done and the sound quality could be better if they had included a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or better option. Here's hoping that with the advent of Blu-ray that they would make the effort to do another restoration project of this great classic film to further enhance the picture and sound qualities.

The Special Features includes a very good documentary about the life of Jennifer Jones as well. When it comes to great screenplay, great acting and great overall film-making, you can't come closer to perfection than in this film.

Very highly recommended!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2005
Format: DVD
The story of Bernadette of Lourdes is a testament to Truth and Faith rewarded with spiritual reality. An acknowledgement of an inner world made manifest in love and healing. This film depicting the life of Bernadette and the events which swirled around her, has also stood the test of time, as a beautiful, moving and inspiring experience. The film could have become top-heavy with all the Hollywood effects,splendid sets and crowd scenes submerging the conviction and the message of the miracle of Lourdes. But it is in the acting, coveyed with great sincerity and understanding that uplifts this film and saves it from becoming another Americanis-ed sanctimonious effort.
The book upon which the film is based, was written as a " thank-you" to the people of Lourdes, who had hidden and looked after the author during WW2, saving his life. A huge best seller the book was well researched and movingly written.
This same sincerity and honesty of feeling is carried through the film, and right at the centre Jennifer Jones stands alone-- superb and supreme in her portrayal of the chronically ill, very under-priviledged, uneducated peasant girl, who through her love and faith never doubted,denied or deserted her Visitations. Jennifer Jones certainly deserved her Best Actress Oscar, giving a performance that is resrained yet glowing; subdued yet powerful; humble but inspired.
The film is broken into two parts. The first depicts the events leading up to the revelation of the spring in the grotto and the second half, its effect upon the village, its inhabitants and upon Bernadette and her family.
The DVD brings a clearer print of this magnificent film. It is crisp, with fine tones. the extras add to the interest of the film, and altogether this is an intensely moving film experience. I bought this DVD and highly reccommend it.
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