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Portrait of Jennie

4.4 out of 5 stars 146 customer reviews

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(Nov 28, 2000)
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Editorial Reviews

William Dieterle brought a high level of skill and intelligence to the genres of fantasy and romance, and the Robert Nathan novella proved a nearly perfect showcase for his talent. The film stars Joseph Cotten as Eben Adams, a struggling, world-weary artist who has labored long without success. While painting in New York's Central Park, he meets an ethereal young girl named Jennie (Jennifer Jones), who tells him stories from a distant era. Every few months, the mysterious Jennie appears to the painter, and each time she is a few years older, finally meeting him as a grown woman. Adams is so inspired by her radiance that his drawings of her surpass anything he's done, and they bring him his first success. Yet, even as he falls in love with this intriguing woman, the painter realizes that the world she discusses has no bearing on the one he knows, and he begins to research her origins in the hope of finally understanding who she is.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Ethel Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Cecil Kellaway
  • Directors: William Dieterle
  • Writers: Ben Hecht, David O. Selznick, Leonardo Bercovici, Paul Osborn, Peter Berneis
  • Producers: Cecil Barker
  • Format: Black & White, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: November 28, 2000
  • Run Time: 86 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004Y6AL
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #153,705 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Portrait of Jennie" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Fernando Silva on October 21, 2002
Format: DVD
Haunting, exquisite, dreamlike film, which brought out my hidden-deep-inside emotions, myself not being a very emotional or demonstrative person, making it a definitely one-of-a-kind experience for me, just like "I'll Never Forget You" (1951), a remake of Leslie Howard's "Berkeley Square" (1933), starring Tyrone Power and Ann Blyth, made a likewise impression when I was just a child. Although, it must be said, "Portrait of Jennie" is a superior film.
There's something with these people-meeting-from-different-times-theme-based films, that have this special, strange & weird effect on me, being this movie (in my opinion) the definite masterpiece of its kind. For those who are interested, besides the mentioned above, you can try both versions of "Smilin' Through" (1932 & 1941), "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" (1947), "Somewhere in Time" (1980), and although not strictly of the kind, "Peter Ibbetson" (1935).
Jennifer Jones does a very fine job in the difficult part of the ethereal Jennie, giving credibility at the character's different stages of her life. Joseph Cotten, a very fine actor, is absolutely believable as the obsessed artist, who learns (unknowingly) that until one really loves somebody, one hasn't really lived.
Ethel Barrymore, grand dame of the American Theater and an occasional character film actress, gives a great performance in a part worthy of her talent, as the owner of an Art Gallery who befriends Cotten, becoming sort of her mentor. Others in the exceptional supporting cast: Cecil Kellaway (as Barrymore's partner), sweet grand lady of the silent screen, the legendary Lillian Gish (as a Nun) and funny and very human David Wayne (as Cotten's pal).
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Format: DVD
"Portrait of Jennie" is the embodiment of ethereal supernatural melodrama at its very best. The film stars Joseph Cotton as disgruntled artist, Eben Adams. Disgusted at his inability to make inroads into the artistic community, Adams artistic sensibilities are castrated by gallery owner, Miss Spinney (Ethel Barrymore) who points out that there is no passion in his work. Disillusioned once more, Adams is all set to toss his fledgling career in the ash can when he suddenly comes in contact with the sprite, Jennie (Jennifer Jones). Though she too doesn't have much to say about Adams work, he suddenly becomes inspired by her and begins to sketch her portrait in Central Park. However, before he can finish, Jennie vanishes into thin air. Taken with the experience, Adams persists to draw Jennie from memory and consequently finds his muse. Throughout the film, Adams will repeatedly come in contact with the ghostly Jennie; each time she grows older than during their previous meetings. Not until Adams confronts an old nun, Mother Mary of Mercy (Lillian Gish) is the secret of Jennie finally revealed.

By 1948 David O. Selznick was fighting a losing war on a double front. His dreams of transforming his wife, Jennifer Jones into an actress, the stature of Garbo, had been met with increasing critical disdain. He was also by this point in his professional career well into a period of economic decline from which he and his studio would never recover. That "Portrait of Jennie" failed to find its audience at the box office suggests more of a post war cynicism for films with embellished romantic subplots - all of which had been highly successful and in great demand during Selznick's 30s tenure. However, at the time of its release it did nothing to alleviate Selznick's fiscal crisis.
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Format: VHS Tape
Joseph Cotten stars as a struggling artist trying to find the passion and inspiration to bring his art to life. A chance encounter in a park with a young girl named Jennie begins to spark his work, and their infrequent meetings afterwards fuel his creativity and feelings. Oddly, she seems to come from an earlier time and each occasion he meets her, she ages more than the time that has passed. He slowly pieces together the mystery of who she really is.
Cotten gives one of his best performances in this ethereal story. He's very convincing as the artist whose muse and love may very well be some sort of ghost. Jennifer Jones stars as the title character, and despite being given some heavy-handed dialogue, makes the character of Jennie quite believable at all stages of her life. The supporting cast is excellent, with particular praise going to a well cast Ethel Barrymore as the gallery owner who takes Cotten under her wing. She brings a weary, sad quality that matches the film perfectly.
The photography of the film is remarkable, having the quality of a painting throughout, with the last ten minutes very effectively filmed in Technicolor. The music also adds the other-worldly quality that permeates the movie.
The opening "lecture" of the film, however, is awkwardly done, hurt by some of the overbaked writing that occasionally plagues the dialogue. But the rest of the film succeeds admirably, creating a mood and romantic feeling that sustains the unusual story. It's unlike any other film you will see from that era.
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