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Customer Review

108 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overall Best film version of JANE EYRE, July 24, 2006
This review is from: Jane Eyre [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I've been having a "Jane Eyre-athon." There are many good versions of this gothic story of the fight between worldliness and virtue. Many have one really outstanding element, but this version, with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine remains overall the best. Like most, it eliminates much of the second half of the book, which is the really important part for Bronte, who is one of the finest religious thinkers of her age. There are so many bests in this version, it will always be hard to top for getting Bronte right.

This version was shot when black and white filmmaking was at it's best, and Fox was known as the best at noir/gothic, with velvety blacks, and really crisp lighting and shading. One thing that helps this film be better is that it has the best script (by Huxley, Stevenson and Houseman). The script transitions well, and really captures the major emotional elements of the story. This version also has the best child Jane (Peggy Ann Gardner). I agree with many that Zelah Clarke (Jane in the 1983 miniseries) is probably the definitive adult Jane, but Joan Fontaine is equally fine, and many people will simply not sit through the slow miniseries. Joan Fontaine has a real sense of refined restraint that seems very natural, and her strength is not so much in knowing she is strong, but overcoming her weakness. That is a very important mental/emotional component for getting Jane right.

Orson Welles is beefy and sexy, and plays every note of Rochester perfectly. If he is a bit too young for the role, that is the only flaw. While I feel that Cirian Hinds (the 1997 film version) is the best Rochester, Welles performance equals him. Once again, the striking dark haired beauty Blanche was cast with a platinum blonde, she is undeniably and great and striking beauty, and is the best of the Blanche - easy to see why men like her, and why women don't. Little Margaret O'Brien, who I usually find cloying and hammy is, of course, the perfect Adele, so we have the best Adele, too! She is absolutely convincingly the daughter of a diva, a dancer and coquette, and her "look at me" peskiness is just right for Adele.

The supporting roles, just simply nail the characters as described in the book, Broklehurst, Agnes Morehead as the Aunt, Mrs. Fairfax, and young Elizabeth Taylor as young Jane's friend all add up to make this a masterpiece. Having Bernard Herrmann do the score doesn't hurt a bit, either. (Film buffs will find it of interest that some of the exact themes and sound cues used in this film were also used again in Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST.)

See the 1934 version for a laugh and film history. See the 1983 miniseries to see the truest rhendition of the book. See the 1997 version for breathtaking color, scenery and Cirian Hinds' Rochester. See this to be fully satisfied. This is simply an exquisite film - filmmaking at its best in every respect; and while not as letter-perfectly definitive as the 1983 miniseries, I feel it is overall the best, truest version of JANE EYRE.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 14, 2015, 4:54:53 AM PST
You've written a wonderful review, well thought out, sincere, and authoritative in your opinions. I enjoyed it and I appreciate it. One small flaw though, sorry to be picky, but it bothers me....Ciaran Hinds "equals" Orson Welles' performance, not the other way around. You said Welles equals Hinds, and that doesn't make as much sense. Welles came first by a great many decades and he is the elder and the first to have performed the role, not the other way around.

Of course, one can argue that if there is "equality," it doesn't matter, but ah, it does, actually. It is a small technicality, but to me and probably other people, and probably you, too, it is a significant difference. Also, I agree, Joan Fontaine, Elizabeth Taylor, Peggy Ann Garner, Orson Wells, and so on, are the gold standard, as far as I'm concerned. I also agree, the musical score, the high quality of the screenplay, and the deft use of color and light make this black-and-white version of the story every bit as engaging, engrossing, and effective as any color film, and even this is an accomplishment in itself. I didn't know the musical score was used for another film. That's fascinating. Thank you for that, too.

As for my one criticism, it is just a matter of respect, a small nicety, but although small, it means a great deal. Just as we introduce an younger, a male, or a less distinguished person to an older, a female (presumably a lady), or more distinguished person - because this is the right thing to do, it is protocol, and a small thing, but an important distinction, it is also the case that the correct way to say it is that Ciaran Hinds rises to the high standard set by Orson Welles, and not the other way around. Okay? Thank you.

Posted on Jan 10, 2016, 11:18:22 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 10, 2016, 11:26:28 PM PST
boxwood100 says:
Why you think so highly of this movie is just confusing. It strays SO far from the book that it doesn't hardly resemble the story at ALL! It's completely 'Hollywood' too. It appears that you have never read the book because if so, you would have mentioned the errors in the story, how the entire portion where Jane stays with her cousins is completely removed, no mention is made of them, and they have Jane returning to Gateshead instead! Three men wrote the screenplay for this movie and just made it up as they went. Orson Wells is the BEST Rochester ever, but this screenplay is horrific! You also mention that Charlotte was a 'fine religious thinker.' No, she knew the Lord and has a relationship with Him. Religion has nothing to do with God but is made up by men. She expressed her love for the Lord throughout this book which, by the way, is the ultimate point she was making. Many, many people throughout the 160+ years since it was first published, have read Jane Eyre and given their lives to the Lord afterwards. Awesome!

Posted on Jun 16, 2016, 12:13:11 PM PDT
James Harris says:
I've read the book and it was wonderful. I've seen this film version many times and it is wonderful too - my favorite!
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