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Bronxgirl48

"Portrait of Jennie": Pretentious or charming?

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I opt for pretentious. And I am just fascinated with all these skating scenes in late 40's films: "The Bishop's Wife" and "The Farmer's Daughter". David Wayne is one of my favorite actors, but here playing a very Irish car mechanic given to moody songs like "Yonder, yonder..." which hit us over the head with the metaphysics, he is served very badly. Film buffs will note Irish bar owner Albert Sharpe as Darby O'Gill from that great Disney film, which every Baby Boomer was terrified of, myself included. (who could forget the death coach and the banshee: could we all sleep in the dark after that??)

 

Jennifer Jones is very effective in that girl-next-door-who-made-good-in-films way, as she was in all her films (except maybe the sublimly horrific "Duel in the Sun") and she has a believable mysticism and poignancy. The script and the music are alternately haunting and yet unsubtly subtle. Joseph Cotton is solid, but never rises to romantic heights. Ethel Barrymore as the spinster gallery owner, and Lillian Gish as a nun, are fairly effective. There is even some of that late 40's postwar wisdom and tolerance, as Felix Bressart comments on the sorrows of African Americans.

 

The hurricane is well done, and when Jones tells Cotton that "but you're fighting nothing, Eban, nothing...", the movie does reach a very unexpected spiritual comfort level.

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As a serious Painter, I really was moved by this picture. I especially loved the canvas effect, particulary in the begining of the movie. It wasnt a great film, but because I am also a painter I really like it. Joseph Cotten is definitely high on my list of leading men. His roles always seem to excite me and he is good in all of them. I really, really loved that canvas effect, I believe that was the reason it was nominated for an academy award.

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[nobr]cellu1.jpg[/nobr]

[nobr]The World as seen in Portrait of Jennie: Pretentious or charming?[/nobr]

 

[nobr]How about full of longing instead? Longing for an impossibly ethereal love, yes, but also for the audacious notion that something so "old-fashioned"---even in the postwar world, not to mention our own time---could be so lovingly crafted by Selznick, the actors, musicians and craftsmen. I think that if one can suspend our 21st century cynicism, ignore that embarassingly bad dialogue of David Wayne's, note the unspoken understanding in Ethel Barrymore's eyes, and perhaps allow the film to wash over you--it's a perfectly fine, slightly timeworn valentine that deserves to be viewed again. Btw, if you'd like to see another pairing of Jennifer Jones & Joseph Cotton, they are featured in the memorable Love Letters (1945) at 12:30am ET on TCM on Thur. Feb. 15th.[/nobr]

 

[nobr]A tip of the hat might go especially to cinematographer Joseph H. August, who prior to "Jennie" had done magnificent work in many films, memorably in both The Informer (1935) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). In Portrait of Jennie, August achieved some of the most magnificent sky effects, and shooting the Central Park scenes through a theatrical scrim gave that landscape an otherworldly, painterly quality. As Robert Osborne pointed out, the demands of working on this film may have contributed to his death after collapsing of a heart attack on set. If you'd like to know more about him, here's a link to an impressive overview of his career:[/nobr]

 

http://www.cinematographers.nl/GreatDoPh/august.htm

 

Robert Brackman, who painted the portrait of Jennie, might also be remembered for his painting of a slightly elongated, properly unearthly Jennifer Jones. The portrait was for many years displayed in Jennifer Jones' home until it was auctioned off several years ago in San Francisco. Mr. Brackman was an artist of some note and skill, and if one is interested, his career can be reviewed here:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Brackman

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Well we ARE talking MGM here, never exactly a bastion of subtlety! I don't find Portrait of Jennie entirely convincing (Jennifer doesn't do "young girl" quite as well as Ginger Rogers), but it definitely has its moments.

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Sorry Ayres, but we're talking about Selznick International, not MGM. I agree with your basic premise that like the leonine studio, Mr. S. wasn't exactly subtle in his tastes or execution either--but his often inchoate, large scale visions of undying love are still kind of appealing--at least to me, occasionally.

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Wow (and double Wow!); thanks for posting that incredible image from PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, one of my favorite films. Your comments about the film bring it vividly back to life in my mind's eye. Thanks again!

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You're welcome Dewey. I originally thought that must be a matte painting from some unjustly forgotten artist on Selznick's payroll, but, according to James Sanders in his book "Celluloid Skyline" it's a photograph. Bet it was taken on a day in late September, early October over NYC. And I'm sure there were a number of filters involved in this idealized image. I particularly like the little zeppelin, which I didn't notice initially.

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Yikes... Right you are! [Ayres turns bright red].

 

Yes, I usually love Mr. Selznick's romanticism (and patriotism), too. Since You Went Away is a great favorite of mine.

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"Portrait of Jennie" is one of my all-time favorites. I saw it as a child on TV and have adored it ever since. I always recommend this film and the lovely Robert Nathan book on which it's based.

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> "Portrait of Jennie" is one of my all-time favorites.

 

Me too. I find it completely entrancing, but then I also love "The Enchanted Cottage" and "Love Letters" (1945), which I guess makes me a sap.

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