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A reluctant admission about Jane Wyman, Star of the Month, January 2017


slaytonf
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She's one of the top actresses in my movie pantheon.  An actress of remarkable range, from the lightest, sophisticated comedy, to the most powerful and moving pathos.  She is the bubbliest of effervescent socialites, the most soul-wrenching of angst-torn mothers, the most long-suffering of persecuted innocents.  But--but, well, she's not in many movies I like.  But the ones I do are among the best.  I'll list 'em:

 

Johnny Belinda (1948)

The Yearling (1946)

 

And that's about it.  Honorable mentions include:

 

Larceny, Inc. (1942)

Night and Day (1946)

So Big (1953)

Pollyana (1960)

 

Though she won the Oscar for Johnny Belinda, The Yearling is her best performance and the best movie she was in.  Her portrayal of a mother desperate to love her son, yet daunted by the fear of the pain she would feel if she lost him, just as she lost four of her other children, is one of the great achievements in acting.  Clarence Brown's woefully neglected masterpiece, it is truly one of the great American movies.  Justly well regarded for Claude Jarman Jr.'s performance, and its cinematography (for which it won an Oscar), its identification as a children's movie has probably robbed it of its rightful place.  Here's a clip to show how good Ms. Wyman was in it:

 

Penny Baxter and Jody have returned from buying supplies in town, with an unexpected extra purchase.  I apologize for the sound quality.

 

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But--but, well, she's not in many movies I like.

 

Wonder if it's chance, the limitations of the studio system or worse, personal taste?

 

But it's exactly the reason why TCM's SOTM is so wonderful. It gives cinephiles a (hopefully) good sampling of their body of work.

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I've never really taken much notice of Jane Wyman, certainly not the Wyman who became regarded as a major dramatic actress following her performance in The Yearling (a film I do like very much and, without doubt, her film I like the most).

 

While the titles of her films tend to run together, I do get a kick out of the earlier (often blonde) Wyman of her Warners contract years in which she was a Glenda Farrell-like fast talking wise cracking dame. She was perky and quite delightful if, admittedly, often wasted by the studio during that period. A little B like Private Detective, for example, no great shakes as outstanding cinema, of course, but an unpretentious Torchy Blane-type affair, with Jane's breezy performance matching the speed of the production.

 

The early live wire Wyman (quite a contrast to the sincerity of Johnny Belinda, So Big and the glossy soaps of the '50s in which she was the star) is the one I most enjoy watching. Obviously, she will always be better remembered for her big star vehicles starting in the late '40s but, truth be told, I find her a bit dull in those, for the most part.

 

If you want to see Wyman's range as an actress, take a look at her in two 1946 films, The Yearling and her smallish role in the Cole Porter biopic Night and Day. Dramatic character actress in one, breezy show girl in the other. Considering the difference in the roles, one can understand her desire to get away from the stereotyping at Warners, but she was darned good in those wise cracking roles.

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it's a shame Jane Wyman didn't come across a late-in-life role that revitalized her career a la' Shirley Maclaine. she comes off as delightfully saucy in some of her later interviews that show up from time to time on TCM.

 

I think, when she was younger, the talent was there, she just didn't- for the most part- get the parts and the directors it deserved,

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I've never really taken much notice of Jane Wyman, certainly not the Wyman who became regarded as a major dramatic actress following her performance in The Yearling (a film I do like very much and, without doubt, her film I like the most).

 

While the titles of her films tend to run together, I do get a kick out of the earlier (often blonde) Wyman of her Warners contract years in which she was a Glenda Farrell-like fast talking wise cracking dame. She was perky and quite delightful if, admittedly, often wasted by the studio during that period. A little B like Private Detective, for example, no great shakes as outstanding cinema, of course, but an unpretentious Torchy Blane-type affair, with Jane's breezy performance matching the speed of the production.

 

The early live wire Wyman (quite a contrast to the sincerity of Johnny Belinda, So Big and the glossy soaps of the '50s in which she was the star) is the one I most enjoy watching. Obviously, she will always be better remembered for her big star vehicles starting in the late '40s but, truth be told, I find her a bit dull in those, for the most part.

 

If you want to see Wyman's range as an actress, take a look at her in two 1946 films, The Yearling and her smallish role in the Cole Porter biopic Night and Day. Dramatic character actress in one, breezy show girl in the other. Considering the difference in the roles, one can understand her desire to get away from the stereotyping at Warners, but she was darned good in those wise cracking roles.

 

We have very similar views as it relates to Wyman.    As for her pre-Yearling films,  I would add Princess O'Rourke a funny Olivia DeHavilland film,  My Love Comes Back,  an OK Olivia film,  and  Larceny, Inc with E.G.  Robinson.   The Doughgirls has a great cast but the main reason to watch the film is for the Eve Arden performance as a Russian. 

 

Jane really gained notice with The Lost Weekend,  but I'm not a fan of most of her 50s films as well as her 50s look.

 

Watched many of those 30s films last night and wow was Jane cute with those wide eyes and smile.    Like you said mostly fluff programmers but still worth a look see.

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But--but, well, she's not in many movies I like.

 

Wonder if it's chance, the limitations of the studio system or worse, personal taste?

 

But it's exactly the reason why TCM's SOTM is so wonderful. It gives cinephiles a (hopefully) good sampling of their body of work.

 

It's also why TCM is wonderful too.  Like, for YEARS I labored under the belief, due to my mostly limited exposure to them, thought CLAUDE RAINS always  played men much older than he really was in movies.

 

Sepiatone

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When I first noticed that Jane Wyman was going to be Star of the Month, once again I was hopeful that "The Blue Veil" would be shown.  No such luck.  There must be some legal reason that this movie is never shown.  She really shines in it.  And it's one of her Oscar nominations as well.  Joan Blondell was also nominated for this.  Jane is wonderful in this.  Maybe someday.

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When I first noticed that Jane Wyman was going to be Star of the Month, once again I was hopeful that "The Blue Veil" would be shown.  No such luck.  There must be some legal reason that this movie is never shown.  She really shines in it.  And it's one of her Oscar nominations as well.  Joan Blondell was also nominated for this.  Jane is wonderful in this.  Maybe someday.

 

Yes, The Blue Veil remains the most elusive of Wyman's films for me, really more for reasons of wanting to see Joan Blondell and Charles Laughton than anything else. I did come across an old video tape image of it somewhere but the quality is so bad I've never gotten around to the torture that my eyes would go through to try to watch it.

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Yes, The Blue Veil remains the most elusive of Wyman's films for me, really more for reasons of wanting to see Joan Blondell and Charles Laughton than anything else. I did come across an old video tape image of it somewhere but the quality is so bad I've never gotten around to the torture that my eyes would go through to try to watch it.

 

Someone taped The Blue Veil during a TV showing many years ago, and that copy has been floating around the internet and disreputable bootleg dealers for a long time. It's the version I saw, as it was posted on YouTube for awhile. 

 

It's supposedly caught up in rights issues pertaining to the estate holders of the original book's author. 

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Someone taped The Blue Veil during a TV showing many years ago, and that copy has been floating around the internet and disreputable bootleg dealers for a long time. It's the version I saw, as it was posted on YouTube for awhile. 

 

It's supposedly caught up in rights issues pertaining to the estate holders of the original book's author. 

 

Let's hope the rights issues are cleared up before too many more film buffs get headaches from the eye strain involved in trying to get through that bootleg copy in circulation. It still sits unviewed in my collection.

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Let's hope the rights issues are cleared up before too many more film buffs get headaches from the eye strain involved in trying to get through that bootleg copy in circulation. It still sits unviewed in my collection.

Wyman, more than maybe any other female star, is known for playing women with some sort of physical problem or handicap. 

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We're doing favorite performances of the year since 1930, and we're now up to 1978.  I almost nominated Wyman for All that Heaven Allows.  I have never seen Johnny Belinda, and I will next week when it's on TCM.  I can't say I'm optimistic about the movie.  Despite its many nominations, I haven't really heard much that suggests that is truly a great movie as opposed to a well regarded film of the time.

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We're doing favorite performances of the year since 1930, and we're now up to 1978.  I almost nominated Wyman for All that Heaven Allows.  I have never seen Johnny Belinda, and I will next week when it's on TCM.  I can't say I'm optimistic about the movie.  Despite its many nominations, I haven't really heard much that suggests that is truly a great movie as opposed to a well regarded film of the time.

 

While I don't view Johnny Belinda as a great movie Wyman's performance is.     

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But--but, well, she's not in many movies I like.

 

Wonder if it's chance, the limitations of the studio system or worse, personal taste?

 

But it's exactly the reason why TCM's SOTM is so wonderful. It gives cinephiles a (hopefully) good sampling of their body of work.

 

 

I look forward to finding more movies of her's I like.

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While I don't view Johnny Belinda as a great movie Wyman's performance is.

JOHNNY BELINDA is a visually striking movie and a landmark film in its sensitivity to women's issues,unwed motherhood and its depiction of r a p e. The support is excellent- although I single out Agnes Moorehead especially- and it is for the most part directed quite well by JeanNegulesco.

 

The biggest single issue with it is Wyman's performance (though actually Lew Ayres is an issue too). She's almost entirely wrong in her portrayal- but I don't blame Wyman herself. She had the talent to do the role right but for some reason either the director or Jack Warner or a producer or somebody told her to play it that way. She won because the film was a HUGE hit, but in retrospect, outside of Luise Rainer in "the good earth",I'm hard-pressed to think of an Oscar-winning performance by a lead Actress that has aged so badly.

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The biggest single issue with it is Wyman's performance (though actually Lew Ayres is an issue too). She's almost entirely wrong in her portrayal- but I don't blame Wyman herself. She had the talent to do the role right but for some reason either the director or Jack Warner or a producer or somebody told her to play it that way. She won because the film was a HUGE hit, but in retrospect, outside of Luise Rainer in "the good earth",I'm hard-pressed to think of an Oscar-winning performance by a lead Actress that has aged so badly.

 

 

Can you describe what you think is wrong with her performance, and suggest the way she might have played it better?

 

!  Just saw the typo in the thread title!

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Can you describe what you think is wrong with her performance [iN JOHNNY BELINDA], and suggest the way she might have played it better?

 

!  Just saw the typo in the thread title!

 

well, again, this is my read...(and i'm sorry if its harsh because I like Jane Wyman and I admit the film has merits.)

 

with JOHNNY BELINDA you have those magnificent rough visuals of the coast, with the jagged rocks and twisted trees, and the stark black and white photography and the craggy, well-worn crustiness of Charles Bickford and the weathered femininity of Jan Sterling and Agnes Moorehead- all of whom play real characters with real emotions and reactions- most of them hard, and then there's the rough edges of the story- which you have to applaud for being as BOLD as it is for 1948- darkness, murder, and anger and violence...

 

and there's Jane Wyman SMILIN' THRU damn near the whole thing like she's Anne of Green Gables stuck in a Tim Burton film and things are just bound to lighten up any minute, and I'm sorry, but I DON'T BUY HER RELENTLESS BLANK SMILING IN THE PART...every time i sit through some or all of JOHNNY BELINDA, I cringe at how bad Lew Ayres is and how- God I'm sorry because I like her- but how always-on-the-verge-of-jazz-hands BRIGHT AND SHINY Jane is in a role that, honestly, could've used a little edge to it.

 

I guess in order to make her sympathetic, they have her smile like some sort of relentlessly cheerful idiot throughout the whole thing, that was their interpretation of how the role should've been done, that was their perogative. but if they had bothered to watch THE YEARLING, they would've had THAT Jane Wyman play "The Dummy" as maybe a little more of an actual human who has grown up in a rough environment; because, and again, this is my opinion, she's a bit on the "Juuuuuuuuuulie Aaaaaandrewsy" side of the spectrum for a film that is otherwise rather successfully moody and dark. 

 

anyhow, again, i think the talent was there, but someone insisted she play "The Dummy" as some kind of delightful moppet and it does not scan with me.

 

also- Marlee Matlin mentioned during a TCM interview of sorts that she had some issues with the role, and why "The Dummy" remains quiet in childbirth and the assault scene even though she is capable of making sound....? the details are foggy on that.

 

anyhow, hope that answers your questions and sorry if it seems like i am crapping all over Wyman and her performance in BELINDA.

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Lorna...Your last post here sort of had me in stitches, but I'll offer my take on what you said, if you'll indulge me.

 

--Maybe Jane's smiling much of the time because of the dialog she must listen to, but never react to, and it's too funny.  She smiles lest she bust out laughing in many scenes, thus adding to the production costs of the film.

--Maybe the role required her to be that way, as you mentioned.  Was the movie based on a book or a real life person?  If that's what was called for, then she properly played the part.

--Jane's character was a young woman.  Young people aren't so jaded by the hardships of life, since they're just starting out, whereas Ma and Pa have scratched out a somewhat comfortable living under harsh circumstances for many, many years.  The adults have been around the block more than once, and while their lives are difficult on a daily basis, they face it head on and complain as little as possible, even if you can see their wan and weathered expressions on their faces.

--Belinda enjoys the company of other people outside her family, but the townsfolk keep their distance because she's a 'freak'.  She doesn't know why this is, but children and adults alike are capable of unconditional love, which is what she displays, to some extent.

--I really liked Lew Ayres' part as the doctor who tries to help her.  He is the only person who shows her that unconditional love, or at the very least, respect, despite her disability.  Yeah, he comes off as a super-hero who seems too good to be true, but remember, during the Production Code years, audiences were expecting (on their part) or were expected to (on the studio's part) get a happy ending, or an inspiring one, or a 'just deserts for the bad person' one.  In a way, this film delivers on all three!  B l a c k i e treats Jane Wyman like an inflatable date.  Dad treats her like a draft horse.  Mom treats her with some compassion, but mostly indifference.  By the end of the show, you're supposed to feel better if for any reason, that you saw a good flick.

 

I like Johnny Belinda.  The character interaction, given the circumstances presented in most scenes, was pretty authentic as far as I could tell.  Of course, I never grew up around anyone who was a deaf mute, but the depiction of people of modest means scratching out a living on a farm, from the sea, in a processing plant, or a small-town shop was pretty typical for the times of filming the picture, or so I suspect.  It was made 10 years before I was born!

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JOHNNY BELINDA is a visually striking movie and a landmark film in its sensitivity to women's issues,unwed motherhood and its depiction of r a p e. The support is excellent- although I single out Agnes Moorehead especially- and it is for the most part directed quite well by JeanNegulesco.

 

The biggest single issue with it is Wyman's performance (though actually Lew Ayres is an issue too). She's almost entirely wrong in her portrayal- but I don't blame Wyman herself. She had the talent to do the role right but for some reason either the director or Jack Warner or a producer or somebody told her to play it that way. She won because the film was a HUGE hit, but in retrospect, outside of Luise Rainer in "the good earth",I'm hard-pressed to think of an Oscar-winning performance by a lead Actress that has aged so badly.

 

Totally agree with your assessment of Jane Wyman's performance in "Johnny Belinda."  She may be deaf and dumb but she seems intelligent and this performance makes you think she's a clueless dope just because she has a disability. So, why did she win the Oscar? (And, don't get me wrong, I love Jane Wyman but, not in this role.) Because, in the annals of Oscardom if you play a physically or mentally disabled person ("Charly," "My Left Foot," "The Miracle Worker," "Forrest Gump," etc. etc.) or are in a "Cast of Thousands Bloated Epic" ("Ghandi," almost anything by David Lean, etc.) your chances of winning an Oscar improve exponentially.

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Totally agree with your assessment of Jane Wyman's performance in "Johnny Belinda."  She may be deaf and dumb but she seems intelligent and this performance makes you think she's a clueless dope just because she has a disability. So, why did she win the Oscar? (And, don't get me wrong, I love Jane Wyman but, not in this role.) Because, in the annals of Oscardom if you play a physically or mentally disabled person ("Charly," "My Left Foot," "The Miracle Worker," "Forrest Gump," etc. etc.) or are in a "Cast of Thousands Bloated Epic" ("Ghandi," almost anything by David Lean, etc.) your chances of winning an Oscar improve exponentially.

 

I agree with you up to a point. However, I think Daniel Day-Lewis really deserved his Oscar.  Regarding David Lean, I find it interesting that A Passage to India, his best movie, IMHO, isn't as highly regarded as lesser Lean films such as Lawrence and Lara.

 

Regarding Ghandi, I love movies about India, its history and people. But I couldn't get through Gandhi.  I think the character of Ghandhi and his times are much better depicted in the television miniseries Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy, in which Gandhi is played by Sam Dastor.

 

finalppic-8-2-10-2012.jpg

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I agree with you up to a point. However, I think Daniel Day-Lewis really deserved his Oscar.  Regarding David Lean, I find it interesting that A Passage to India, his best movie, IMHO, isn't as highly regarded as lesser Lean films such as Lawrence and Lara.

 

Regarding Ghandi, I love movies about India, its history and people. But I couldn't get through Gandhi.  I think the character of Ghandhi and his times are much better depicted in the television miniseries Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy, in which Gandhi is played by Sam Dastor.

 

finalppic-8-2-10-2012.jpg

 

Ah, yes.  I forgot one of the most Bloated Epics Ever  --  "Dr. Zhivago!"  Certainly there are always exceptions to the Oscar "Be a drunk/drug addict, be disabled, be mentally challenged and increase your chances of winning an Oscar"rule (and I like Daniel Day Lewis' performance, too) but I think too often better performances are ignored at Oscar time in favor of going with the "social conscience" choice.   

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