Home The Song of Bernadette - When Jennifer Jones arrived in Hollywood in 1939 she still called herself Phyllis Isley. Her face and especially her eyes drew the attention of the producer David O. Selznick who did not only allow her a great career but also fell in love with her and finally married Jennifer Jones in 1949. For her role in "The song of Bernadette (1943)" she gained an oscar as best actress. Between the years 1946 and 1948 she consolidated her fame as either the innocent adolescent or the passionate lover: e.g. in "Cluny Brown (1946)", "Duel in the Sun (1946)" or "Portrait of Jennie (1948)". Jennifer Jones turned 25 years old on the day that she won the Oscar for "The Song of Bernadette."





"For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary.

For those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible."


THE SONG OF
BERNADETTE
Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones)

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The Song of Bernadette Film Facts

The Song of Bernadette is a 1943 film which tells the story of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, who, in 1858 in Lourdes, France, had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones)

It stars Jennifer Jones, William Eythe, Charles Bickford, Vincent Price, Lee J. Cobb, Anne Revere, Gladys Cooper and Linda Darnell.

The movie was adapted by George Seaton from the novel by Franz Werfel. It was directed by Henry King. 
It was nominated for 12 Academy Awards.

It won Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jennifer Jones), Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Jennifer Jones won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her screen debut in this true story.

Nominations

It was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Charles Bickford), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Gladys Cooper), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Revere), Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Sound, Recording and Best Writing, Screenplay.




FILM and Jennifer Jones HISTORY

Bernadette's true story was recounted in the novel The Song Of Bernadette (1942) by Franz Werfel.  The novel was a best seller, and the Fox Studios, seeing in it the potential for a truly inspirational movie, quickly acquired the film rights. 
The Song of Bernadette
The Song of Bernadette (1943) was to become a major Fox production during the WWII era.  That the film's theme was one of simple yet endearing faith played very well to wartime audiences searching for hope during this rather dark chapter in humanity.  But beyond its uplifting theme, the film had three incredible strengths - a wonderful score by Alfred Newman, brilliant cinematography by Arthur Miller, and a wholesome performance as Bernadette by newcomer, Phyllis Isley

Phyllis Isley was a protégé of the great Hollywood film producer David O.Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones) Selznick (best known for his classic films King Kong and Gone with the Wind).  Selznick had arranged for her to star in The Song of Bernadette, and he also provided her with a more famous screen name - Jennifer Jones.


As an actress, Jennifer Jones had remarkable range.  Her portrayal of the pure and innocent Bernadette was in stark contrast to her later portrayal of the tempestuous and lascivious Pearl in Duel in the Sun, a major Selznick undertaking. 

Her other memorable roles included the haunted, mysterious Jennie of Selznick's Portrait of Jennie and the mature, intelligent Eurasian doctor in the tragic romance Love is a Many-Splendored Thing. 

But The Song of Bernadette brought Jennifer Jones arguably her best role The Song of Bernadetteand her greatest critical acclaim.  Though she was only on-screen perhaps half the running length, her scenes truly elevated the film.  Jennifer Jones was in her mid-twenties during production, yet she was able to portray the younger Bernadette convincingly from her youth in Lourdes until her passage into the convent of Nevers.

In a sense, The Song of Bernadette may be a historical film, yet believe it or not, it is not a religious propaganda film.  In reality, the Roman Catholic Church had actually refused to recognize Bernadette's visions as a miracle and had remained neutral on the entire matter for a very long time, a historical fact which is bravely reflected in the film. 

In fact, a great portion of the film is remarkably faithful to the actual events, although the scenes are presented with a somewhat melodramatic flair, a trait fairly common to these old Hollywood films.


Much of the film's middle portion, pertaining to these local civil authorities, seems slightly contrived in order to generate an antagonistic force to Bernadette's sincerity.

Vincent PriceVincent Price as the Imperial Prosecutor, Aubrey Mather as the opportunistic town Mayor, and Charles Dingle as Jacomet, the chief of police, are all decent in their roles (which have a basis in historical context), but they seem to exist in the film more for the sake of dramatic conflict than for any true significance to the story. 


Furthermore, the inclusion of good-hearted Antoine (William Eythe) as a potential (and thankfully unfulfilled) love interest is somewhat unnecessary considering the nature of the film, but such invented love interests were common practice for films in those days.  To some degree, perhaps the filmmakers felt that Bernadette was so angelic that they needed to introduce other flawed, emotional characters so as to balance the story. 

Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones) Charles BickfordOn the other hand, Charles Bickford is excellent as the crusty town priest who initially dismisses Bernadette but eventually believes in her, and Dame Gladys Cooper is beyond amazing as Sister Marie-Thérèse, the conflicted nun who formerly served as Bernadette's school teacher and who later doubts the word of a child she knew to be poorly schooled in religion.  Both actors were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances.


In the end, The Song of Bernadette is an extremely good film andBernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones) Gladys Cooper wonderful to behold.  In a way black & white photography is far superior to color in bringing out the true artistry of film images.

The Song of Bernadette offers a resounding case in point.  Arthur Miller's Oscar-winning cinematography is subtle but quite breath-taking and many of the scenes at the grotto and the Soubirous home are simply so luminous that they deserve to be re-watched several times. 
Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones)
Yet, as lovely as those scenes appear, the final sequences at the Saint Gildard's Convent are even better.  True, the film is over fifty years old, so some of the conventions of filmmaking and acting may seem dated to modern viewers, but the beauty of the film is beyond doubt.



This film is a lovely drama done in the classic Hollywood tradition and features many impressive performances.  Fans of the old Hollywood style may undoubtedly want to check out The Song of Bernadette, though I can also recommend any of the other Fox Studio Classics, too!  They are all truly great classic films!

Best of all, THE SONG OF BERNADETTE stands among a rare group of Hollywood films in which visual integrity is matched step for step with thematic zeal. 

Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones)








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