Song of Bernadette Film Facts
Song of Bernadette is a 1943 film which tells the story of Saint
Bernadette Soubirous, who, in 1858 in Lourdes, France, had a
the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It stars Jennifer Jones,
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
It won Academy Awards for Best
Actress in a Leading Role (Jennifer
Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White, Best
Cinematography, Black-and-White and Best
of a Dramatic
or Comedy Picture.
Jennifer Jones won a
Golden Globe and an Oscar for her screen debut in
this true story.
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,
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.
story was recounted in the novel The Song Of
Bernadette (1942) by Franz Werfel.
The novel was a best
and the Fox Studios, seeing in it the potential for a truly
inspirational movie, quickly acquired the film rights.
of Bernadette (1943) was to become a major Fox production
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
was a protégé of the great Hollywood film
producer David O. Selznick (best known for his
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
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
But The Song of Bernadette
brought Jennifer Jones arguably
her best role and 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
convincingly from her youth in Lourdes
passage into the convent of
In a sense, The Song of Bernadette
may be a historical
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.
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.
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
On 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
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
wonderful to behold. In a way black & white
photography is far superior to color in bringing out the true artistry
of film images.
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