Home Twentieth Century Fox's  Movie The Song of Bernadette Starring: In 1858 France, Bernadette, an adolescent peasant girl, has a vision of "a beautiful lady" in the city dump. She never claims it to be anything other than this, but the townspeople all assume it to be the virgin Mary. The pompous government officials think she is nuts, and do their best to suppress the girl and her followers, and the church wants nothing to do with the whole matter. But as Bernadette attracts wider and wider attention, the phenomenon overtakes everyone in the the town, and transforms their lives.

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

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

Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones)

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How it all began

Franz Werfel wrote a best-selling account of BBernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones) The Song of Bernadetteernadette's story in 1942 and Twentieth Century Fox wasted no time in buying the rights to the book and developing a screen treatment that was to be their most ambitious and expensive project of the year.

They wanted a newcomer with an unblemished image for the title role.

The search resulted in a large number of actresses being tested (reportedly over 2000) and Anne Baxter, Teresa Wright, Linda Darnell and Gene Tierney were all possible contenders.Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones) The Song of Bernadette

David O. Selznick immediately utilized his influence in obtaining a screen test for Jennifer (still know as Phylis Isley) and she was put on a train to make the cross country trip.  On the way, she read Werfel's book. 

The screen test proved to be crucial in securing Jennifer the part of Bernadette. 

Henry King, who directed the film, also directed the screen test. For the test, he asked the actresses to look at a stick behind the camera and pretend that they were looking at the vision of the Virgin Mary.

The Song of BernadetteWhen the results were viewed side by side, King said that it was clear that Jennifer was the only actress who actually "saw", the others "looked".  The part was immediately hers.

Filming began in March of 1943 and would take 6 months to complete. 

The cast included some of Twentieth Century Fox's best character actors. 

Charles Bickford would portray Dean Peyramale and would become a close personal friend to Jennifer. 

Vincent Price played the  hard hearted prosecutor Dutour.

Anne Revere would be memorable as Bernadette's fierce but devoted mother. 

And in an unforgettable performance, the venerable Gladys Cooper played Sister Vauzous, a nun whose  jealousy of Bernadette is quite chilling.

The Noval that started it all by Author Franz Werfel

The movie was based on the historical novel by Jewish author Franz Werfel, the beloved classic "The Song of Bernadette"


"In the last days of June 1940, in flight from our mortal enemies after the collapse of France, my wife and I reached the village of Lourdes. We hid for several weeks.

The British radio announced that I had been murdered by the Nazis. The Song of Bernadette

Nor did I doubt that such would be my fate were I to fall into their hands. It was a time of great dread but also a time of great significance for me, for I became acquainted with the wondrous history of the girl Bernadette Soubirous.

I made a vow. I vowed that if I escaped from this desperate situation and reached the saving shores of America, I would put off all other tasks and sing The Song Of Bernadette.
Our Lady of Lourdes
All the happenings which constitute my book took place in the world of reality – their truth confirmed by faithful testimonies of friend and foe.

I have dared to sing The Song Of Bernadette, although I am not a Catholic, but a Jew; and I drew courage for this undertaking from a far older vow of mine:

That I would evermore and everywhere in all I wrote magnify the divine mystery and the holiness of man – careless of a period which has turned away with scorn and rage and indifference from these ultimate values of our mortal lot."
stands head and shoulders over most religiously themed fare from Hollywood’s golden age.

  Franz Werfel, May 1941

The Song of Bernadette is presented in a blSong of Bernadetteack & white, full-frame format.  The film's original nitrate negative no longer exists, but an original era nitrate composite dupe negative was still available.  A copy was made from this negative and was used to create the fine grain master print that is the source for this DVD's transfer.

DVD Restoration
The image quality is simply incredible.  The black & white photography is very sharp and crystal clear, and the contrast level is very deep and quite excellent.  TSong of Bernadettehis film looks fantastic. 

A restoration featurette provided on the DVD shows just how much care was given to restoring this wonderful film into a new-pristine shape.

The restoration segment clearly shows the improvement between the film's image quality in a decent 1993 print to the current excellent print (with and without digital clean-up of dust and debris).  While there are still a few dust marks here and there, the presentation of The Song of Bernadette on this DVD is as good as you'll ever see the film.

The Song of Bernadette can be listened to in either English stereo, English mono, or Spanish mono.  For a change with the Fox Song of BernadetteClassics series, the stereo and mono tracks are not too different from one another.  Keep in mind that this is an old film, so the sound can be a little thin or reedy at times, and the subwoofer will not get much of a work-out here.

Nonetheless, the film sounds just fine, all the better with which to hear Alfred Newman's great score!  Newman's specialty was his soaring violins, and he used them wisely with choral arrangements in this film to set a reverent tone for the proceedings.  The Song of Bernadette was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won quite a handful, one of them a well-deserved nod for Newman's score.

*** Features ***

As with all the Fox Studio Classic DVDs, this DVD has a number of goodies.  Among the smaller feaBernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones)tures are a short newsreel in which Jennifer Jones accepts an award from American GIs, a restoration featurette in which before-and-after shots are shown of the film's restoration, and a wealth of trailers (eight in all) for all the currently available DVDs in the Fox Studio Classics collection.

The main feature is a segment from the regular
A & E Biography show
.  This hour-long segment focuses upon Jennifer Jones and provides a good overview of her early life and her career.  Viewers who are unfamiliar with the star may be surprised to learn the degree of influence that legendary producer David O. Selznick provided for much of her career.  He recognized BERNADETTE of Lourdesa certain luminous quality about her, which is startlingly clear in an early screen-test of her (included in this feature).  In truth, Selznick almost single-handedly made Jennifer Jones into a Hollywood star.

Lastly, there is a commentary track.  The narrative duties are shared by three commentators: Edward Epstein, an author of a biography on Jennifer Jones; John Burlingame, a biographer on the great film composer Alfred Newman; and Donald Spoto, a film historian and theologist. Together, they have a great deal to say about the film. 

Of the three, Burlingame is the most vocal.  The Song of BernadetteHe also makes no secret of his opinion that Alfred Newman's score is one of the finest in all of film history and is of incalculable importance in creating the film's atmosphere and lasting ability to move audiences. 

Epstein, of course, offers much insight into Jennifer Jones' public and private life while Spoto discusses the film's spirituality and commendable faithfulness to the actual historical events.

IMDB on The Song of Bernadette

A Visit to Lourdes

Lourdes, France

Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones)

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