How it all began
a best-selling account of Bernadette's story in 1942
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.
wanted a newcomer with an
unblemished image for the title role.
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
O. Selznick immediately utilized
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.
screen test proved to be crucial
in securing Jennifer the part of Bernadette.
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.
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.
March of 1943 and would take 6 months to complete.
included some of Twentieth Century
Fox's best character actors.
Bickford would portray Dean Peyramale and would become a
personal friend to Jennifer.
Price played the hard
hearted prosecutor Dutour.
would be memorable as
Bernadette's fierce but devoted mother.
in an unforgettable
performance, the venerable Gladys
Sister Vauzous, a
nun whose jealousy of Bernadette is quite chilling.
- Franz Werfel, May 1941
The Noval that started it all by Author
The movie was based on the historical novel by Jewish author Franz Werfel, the
beloved classic "The Song
"In the last days of June 1940, in flight from
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.
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
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.
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
Bernadette, although I am not a Catholic, but a Jew; and I drew
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.
The Song of Bernadette is
presented in a black & 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
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. This film looks
A restoration featurette
provided on the DVD shows
just how much care was given to restoring this wonderful film into a
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.
Song of Bernadette
can be listened to in either English stereo,
English mono, or Spanish mono. For a change with the Fox Classics
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
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 features 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
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 a 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
Of the three, Burlingame is the
most vocal. He 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
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
IMDB on The Song of Bernadette