Selected Classics: The Song of Bernadette (1943)

The Song of Bernadette

I’m starting a ‘Selected Classics’ line of posts as a part of my own foray into the world of classic movies that I hadn’t seen until recently, but were really worth the watch. The first is this dear film starring Jennifer Jones, The Song of Bernadette.

This is a beautiful movie. It is based on the real life story of the experiences of Bernadette Soubirous, who reportedly saw visions of Mary at Massabielle in Lourdes, France, from February to July 1858, and who received much criticism, as well as many followers for it. The film was adapted from The New York Times Best Seller novel by Franz Werfel, which also depicts the story of Bernadette.

Bernadette Soubirous is played by a young Jennifer Jones, who does an amazing job of portraying the wonder and innocence of Bernadette. The fact that she is such an endearing character was the biggest appeal of this movie for me. I like the depth in the other characters, too, especially that of her family, who teeter between taking cruel, sensible, and understanding stances, capturing the complexity of the situation. Even though it can be frustrating for the audience to watch the cruelty, it comes across as realistic that not everyone in this story leans strictly one way or the other.

Vincent Price and Jennifer Jones in ‘The Song of Bernadette’ 

The Song of Bernadette was directed by Henry King, famous for making excellent literary adaptations, including the 1945 film A Bell for Adano and The Sun Also Rises in 1957. It co-stars Charles Bickford as Abbé Dominique Peyramale, William Eythe as Antoine Nicoleau, Gladys Cooper as Marie Therese Vauzou, and a skeptical Vincent Price as Imperial Prosecutor Vital Dutour, Jennifer Jones won the 1943 Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in the film.

I highly recommend The Song of Bernadette because it is an intriguing story told with interesting characters and superb acting. The special effects work because they are subtle, and the film itself is sublime in its subtle beauty.

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