Review: ‘Johnny Belinda’

Johnny Belinda is a story that easily could have become a display of scenery-chewing theatrics. It has its theatrics but they spring from a rather earnest development of story fundamentals, tastefully handled. Jean Negulesco's direction never overplays the heart-strings, yet keeps them constantly twanging, and evidences a sympathetic instinct that is reflected in the performance.

Johnny Belinda is a story that easily could have become a display of scenery-chewing theatrics. It has its theatrics but they spring from a rather earnest development of story fundamentals, tastefully handled. Jean Negulesco’s direction never overplays the heart-strings, yet keeps them constantly twanging, and evidences a sympathetic instinct that is reflected in the performance.

[In this adaptation of the stage play by Elmer Harris,] Jane Wyman portrays a mute slattern completely devoid of film glamour. It is a personal success; a socko demonstration that an artist can shape a mood and sway an audience through projected emotions without a spoken word.

Plot essentials cover a deaf-mute girl, dwelling with her father and resentful aunt on a barren farm in Nova Scotia. A village romeo rapes her. She has a baby and events move forward until the deaf-mute kills her ravisher when he tries to take the baby. She is tried for murder.

Charles Bickford walks off with the assignment of Belinda’s father. His handling of the part of the dour Scot farmer registers strongly, pulling audience interest all the way.

1948: Best Actress (Jane Wyman).

Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Lew Ayres), Supp. Actor (Charles Bickford), Supp. Actress (Agnes Moorehead), Screenplay, B&W Cinematogrpahy, B&W Art Direction, Editing, Score of a Dramatic Picture, Sound

Johnny Belinda

Production

Warner. Director Jean Negulesco; Producer Jerry Wald; Screenplay Irmgard von Cube, Allen Vincent; Camera Ted McCord; Editor David Weisbart; Music Max Steiner; Art Director Robert M. Haas

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1948. Running time: 101 MIN.

With

Jane Wyman Lew Ayres Charles Bickford Agnes Moorehead Stephen McNally Jan Sterling
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