Portrait of Jennie is an unusual screen romance. The story of an ethereal romance between two generations is told with style, taste and dignity.
William Dieterle has given the story sensitive direction and his guidance contributes considerably toward the top performances from the meticulously cast players.
The script, by Paul Osborn and Peter Berneis, taken from Robert Nathan’s novel, deals simply with an artist living in New York in the 1930s. His work lacks depth and it is only when he meets a strange child in the park one day that inspiration to paint people comes. The elfish quality of the child stimulates a sketch. It is appreciated by art dealers and he builds the child’s physical being in his mind until the next time she appears he sees her as a girl just entering her teens. Her growth moves into college years and then as a graduate while he, meantime, is discovering she is a person who has been dead for years.
Jennifer Jones’ performance in standout. Her miming ability gives a quality to the four ages she portrays – from a small girl through the flowering woman. Ingenuity in makeup also figures importantly in sharpening the portrayal.
Joseph Cotten endows the artist with a top performance, matching the compelling portrayal by Jones.
[Original release prints featured a Technicolor sequence in the final reel.]
1948: Best Special Effects.
Nomination: Best B&W Cinematography