Johnny Belinda (1948)

Johnny Belinda (1948) is a drama which plays with noir and darkish overtones, dealing as it does with a subject matter that was new to the screen in 1948. 

Directed by Jean Negulesco, and based on the 1940 Broadway stage hit of the same name by Elmer Blaney Harris, Johnny Belinda was adapted for the screen by writers Allen Vincent and Irma von Cube.

The story is based on an incident that happened near Harris's summer residence in Fortune Bridge, Bay Fortune, Prince Edward Island. 

The title character is based on the real-life Lydia Dingwell (1852–1931), of Dingwells Mills, Prince Edward Island. The film dramatises the consequences of spreading lies and rumours, and the horror of rape. 

The latter subject had previously been prohibited by the Motion Picture Production Code. Johnny Belinda is therefore often considered to be the first Hollywood film for which the restriction was first relaxed since its implementation in 1934, and as such was controversial at the time of its initial release.

The film stars Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Charles Bickford, Agnes Moorehead, Stephen McNally, and Jan Sterling. Wyman's performance earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda (1948)

It was filmed on location in Fort Bragg, California.

The film was a huge financial success, earning $4,266,000 domestically and $2,721,000 foreign.

The film was the second most popular movie at the British box office in 1948.

A beautiful and edgy story which attacks ignorance, discrimination and rape.

Landscape photography in Johnny Belinda (1948)

Too realistic and serious in tone and approach to be film noir and more serious than the customary the commitment from Hollywood, Johnny Belinda uses noir colour and photography where need be, and as well as that the commitment of everybody in the film is noticeable. 

Jane Wyman at the age of 31 looks like a teenager. There is Lew Ayres, Charles Bickford, Agnes Moorhead, Steven McNally and Jan Sterling. 

Jan Sterling in Johnny Belinda (1948)

Charles Bickford in Johnny Belinda (1948)

Stephen McNally in Johnny Belinda (1948)

Keen clean direction by Jean Negulesco, who really works his heart and soul into this.

This film is also a significant and rare sighting of Lew Ayres, whose career was over when he became a conscientious objector in World War II. People understood conscientious objectors better in the Vietnam era and during World War II, it wasn't understood. Ayres did serve as a medic in World War II. When he came back, Warner Brothers cast him in this and he won an Oscar.

Rape scene from Johnny Belinda (1948) with Jane Wyman and Stephen McNally

The story of a lonely young woman living on a farm in the desolate Cape Breton and the doctor who takes an interest in her, teaching her sign language, is a beautiful one. 

The screenplay by Irma Von Cube and Allen Vincent is stunning. This film swept the 1948 Oscars.

Moments such as her discovery of music and her sign-reading of the Lord's Prayer are just lovely to behold and carried out with a skill exceeding those of the best silent screen actors. Jane Wyman's Oscar was well deserved.

Johnny Belinda would not be as powerful or moving without the black-and-white photography and Max Steiner's lovely score, one of his finest. 

Warner Bros. deserve credit too for taking on this subject, as the rape of a deaf character was hardly typical screen fare in the 1940s, and above all handled it in a tasteful manner.

McNally is the town bully who rapes Belinda, a mute girl being coached to understand sign language by resident doctor, Lew Ayres. The plot thickens when Belinda's father (Charles Bickford) finds out and the story spins toward a taut, melodramatic climax.

Jane Wyman and Lew Ayres

The scenes between Belinda and her father are memorable I love the scenes between Belinda and the doctor, as they communicate and she learns the words for tree and day, and so forth, continue to charm.

The movie is not exactly one about an individual character named Johnny Belinda, but that of Belinda MacDonald, a deaf mute girl who gives birth to a child she calls Johnny. 

Although quite confusing in regards to name reference, and because its subject matter is of quintessential historic importance and affection for its handling of dark subject matter, so beautifully, Johnny Belinda (1948) does still honour the Johnny Noir category — for any reason — that it features so many fine film noir actors and themes classic film noir remains deeply down with baby Johnny.

Johnny Belinda (1948) is notable for addressing the topic of sexual assault, specifically the rape of a deaf-mute woman named Belinda McDonald, played by Jane Wyman. The film is significant for its time in portraying the aftermath of the assault and exploring the social and personal consequences.

While Johnny Belinda is an early example of a Hollywood film addressing rape and its impact, it's essential to note that discussions around sexual assault and related issues had occurred in earlier films as well, although perhaps not as explicitly. 

Films like Outrage (1950), directed by Ida Lupino, also addressed the topic of rape. However, these early portrayals were often more circumspect and may not have explored the issue as openly or explicitly as later films.

Charles Bickford and Lew Ayres

As societal attitudes and censorship standards evolved, filmmakers gained more freedom to address sensitive subjects. Subsequent decades saw an increase in films addressing sexual assault and its impact, contributing to a broader and more nuanced cinematic exploration of the topic.

Jean Negulesco was a film director known for his work in Hollywood from the 1940s through the 1960s. While he directed films in various genres, some common themes and elements can be identified in his body of work.

Stephen McNally and Charles Bickford

Negulesco often directed films with strong female characters and explored their complexities. "Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954) and "How to Marry a Millionaire" (1953) are examples where female characters take center stage.

Many of Negulesco's films delve into the dynamics of relationships, whether romantic, familial, or friendship. "Phone Call from a Stranger" (1952) and "Three Coins in the Fountain" are examples that involve intricate relationships.

Some of Negulesco's films address social and class issues. Johnny Belinda (1948) tackled themes of prejudice, while The Best of Everything (1959) explored the lives of women working in a New York publishing company, touching on issues of class and gender.

Negulesco directed several films that incorporated elements of film noir. Road House (1948) and The Mask of Dimitrios (1944) are examples where he explored darker and more suspenseful themes.

Negulesco's films often featured exotic or international locations. Three Coins in the Fountain and Boy on a Dolphin (1957) are examples of films with lush, visually appealing settings.

Negulesco had a background in art, having studied at the Bucharest Academy of Fine Arts. This artistic sensibility is reflected in his attention to visual aesthetics and composition in his films.

Johnny Belinda (1948)

Cinematography Ted McCord

Edited by David Weisbart

Music by Max Steiner

Distributed by Warner Bros.

Release date September 14, 1948

Running time 102 minutes

Country United States

Budget $1,631,000

Johnny Belinda (1948) on Wikipedia

No comments:

Post a Comment