A marvelous movie watching month! Jennifer Jones was TCM’s Star of the Month, and I’m really glad I checked out a handful of her films. I consider myself a fan now. She was such a sensitive actress, lending much of her own vulnerability to the characters she vividly brought to life.
So here are my favorite first time watches:
The Glass Slipper (1955) dir: Charles Waters
A super lovely Cinderella adaptation which reminds me why that particular fairy tale is so beloved and constantly being reworked. In this version, Leslie Caron plays Ella, a feisty and friendless orphan who lashes out at everyone else. She is neither meek nor mild, but is treated badly so she dares to stand up for herself. Her fairy godmother is an old woman that the other villagers treat with disdain because she’s batty as well as a thief. But the two strike up a friendship. Ella meets the prince before the ball, which is a narrative decision I always love in these Cinderella retellings. A very sweet and authentic film.
The Red Mill (1927) dir: Roscoe Arbuckle as William Goodrich
Absolutely hilarious and starring Marion Davies. who was a brilliant comedienne. She plays a Dutch barmaid who is cruelly mistreated by her sadistic boss. She falls in love with a handsome visitor who ignores her at first, then gets herself into a huge mess by pretending to be someone else.
The Parent Trap (1961) dir: David Swift
Pure delight, pure 60s awesomeness. I loved Hayley Mills’ outfits so much, and Maureen O’Hara was just luminous. I loved the music in this film by the Sherman Brothers long before actually sitting down to watch it. The 1999 version has some competition for my affection now.
An American Tail (1986) dir: Don Bluth
Don Bluth is considered one of the masters of American animation, and here’s one of the reasons why. A beautiful ode to immigrants with Russian-Jewish mice. The film is also stunningly animated, with some shots that made me gasp. The hues are all warm, soft, and sparkling. It’s a film with a lot of heart and memorable, lovable characters.
Man’s Castle (1933) dir: Frank Borzage
An eloquent pre code from one of the best. Trina (Loretta Young) is a homeless waif who gets taken in by the gruff Bill (Spencer Tracy). A poor man himself, he’s learned to get by using his brains and charm. Trina falls in love with Bill, who teases her and claims that he’ll never be tied down. It’s amazing how much story unfolds in such little time, a well paced drama that’s never overly sentimental. Loretta Young was also so luminous; her beauty just makes me think of saints in stained glass windows.
Jennifer Jones films:
The Song of Bernadette (1943) dir: Henry King
One of those rare faith films that can connect to the audience no matter if they’re religious or not. This film was three hours long but it was consistently engaging. Jennifer Jones made a perfect Bernadette; such conviction, innocence. and purity. The film also features a typically wonderful Vincent Price.
Love Letters (1945) dir: William Dieterle
Jones was paired with Joseph Cotten in this haunting love story between an amnesiac and a former soldier. She was found guilty of killing her husband, who was also his friend, but the two fall for each other anyway. This is where Jones’ vulnerability was so prominent to me. She seemed like such a fragile person onscreen, someone you want to protect. Really a tremendous performance.
Cluny Brown (1946) dir: Ernst Lubitsch
At first I couldn’t picture Jones in a comedy, and then I watched Cluny Brown. She plays the eponymous heroine, an aspiring plumber. Her dreams shock the prim English society she’s part of, but she charms political refugee Adam Belinksi (Charles Boyer).
Portrait of Jennie (1948) dir: William Dieterle
Oh my soul. The final teaming of Jones and Cotten, in one of the most exquisite love stories. I read the novel by Robert Nathan, which is so lyrical in its prose, and the film retained that essence. This is a story for people who love classic films and fall in love with people from the past. It’s a film for all those who love ghosts too. A film about artistic inspiration and the headiness of passionate love. And it looks gorgeous too. Evocative, shimmering images, and one scene at the climax that reminded me of a color tinted silent film. Jennifer Jones was at the height of her beauty and her ability in my opinion. This one is strongly recommended.