Jane Eyre Robert Stevenson

Jane Eyre (1944), based on Charlotte Bronte’s novel, pares down the story in classic Hollywood fashion to emphasise the tumultuous romance of the eponymous governess (Joan Fontaine) and the tortured Mr. Rochester (Orson Welles). The result is a superior example of the high-flown Hollywood romanticism of the period. Robert Stevenson (best known for Mary Poppins) directs with a fine eye for gothic effect, complementing Welles at his most grandiose. Yet one may prefer the earlier part of the film, which depicts Jane’s grim childhood. Richly detailed, with Jane’s cruel aunt and sadistic headmaster incarnated with Dickensian relish by Agnes Moorehead and Henry Daniell, respectively, these early scenes have a stark power, are laced with dark humour and possess a keen eye for the social milieu, bringing to mind Welles’s Citizen Kane and Magnificent Ambersons. Oddly, these scenes are more Welles-ian than the more conventionally romantic later passages featuring Welles. As enjoyable as Jane Eyre is, for the most part, you may come away wishing that Welles had chosen to direct the movie himself. The plentiful extras include two scholarly commentaries and a decent "making of” featurette. Much of the discussion concerns the extent of Welles’s influence on the film, in terms of the script, the deep-focus cinematography and the casting of Kane alumni Moorehead and others. The set also includes a trailer, stills and Know Your Ally Britain, a fascinating documentary made by Stevenson as part of his wartime service. (Fox)