The Song of Bernadette
Sunday January, 29 2017 at 12:00 PM
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The Song of Bernadette (1943), which tells the story of an adolescent peasant girl who has a vision of a "beautiful lady" presumed to be the Virgin Mary, is set in 1858, primarily in the village of Lourdes, France. Although he shot the film almost entirely at the Hollywood studios of 20th Century Fox, Arthur C. Miller captured the film's atmosphere so artfully that he won an Academy Award for Best Black and White Cinematography. "The village was built on the back lot at the studio and was an extensive construction job," Miller recalled in the 1967 book One Reel a Week, which he co-authored. "The grotto where Bernadette saw her vision was a massive plaster job with rock ledges and other details." Despite the artificiality of the setting, Miller wrote that he experienced an "everything's perfect" feeling during filming. That sensation, he added, came to him only a few times in his 36-year career, which also included Oscars for How Green Was My Valley (1941) and Anna and the King of Siam (1946).
The Song of Bernadette also won Oscars® for Best Actress (Jennifer Jones), Art Direction and Music Score, and was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Charles Bickford), Supporting Actresses (Gladys Cooper and Anne Revere), Screenplay, Editing and Sound Recording. Jones' award was presented by Greer Garson, a fellow nominee for Madame Curie (1943) and the previous year's winner for Mrs. Miniver (1942). Always shy in crowds, Jones trembled as she spoke her brief thanks and, once off the podium, burst into tears.
Jones, protegee and later wife of producer David O. Selznick, was chosen for the role of Bernadette among what Fox claimed to be 2,000 applicants and a handful of finalists who made screen tests Ð among them Linda Darnell and Anne Baxter. Director King would recall, "A man stood behind the camera waving a stick. The other five did very well; but only Jennifer looked as if she saw a vision." Although studio press agents claimed that The Song of Bernadette was Jones' film debut, it was eventually discovered that under the name Phyllis Isley she had acted at RKO in a Dick Tracy serial and a "B" Western with John Wayne. The studio kept quiet about Jones' troubled marriage to fellow actor Robert Walker and their two children, leaving the press to assume she was single. Some Hollywood columnists, notably Louella Parsons, were resentful to learn later that they had been duped. Industry insiders reportedly had a good laugh from the casting of Darnell, the "current paramour" of studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, as the Virgin Mary.
Director: Henry King
Producer: William Perlberg
Screenwriter: George Seaton
Cinematographer: Arthur C. Miller
Music: Alfred Newman
Editor: Barbara McLean
Art Director: James Basevi, William S. Darling
Costume Designer: Rene Hubert
Cast: Jennifer Jones (Bernadette Soubirous), Charles Bickford (Peyramale Dean of Lourdes), William Eythe (Antoine Nocolau), Gladys Cooper (Sister Vauzous), Vincent Price (Dutour), Lee J. Cobb (Dr. Dozous), Anne Revere (Louis Soubirous), Tala Birell (Madame Bruat).
by Roger Fristoe