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With help from novelist Aldous Huxley and Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater collaborator John Houseman, director Robert Stevenson mounted this 1944 adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's gothic romance, Jane Eyre. After several years in an orphanage, where she was placed for being "willful”, Jane Eyre (Joan Fontaine) becomes a governess. Her little charge, French-accented Adele (Peggy Ann Garner), is pleasant enough, but Jane's employer, the brooding Rochester (Orson Welles), terrifies the prim young governess. Under Jane's gentle influence, Rochester drops his forbidding veneer, falling in love and proposing marriage to her. It is revealed that Rochester is still married to his lunatic first wife, whom he is forced to keep locked in his attic. Rochester reluctantly sends Jane away, but she returns, only to find that his insane wife has burned down the mansion and blinded Rochester. The now helpless Rochester becomes more endearing to Jane Eyre. The presence of Orson Welles in the cast, coupled with the dark style of the direction and photography, has led some critics to conclude that Welles, and not Stevenson, was the director. Welles contributed ideas throughout the filming; also, the script was heavily influenced by the Mercury Theater on the Air radio version of Jane Eyre, on which Welles, John Houseman and musical director Bernard Herrmann all collaborated. This 1944 film, JANE EYRE, was made at a studio disinclined to promote the auteur theory; like most Fox productions, this is a work by committee rather than the product of one man. Despite that particular creative process, this version (there are three earlier film versions) is head and shoulders above the rest. Keep an eye out for an un-credited Elizabeth Taylor as the sickly orphanage friend of young Jane Eyre (played as child by Margaret O'Brien).

Director(s): Robert Stevenson
Cast: Joan Fontaine, Peggy Ann Garner, Margaret O'Brien, John Sutton, Orson Welles
Run Time: 1h 37min
Cinema Date: 1943
Distributor: 20th Century Fox