If I recall correctly, the 1944 version of Jane Eyre is considered a classic by many. This is my first time watching it, though. My first impression- it was very gothic. Quite dark and ominous with eerie music adding to the look and feel. This was quite a stark contrast to the 1934 version, that’s for sure! It was much more faithful to the novel than 1934, but it still changed quite a bit as well.
Joane Fontaine as Jane Eyre
She was very…subdued. Too much so, in fact. Her performance wasn’t horrible but she played it as just too restrained. And of course, although she claimed to be plain, she’s clearly beautiful.
Orson Welles as Edward Rochester
His Rochester is pretty jerky and really stresses the dark, “troubled” side of his character. His joking/humorous side is not brought into play at all.
Peggy Ann Garner as young Jane
Her British accent wasn’t perfect but I thought she did a decent job.
Elizabeth Taylor as Helen Burns
Yes, that’s Elizabeth Taylor. She was uncredited for some reason, but her face looked so familiar when watching that I had to look it up. Wasn’t she so gorgeous already at a young age? Her piety was cut out from this (I think it is in every version!) but she did a good job with the character’s kindness and selflessness. And, as is common in the adaptation, she is the one to get her hair cut.
Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Reed
Her role was cut down quite a bit. I don’t think her daughters are in it at all, and John hitting Jane is only dealt with after the fact. Jane goes back to Gateshead after leaving Rochester and Mrs. Reed does not have the book conversation with her. She just wants Jane to stay with her as she’s dying.
John Sutton as Dr. Rivers
Not St. John, Jane’s cousin, but Lowood’s kindly doctor who counsels Jane as a child and again as an adult. He kind of takes the place of Miss Temple. Um, why? They didn’t have time for the whole Rivers coincidence at the end? I dunno.
Edith Barrett as Mrs. Fairfax
Her role was pretty minimal. That’s all I got to say.
Henry Daniell as Mr. Brocklehurst
His character was pretty much true to the book, but he never lost any power at Lowood in this. Like 1934, he’s still in total control when Jane is grown up. In this one, he offers her the job as teacher but she refuses.
Hillary Brooke as Blanche Ingram
I thought she was fine in her limited role, but her and Rochester’s falling out was changed. It’s all shown on screen and Rochester directly confronts her for going after him for his money.
Margaret O’Brien as Adele Varens
I thought she was very cute, sweet, and innocent, although a bit of a coquette.
This version was certainly more faithful than 1934 and much better made on the whole, yet I’m afraid I don’t share the love a lot of people seem to have for it. It still changed a bit too much for me and was at times overly dark.
My Rating: 7/10