Thursday, October 25, 2018

Portrait of Jennie

Early in William Dieterle's Portrait of Jennie, starving artist Eben Adams (Joseph Cotten) manages to sell a sketch to sympathetic art dealer Miss Spinney (Ethel Barrymore). Soon after, he meets a peculiar girl named Jennie (Jennifer Jones). Her ways spark a fountain of inspiration in Eben but what's the story on Jennie?

The last of four films starring Cotten and Jones (the other being Since You Went Away, Love Letters, and Duel in the Sun), Portrait of Jennie has a more ethereal ambiance than their previous collaborations. (Seeing as how Dieterle also made the likes of A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Devil and Daniel Webster, such a story wasn't too much of a stretch for him.) And bear in mind that this wasn't a big hit upon its release (though it has been vindicated by the passage of time).

Anyway, both Cotten and Jones were big box-office draws at the time (with Jones having several Oscar nominations and a win to her name). And as mentioned before, they've worked together before so the studio (read: most likely David O. Selznick) saw lightning striking again. Though none of the principal players are around anymore, their work lives on.

But what can be said of Portrait of Jennie without giving anything away? Perhaps what could be mentioned is that it's different from the various romances of the decade. It's a gradual build-up with Eben and Jennie's relationship, not an immediate love at first sight scenario. How often did you see that in older films?

Portrait of Jennie was very different from the many films of the era, and its originality makes it stand out among them. A slew of them are generally one-sided with romance but Dieterle makes sure not to do the same. (Doesn't always work but he at least tries.)

My Rating: ****

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