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Portrait of Jennie

Portrait of Jennie

5.0 4
Director: William Dieterle

Cast: Joseph Cotten, Jennifer Jones, Ethel Barrymore


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In Portrait of Jennie, Joseph Cotten plays an artist, Eben Adams, who is unable to bring any true feeling to his work. While painting in Central Park one morning, Eben makes the acquaintance of a schoolgirl named Jennie (Jennifer Jones), who prattles on about things that happened years ago. Intrigued at her thorough knowledge of


In Portrait of Jennie, Joseph Cotten plays an artist, Eben Adams, who is unable to bring any true feeling to his work. While painting in Central Park one morning, Eben makes the acquaintance of a schoolgirl named Jennie (Jennifer Jones), who prattles on about things that happened years ago. Intrigued at her thorough knowledge of the past, Eben is about to converse with her further, but Jennie has vanished. Over the next few months, Eben meets Jennie again and again -- and each time she seems to have aged by several years. He paints her portrait, which turns out to be more full of expression and emotion than anything he's previously done. His curiosity peaked by Jennie's enigmatic nature, Eben uncovers evidence that he has been conversing -- and falling in love -- with the ghost of a girl who died years earlier in a hurricane. On the eve of the hurricane's anniversary, Eben rushes to meet Jennie at the site where she was supposedly killed. As a new storm rages, Jennie vanishes for good, but not before declaring that the love she and Eben have shared will live forever. Rescued from the storm, Eben convinces himself that Jennie was a mere figment of his imagination. Then he notices that he stills clutches her scarf in his hand. He looks at his portrait of Jennie (the only Technicolor shot in this otherwise black-and-white film) and understands what she meant when she said that their love would endure throughout eternity; it will do so through Cotten's art, both the portrait at hand and all future portraits. Based on the novel by Robert Nathan, Portrait of Jennie is one of the most beautifully assembled fantasies ever presented onscreen. Producer David O. Selznick's unerring eye for "rightness" enabled him to select the perfect stars, supporting cast (Lillian Gish, Ethel Barrymore, David Wayne, Cecil Kellaway, et al.), director, cinematographer (Joseph August), and composer (Dimitri Tiomkin, who based his themes on the works of Debussy), and blend everything into one ideally balanced package.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Romantic fantasies like Portrait of Jennie are remarkably hard to pull off. A children's fantasy, like The Wizard of Oz, is easier, because it's already one step removed from reality. But pictures like Jennie are grounded in the real world, and the tone has to be kept exactly right or else the project veers perilously off into whimsy or preciousness; even a slight detour can be fatal, and it is to Jennie's -- and director William Dieterle's -- credit that this never happens here. It's not that Jennie is perfect; the opening narration is ponderous and pretentious, and one does get a little tired of hearing the title character described as having such a mysterious, airy quality about her, to cite just two examples. But these flaws don't intrude on the reality/fantasy mix, and they're easy to forgive, especially given how on the mark the screenplay generally is. And Dieterle provides near perfect direction, full of beauty and sensitivity. Best of all, Jennie has Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten. Jones may have won her Oscar for The Song of Bernadette, but her work in Jennie is better and is arguably the finest of her career. She perfectly conveys the many different ages of the character, and though her appearances are sporadic and cover a range of time, she finds a through line for the character so that she creates a full portrait rather than bits and pieces. Cotten is sublime, capturing the moodiness and self-pity of his character, as well as the anger and bitterness underneath, but making him at all times likeable and someone whom we care for and about. The supporting cast is also strong, with Ethel Barrymore's lovely patroness, clearly in love with Cotten but aware that it's a no-win situation, especially noteworthy. Throw in cinematography and a score that are equals in atmosphere, and the result is a glorious romance.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
20th Century Fox

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Joseph Cotten Eben Adams
Jennifer Jones Jennie Appleton
Ethel Barrymore Miss Spinney
David Wayne Gus O'Toole
Florence Bates Mrs. Jekes the Landlady
Lillian Gish Mother Mary of Mercy
Cecil Kellaway Mr. Matthews
Esther Somers Mrs. Bunce
Albert Sharpe Mr. Moore
John Farrell Policeman
Felix Bressart Pete
Maude Simmons Clara Morgan
Clem Bevans Capt. Cobb
Robert Dudley Old Mariner
Henry Hull Eke
Anne Francis Teenager
Brian Keith Ice-skating extra

Technical Credits
William Dieterle Director
Joseph H. August Cinematographer
Lucinda Ballard Costumes/Costume Designer
Leonardo Bercovici Screenwriter
Peter Berneis Screenwriter
Mel Berns Makeup
Mel Burns Makeup
Claude E. Carpenter Set Decoration/Design
Paul Eagler Special Effects
David Hempstead Associate Producer
Bernard Herrmann Score Composer,Songwriter
J. McMillan Johnson Production Designer,Special Effects
Anna Hill Johnstone Costumes/Costume Designer
William Morgan Editor
Paul Osborn Screenwriter
Joseph B. Platt Art Director
David O. Selznick Producer
Clarence Slifer Special Effects
Dimitri Tiomkin Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Gerard J. Wilson Editor

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Portrait of Jennie 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't seen Somewhere in Time yet, nor have I read the book. But those could only be rip-offs of this one. Can watch and re-watch and read and re-read "Jennie". Book and movie end differently, but no matter. Nathan also has written other books on the theme of the eternity of love and also on the beauty of death-but-love-not-dying. He's also a poet, which is why his prose is so gor-jus.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Years ago, I saw this movie on television, and I was completely mesmerized by, not only the beauty of the black and white cinematography, but by the haunting film-noir style. The music is captivating. I know you will love this beautiful film, as much as so many of us did, when we first viewed it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Yes, this is a 'classic', but evenaside from that, this is a moviefor everyone's library! I won't getinto the story except to say that itworks on various levels: a lovestory, a metaphor, psychological,mystical -- it's all of these. I sawthis movie for the first time manyyears ago in an art theater and ithas stayed with me ever since. ThisDVD doesn't have the bonus extraseveryone likes, but the quality isworthwhile all around. Numerousscenes in the movie are some of thefinest black-and-whites a fan willever find. The movie was purposelyfilmed to provide settings, shots,that in themselves look like paintings, artwork to lovingly display on walls. The story hasmeaning for artists, musicians,poets as well as for those intometaphysical and philosophicalleanings. 'Jennie' representsTruth; keep that in mind whenviewing it, and see what enfoldsin thought! It's great that Barnesand Noble is carrying this, and atan excellent price.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago