Monday, December 16, 2013

Joan Fontaine. In Memoriam

Countless websites are reporting the death of Joan Fontaine (1917-2013) at 96. One of the key roles of her acting career was the title character in Jane Eyre 1944 as many of said websites recall.

 The Guardian looks back on her career in clips.

Fontaine goes up against another cinematic titan, in this case Orson Welles, in wonderful voice as Mr Rochester in this adaptation of the Charlotte Brontë novel. Clearly by this stage Fontaine was making a speciality of playing timid – but resourceful – women way out of their depth.
Variety remembers that,
During WWII, Fontaine worked for the Red Cross and did some of her best work, such as “The Constant Nymph” and “Jane Eyre.” (Richard Natale)
USA Today says something along the same lines:
Fontaine scored a third best-actress Oscar nomination for her role in The Constant Nymph in 1943, and had notable turns as Charlotte Bronte's heroine in Jane Eyre in 1944 with Orson Welles, as well as roles in 1950's September Affair and in 1957's Island in the Sun. (Scott Bowles)
The Hollywood Reporter also deems her role in Jane Eyre 'notable'.

When looking at her roles directed by Alfred Hitchcock, The Star-Ledger says,
Both Hitchcock films cast Fontaine as quiet, even mousy young women who eventually revealed an inner core of resilience, a quality she also brought to "Jane Eyre" in 1944. (Stephen Whitty)
More obituaries: The Washington Post, Reuters, The New York Times, People, The Irish Independent, BBC News, The Independent, etc.

EDIT 17 December:

The Wrap highlights '4 of the Actress’ Essential Performances', one of which is Jane Eyre:
Fontaine personified the shy and unassuming governess in one of the most memorable adaptations of  Charlotte Brontë’s novel. It’s a film that ably captures the mist and shadows of the book’s Gothic backdrop.
Orson Welles has the showier part as the tortured Rochester, but Fontaine gives a restrained and effective performance as the strong-willed orphan who falls in love. In many ways, her’s is the more impressive feat, as she remains naturalistic and steel-willed while Welles rages. (Brent Lang)
El País (Spain) also highlights some of her most memorable roles, although the summary of the novel/film they provide is rather 'sketchy' (to put it mildly):
Joan Fontaine se puso en la piel de Jane Eyre (Alma rebelde), la celebérrima novela de Charlotte Brontë protagonizada por esta institutriz que deberá enfrentarse asimismo, como sucedía en Rebeca, a las sombras del pasado y de la enloquecida esposa del señor Rochester, que se oculta tras la identidad de una criada, Grace Poole. (Translation)
More of her key roles on Digital Journal, though nothing is actually said about her performance as Jane:
Based on the renowned novel by Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre is a loveless orphan who is taken in by a lord of a strange house and hired to look after his younger daughter. The novel is described as legendary, ahead of its time and neoteric for the mid-19th century. (Andrew Moran)
The Times thinks that,
As Jane Eyre, the second Mrs de Winter in Rebecca and the wife of the apparently murderous Cary Grant in Suspicion she honed her skills at looking terrified or bullied. 
The Telegraph follows the same train of thought:
Her signature roles cast her as a new kind of female character in Hollywood: a woman with low self-esteem, yet passionate and obsessive, a neurotic heroine in thrall to an homme fatale to an almost masochistic degree, yet very much at the centre of her own story. Thus she was ideally suited to play Jane Eyre opposite Orson Welles in Robert Stevenson's Gothic-styled 1944 version of the novel, albeit looking more glamorous than the self-described plain Jane of Charlotte Brontë's novel. (Anne Billson)
The Guardian makes a selection of clips, including Jane Eyre 1944:
Fontaine goes up against another cinematic titan, in this case Orson Welles, in wonderful voice as Mr Rochester in this adaptation of the Charlotte Brontë novel. Clearly by this stage Fontaine was making a speciality of playing timid – but resourceful – women way out of their depth.
RIP.

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