on 18 January 2005
In 1858 a young girl saw the Virgin Mary in a grotto outside Lourdes, in the French Pyrenees. Despite immense opposition from all those around her, the child remained faithful to the Beautiful Lady. Finally entering a convent, Bernadette died there in 1879 at the age of 35. Although her story is now known the world over and millions of pilgrims flock to the Grotto of Lourdes every year, what many people do not know is that the body of Saint Bernadette Soubirous remains entirely incorrupt, as lovely today as on the day she died. And I speak as one who has stayed in her convent more than once and gazed upon her.
This film tells the story of the life of Bernadette. Very faithful to the historical Bernadette and her story, the film makers have avoided sentimentality and religious fervour and produced a film which appeals to young and old, to those of religious convictions and those with none.
Made in 1943, the film stars the young Jennifer Jones in her first major role, and for which she deservedly won the Best Actress Oscar. At the Academy Awards that year, the film won a total of 4 Oscars. The supporting cast is first rate, including Vincent Price, Charles Bickford, William Eythe, Lee J Cobb and Gladys Cooper.
This is the kind of film which you will watch once and never forget. It is moving, told with great simplicity and touches something which is deep within us all.
A perennial favourite and only newly released on DVD after 61 years, this is one film you should make a point of watching.
on 22 August 2004
Based on Franz Werfel's 1942 best-seller, this is an exquisite telling of the life of Bernadette Soubirous, who in 1858 at the age of 14 saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near the small village of Lourdes, where she lived with her family in abject poverty. Bernadette received much opposition from the atheistic town authorities, as well as initially from the clergy, but kept her faith in "The Lady", and it gave her a wisdom when questioned by the unbelievers that went beyond her natural understanding.
Jennifer Jones is superb as the simple Bernadette, and she tells the story with her eyes; there are many scenes where the camera focuses on her face, and one can tell what is happening by her expressive gaze. Director Henry King screen tested many actresses by placing a stick behind the camera, and telling them to look at it, and imagine the Virgin Mary...King said that Jennifer was the only one who "saw", while the others merely "looked".
The supporting cast is wonderful, with many standout performances; I especially like Charles Bickford as the Dean of Lourdes, Lee J. Cobb as Dr. Dozous, Anne Revere as Bernadette's mother Louise, and as a lifelong adversary, a prideful nun who is jealous of Bernadette's visions, the terrific Gladys Cooper.
The film was a huge box-office success, as well as receiving critical acclaim, and was the most nominated film at the 1943 Oscars, with 12 nominations and 4 wins. It won for Best Actress, Best B&W Cinematography (Arthur Miller), Best Score (Alfred Newman), and Best Interior Decoration. The nominations were for Director, Editing, Picture, Screenplay, Sound, Supporting Actor (Bickford), Supporting Actress (both Cooper and Revere).
At 2 hours and 36 minutes, this is a film that is totally engrossing, and the time spent with it is very rewarding.
Cannonized in 1933, Bernadette's legacy continues to flourish; over 200 million people have visited the shrine, and though I have never been there, one of my few treasures is a "souvenir" cross that contains water from the spring at Lourdes (which continues to produce over 25,000 gallons a week), and proving that those in the film portrayed as wanting to commercialize the water from the site have succeeded beyond their expectations.
"For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible".
on 6 December 2001
A beautiful and moving film, surprisingly unsentimental with some truly excellent performances.
Jennifer Jones works well as St Bernadette, and at times her performance is almost painfully moving - as in the famous moment when, obedient to "the lady" she starts shovelling mud into her mouth. She has just the right air of innocence and beauty.
Her mother is played with particular brilliance - as if one of those gritty peasants from an early Van Gogh painting stepped straight from the canvas. The atmosphere of 19th century agricultural France is well evoked. You get a great sense of poverty, civic pretension, and the ultimate radiance of the miraculous happenings.
Go buy it, and be inspired. You will not regret it. Hollywood failed to ruin it!
There are very few "religious" films that actually achieve a sense of spirituality that makes them work for believers and non-believers alike. "The Song of Bernadette" is one of those rare films, and owes a lot of its power to the Oscar winning performance of Jennifer Jones as Bernadette Soubirous, the young French peasant girl who in 1858 saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near the town of Lourdes. While gathering firewood with her sister and a friend, Bernadette was told by the "beautiful lady" to return to the grotto every day for fifteen days. The common folk of Lourdes come to belief in young Bernadette's visions, while the authorities try to put a stop to the nonsense, and the church keeps its distance for the moment.
As Bernadette, Jones is the calm center at the heart of the storm. The scenes in which Bernadette sees the Lady (an unbilled and pregnant Linda Darnell) are presented by director Henry King with a elegant simplicity. Bernadette has a strong and simple faith, which is how she is able to endure the battering by those around her. It is in her victory over these opponents that make this story work, and Bernadette's opponents are a superb cast of supporting players. Charles Bickford is Peyramale Dean of Lourdes, who has to deal with the idea that this lazy and less than intelligent peasant girl has seen the Virgin Mother, Vincent Price the cold hearted local prosecutor Dutour, Lee J. Cobb as the reasonable and scientific Dr. Dozous, Anne Revere as Bernadett's mother, and Gladys Cooper as Sister Vauzous, the nun whose jealousy of Bernadette has quite an emotional payoff in the film.
A best selling version of Bernadette's story was written by Franz Werfel in 1942 and 20th Century Fox bought the rights to make an ambitious screen version which manages to avoid the faults of sentimentality. They also searched for a newcomer for the title role and looked at Anne Baxter, Teresa Wright, Linda Darnell and Gene Tierney before settling on Jones, who had small parts in two previous films as Phylis Isley and was renamed to have a clean slate as an actress. Winning the Oscar pretty much speaks to the success of their efforts. The film also deservedly won Oscars for Arthur Miller's cinematography and Alfred Newman's score. Ironically, Newman replaced the famous composer Igor Stravinsky on the film, and the second movement of Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements evolved from his original unused score.
The long awaited DVD version of "The Song of Bernadette" makes up for the delay with some excellent extras, including the A&E "Biography" of Jones, a theatrical trailer, a World War II newsreel of Jones visiting the troops, and an excellent commentary track by two of Jones' biographers. This is classy treatment for one of Hollywood's classiest films.
on 5 July 2008
A fantastic film that won quite a few awards. Even though the film is in black and white it captures the heartache,indignity, faith, and a true story of Bernadette Soubirous and the struggles of a poor family living in one tiny room and Bernadette suffering ill health with Asthma. Bernadette was 14yrs old when the first apparition appeared, she had over 18 visions from Our Lady at the Grotto in France in 1858. She died in 1879 and was Canonized. Lourdes is celebrating it's 150th year where over 8 million people visit the Grotto every year, bathe in the freezing cold spring water and people come in Procession to celebrate Our Lady apparitions. This Year Pope Benedict XVI will be celebration Mass in Lourdes on the 13th September due to 150 years of the Apparitions. A number of crutches hang above the Grotto where people have had miracles and bathe in the miracle spring water that Bernadette was told to dig under her feet. The town of Lourdes is a busy place especially at Easter where the HCPT (Handicapped Children Pilgramage Trust) take various disabled and ill young people for a weeks holiday, the fun, laughter and friendship that people make that week last a life time. I speak from experience and hope and pray that I can return perhaps next year. A fantastic film, highly recommended, even more so when the story is true. God Bless.
on 1 July 2005
What stands out in this film - cinematography, some excellent performances (Jennifer Jones, Vincent Price, Charles Bickford, Anne Revere), a literate script - a movie worhty of its subject.
on 2 September 2001
Made during WWII, this epic of faith and courage introduced Jennifer Jones to the world and an Oscar at the age of 24. It's an inspired performance, wide-eyed innocence at its best. All the supporting cast are great: Anne Revere as Bernadette's mother and Gladys Cooper as the jealous nun are stand outs.
This is a great Sunday afternoon movie. Just keep the tissues close by.
on 2 November 2011
Many people know of Saint Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes but many others do not. She was born to an impoverished miller in 1844 in an obscure village in the Pyrenees in South West France. As was common at the time she was illiterate. One day, when she was 14 when out gathering driftwood for fuel on the banks of the local river, an apparition of a lady appeared to her. Later the lady identified herself in the patois of Lourdes as the 'Immaculate Conception' which the local clergy identified as Mary, the Mother of God. The lady ordered a shrine to be built where people could come on pilgrimages.What was inexplicable was that there was nothing in Bernadette's life to explain the visions which were received with much local scepticism.
Eventually the shrine was built, people did come, and it is now one of the most important Catholic pilgrimages in the whole world. A great many Catholics wish to visit Lourdes and bathe in the waters at least one in their lives. Many Catholic girls are now called Bernadette.
Bernadette, always a sickly child, entered a convent and devoted her life to prayer and light duties in her convent. The visions ceased and were never repeated. She succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 35. After he death devotion grew to her and she proved a popular saint. She was officially canonized as a saint in 1933.
The film based on her life was a huge box office success. The DVD version is recommended to all the family, especially those families with children.
on 27 May 2014
I absolutely love this film and even though in Black & White it is still one of my favs and all time classic. The story follies a young girl who is blessed by visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is ridiculed by her village but they soon become believers. Not going to tell you the whole story as most people know all about Saint Bernadette. Full marks for delivery, cost and good quality.
on 3 July 2016
This classic dvd, The song of Bernadette is very atmospheric and Jennifer Jones brilliant portrayal of Bernadette Soubirous, who saw beautiful visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is excellent along with an air of honesty and truth. Although this movie is of yesteryear it is heart rendering and emotional to watch. A must to watch movie.