“You say that you are my judges. I do not know if you are, but I say this: take care not to judge me wrongly, for in truth, I am sent by God, and you place yourself in great danger,” says Jeanne D’Arc.
There have been many film adaptations of the story of Joan of Arc, a French peasant girl who believed that she was receiving divine visions telling her to support Charles VII and to help drive the English back late during the Hundred Years War. Famous film versions include the 1917 silent classic Joan the Woman by Cecil B. DeMille, the 1928 classic The Passion of Joan of Arc by Carl Theodor Dreyer, the 1957 misfire Saint Joan by Otto Preminger, the 1962 classic The Trial of Joan of Arc by Robert Bresson, and the muddled 1999 film The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc by Luc Besson. My favorite version is the epic 1948 version directed by Victor Fleming. I saw Fleming’s Joan of Arc on the big screen at the Museum of Modern Art one year ago in a 35mm Technicolor print as part of their Glorious Technicolor series. It was quite a joy to experience the complete version of the film at last. This review of Joan of Arc is my second entry in the 2nd Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema.
1948’s Joan of Arc follows a young woman who comes to believe that she has been divinely called to save France from the English during the early 1400s. Fleming brought together a fine ensemble that includes Ingrid Bergman (as Jeanne D’Arc), Gene Lockhart (as Georges De La Tremoille), Jose Ferrer (as Charles VII), Leif Erickson (as Dunois), Frederick Worlock (as John of Lancaster), Francis L. Sullivan (as Bishop Pierre Cauchon), Alan Napier (as the Earl of Warwick), and Houseley Stevenson (as the Cardinal of Winchester). Best Actress Oscar nominee Bergman is marvelous in the role that had been her pet project. She brings courage, naivite, and resiliancy to her role as the famous French religious icon. Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Ferrer is duplicitous as the Dauphin who, with Joan’s support, becomes king of France and subsequently betrays her to the English. The screenplay by Maxwell Anderson and Andrew Solt (based on Anderson’s play Joan of Lorraine, which had also starred Bergman) presents a straightforward account of Joan’s life (a departure from the play, which centered on a group of actors who are affected by Joan’s life while performing a play about her).
Joseph Valentine’s Oscar-winning cinematography looks gorgeous in Technicolor, and the Oscar-nominated production design by Richard Day, Joseph Kish, and Edwin Casey Roberts convincingly recreates a number of French locations (the Siege of Orleans is a spectacular highlight). The Oscar-winning costume designs by Barbara Karinska and Dorothy Jeakins are incredible (the period garb is striking, especially the military uniforms). Frank Sullivan’s Oscar-nominated editing gives the film a good pace, never allowing the film to become boring. Hugo Friedhofer delivers an Oscar-nominated score that deftly balances the drama and action. Fleming’s Joan of Arc is an Oscar-winning classic that showcases one of Bergman’s greatest performances but sadly became Fleming’s final directorial effort (he died from a heart attack two months after the film’s initial release). The film had been cut by 45 minutes for its general release in 1950, and, due to the loss of the complete soundtrack, it took almost 50 years to properly restore it (a complete print of the original version was finally found in 1998, which allowed a new generation to see the film in all its glory).
(Unfortunately, there is no trailer available online.)