Johnny Belinda (1948)

Unrated   |    |  Drama


Johnny Belinda (1948) Poster

In post-war Cape Breton, a doctor's efforts to tutor a deaf/mute woman are undermined when she is raped, and the resulting pregnancy causes scandal to swirl.


7.8/10
3,874

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  • Jan Sterling in Johnny Belinda (1948)
  • Lew Ayres and Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda (1948)
  • Lew Ayres and Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda (1948)
  • Stephen McNally and Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda (1948)
  • Lew Ayres and Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda (1948)
  • Lew Ayres in Johnny Belinda (1948)

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7 January 2013 | dougdoepke
Touching Without being Sappy
To me the Academy Awards are much more a matter of industry politics than real artistic achievement. Here, however, that's definitely not the case. Wyman's deaf mute is one of the more moving portrayals that I've seen in some 60-years of movie watching. She manages to express more with her eyes alone than most actresses do with their entire emoting. Thanks to Wyman, it's a rare glimpse into a delicate soul, though I do hope she wasn't being paid by line of dialog.

In fact, the entire cast is outstanding, though visually McNally and Sterling approach caricature in his dark looks and her blonde cheapness. Of course, the topics of rape and a wedlock baby were pretty explosive stuff for the Production Code of the time, but the writers handle the material deftly. At the same time, the murder of MacDonald (Bickford) is often overlooked in terms of the Code. After all, the murder goes unrecognized in the courtroom accounting and in that sense goes unpunished even in an expanded moral sense.

Something should also be said about director Negulesco's compelling visual compositions. Happily, so many of the interior frames are arranged richly in detail, while the moody landscapes reflect a perceptive artistic eye. All in all, we get both an atmospheric fishing village and a series of eye-catching visuals both of which expertly complement the storyline.

No need to echo more aspects of this much-discussed film, except to say that Hollywood managed here to overcome one of the industry's biggest pitfalls—a kind of soap opera that's truly touching without being sappy. Thank you, Warner Bros.!

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