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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Warner Bros. JOHNNY BELINDA (1948) is yet another highly regarded and unforgettable Hollywood classic offering from its Golden Age! From the exemplary performances to the brilliant low key monochrome Cinematography to its arresting music score JOHNNY BELINDA quite rightly deserves a revered place in the history of the Hollywood film! From a successful play by Elmer Harris it was stylishly written for the screen by Irmgard Von Cube and Allen Vincent and strikingly directed by Jean Negulesco.

    The story centers on a drab and shabby deaf mute girl Belinda MacDonald (Jane Wyman giving the performance of her life) who with her father (Charles Bickford) and her aunt (Agnes Moorhead) endeavour to eke out a livelihood on a post war Nova Scotia farm. She is befriended by a young doctor (Lew Ayres) who takes her under his wing to teach her sign language. Later the girl is brutally raped by an unscrupulous villager (Stephen McNally) becomes pregnant and has a child. Throughout her predicament she is supported by the compassionate doctor. Finally when the baby's father tries to take the child for himself Belinda kills him. She is arrested for murder but when it comes out who the rapist was and that she killed only out of defence of her baby she is exonerated. Wyman is quite stunning as the hapless girl and rightly deserved the Acadamy Award she received for her adroit performance! Excellent too was Charles Bickford in his nominated role as Belinda's father and even better was Agnes Moorhead (sporting a perfectly clipped Scottish accent) who won a nomination as Belinda's erstwhile crusty aunt Aggie. Nominated also was genius Cinematographer Ted McCord whose wonderful coastal imagery at Mendocino and Pebble Beach locations in California were nothing short of breathtaking!

    Another stunning aspect of this exceptional motion picture is the music by the great Max Steiner! There is a distinctive Scottish flavour permeating the score which aptly points up the Nova Scotia setting. For instance in the marvellous Main Title the composer makes reference to Robert Burns' "O Poorith Cauld" as well as the Canadian national song "Maple Leaf Forever" which is altogether very appealing when heard over the film's beautiful aerial shot of the pretty fishing village at the opening of the picture. The highlight of the score is, of course, the winsome and thoroughly engaging lullaby the composer wrote for the infant Johnny. First heard when the doctor informs Belinda "you're going to have a baby" and then when the child is born. This inspired hum inducing theme - the score's most memorable tune - is then heard throughout the rest of the film soaring to uplifting beauty in the closing scene. Other splendid cues are for the moving sequence where Belinda recites The Lord's Prayer in sign language at the wake of her slain father and in stark contrast the music for the violent rape scene where stabs of screaming and shrieking strings, in their topmost register, drive home the brutality of the moment. This was the genius that was Max Steiner! Ever the consummate dramatist and film's emphatic musical commentator! 1948 was a banner year for the indefatigable composer! Besides JOHNNY BELINDA - which garnered him an Acadamy Award nomination - he also scored ten other pictures which included such masterworks as "The Adventures Of Don Juan", "Treasure Of The Sierra Madre" and "Key Largo".

    JOHNNY BELINDA was remade three times for television in 1967, 1969 and again in 1982. Each version was quickly dismissed and are now totally forgotten unlike Warner's awesome 1948 original which has and will continue to stand the test of time!
  • Dan-1313 February 2006
    Every great actress has one signature role, the film for which she's forever identified because of the amazing impression she leaves on the screen. Rosalind Russell has Hildy Johnson in "His Girl Friday," Judy Garland has Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," and Jane Wyman has Belinda MacDonald in "Johnny Belinda." Without saying a word, Wyman speaks volumes as the lonely deaf mute who learns about love and tenderness from doctor Lew Ayres as well as fear from bully Stephen McNally. She shines in every scene and creates one of the most touching characterizations ever put on screen. Moments such as her discovery of music and her sign-reading of the Lord's Prayer are beautifully done with a skill exceeding those of the best silent screen stars. Her Oscar was richly deserved.

    Wyman, though, is not alone in creating this great film. Ayres, Charles Bickford, Agnes Moorehead and Jan Sterling all give complex, layered performances that make each character believable and memorable. And "Johnny Belinda" would probably not be as powerful or moving without the exceptional black-and-white photography and Max Steiner's lovely score, one of his finest, which underscores every moment. Warner Bros. deserves extra credit for taking on a delicate subject (the rape of a deaf character was hardly typical screen fare in the 1940s) and handling it in a tasteful manner.

    Ultimately, the movie is a showcase for Jane Wyman who rightly became Warner Bros.' top female star upon its release. She and the film are unforgettable.
  • This is a great storytelling and movie-making rolled into one and I can see why it was up for so many Academy Awards in its day (when they rewarded the best movies.)

    Jane Wyman seems to get the most attention here but I was totally impressed not only with her but all the actors, the director and the photographer. All excelled in this film, I thought - a great effort all-around.

    Wyman and Lew Ayers were terrific in the leads, playing endearing characters who were easy to become involved with and root for in this story. Wyman, like Dorothy McGuire in "The Spiral Staircase" (1945) and Alan Arkin in "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter" (1968), plays a deaf mute effectively with haunting, expressive facial features. I hope people don't overlook Ayers' extremely warm performance as the doctor who truly cares for this woman. Ayers plays a very decent man and does it with a lot of dignity.

    Charles Bickford was powerful, too, as Belinda's father and ditto for the always-entertaining Agnes Moorhead, playing Belinda's sister. I can't leave out the "villains," either: Stephen McNally, who really looks his part, and his reluctant bride Jan Sterling, an underrated classic-era actress.

    Jean Negulesco's direction provided numerous interesting low and high-angle camera shots and cinematographer Ted McCord made the most of it, including some great facial closeups. To be honest, I am not familiar with either of these two names but I was very impressed with their work here. Oh.....having Max Steiner doing the music didn't hurt, either!

    The film gets a little melodramatic at times but it's never overdone. The story flows nicely. No scene - pleasant or unpleasant - overstays its welcome. You get a cohesive blend of heartfelt sentiment, romance, drama and suspense. In addition, the DVD transfer of this film is magnificent. I would like to have seen some behind-the-scenes features with the disc, but the film was so good I am not complaining.
  • The movies had been talking for 20 years when Johnny Belinda came out in 1948. Those first Oscars were awarded for silent films and it took 20 years for another Oscar to be awarded for a performance without a single word of dialog.

    Jane Wyman, who for the first ten years or so of her film career, played a lot of second leads, proves she could have competed with Mary Pickford or Gloria Swanson in the silent era, got an Oscar for her career role as Belinda McDonald. Belinda is a deaf mute who gets raped and impregnated by the town lout and because of what she is, she can neither name her attacker or speak out against the small minds that inhabit the town she lives in.

    The story takes place in one of the Canadian isles off Nova Scotia and it begins with the arrival of a new doctor, Lew Ayres in town. One night he gets a call for a veterinary problem from farmers Charles Bickford and his sister Agnes Moorehead. While there he meets Bickford's mute daughter, Jane Wyman.

    It's a rough life on that farm which doesn't yield much for creature comforts. Rough of course for Wyman, but also rough for Bickford who brought his sister in to help raise the child after his wife died in childbirth with Wyman. They're hard people, but they have a tender side also which is brought out as the film develops.

    Johnny Belinda brought home a flock of Oscar nominations, for Ayres as Best Actor, for Bickford as Best Supporting Actor, for Agnes Moorehead as Best Supporting Actress, for the film itself, for Director Jean Negulesco. But only Wyman got the prize on Oscar night.

    The closest performance I can think of to Wyman's in more modern times is that of Hilary Swank as trans-gender Brandon Teena. Swank hasn't the education to articulate her feelings either just as Wyman doesn't until Ayres teaches her to sign, still an audience made of statues will understand and be moved.

    In addition to those already mentioned, look for fine performances from Stephen McNally as the lout and Jan Sterling as his wife.

    But most of all look to be terribly moved by Jane Wyman.
  • Am 79 years old. Saw it at age 23. Saw it again on TV tonight.It is still a stunning film, the black and white cinematography could not be achieved by many of today's a.s.c. people. Anybody can shoot color.

    She was poignant in every scene. The northern California coast doubles nicely for Nova Scotia from whence my maternal ancestors emigrated.

    I have difficult time seeing Lew Ayers not in a German soldiers uniform but he was wonderful in this as he was in "All Quiet..." Bickford is always Bickford but in this he is truly in character. And who can deny Moorehead? Direction is flawless as is the casting. The score is gripping.
  • Most of the previous posts were on the mark. I thought every aspect of the movie was magnificent. A great deal of thought, care, and attention went into the production and filming of "Johnny Belinda." Wyman was unforgettable. Everyone else in the cast--down to the smallest role--was superb. The black and white cinematography is stunning, and the location work (I'm assuming the film was not shot in the studio) pays off handsomely. Costuming, props, sets--there's not a false note anywhere. The acting, screenplay, and direction all meld beautifully so that one of the film's greatest achievements is that it never becomes maudlin.

    Wyman's Oscar was greatly deserved, but "Johnny Belinda" should have won several more. Throw a dart at the cast and credits list--wherever the dart lands will be a worthwhile Oscar winner.

    The reviewer who hailed this as a "forgotten masterpiece" nailed it perfectly. Not only do they "not make 'em like this any more," they only very rarely did before. This is a film crying out to be rediscovered.
  • ctrout22 February 2005
    Belinda (Wyman) lives in a small fishing village with her father (Bickford) and her aunt (Moorehead). She has one slight problem though. She's deaf and her guardians never really taught her how to understand and associate with the outside world.

    That all changes when a doctor (Ayres) comes to town. He takes a liking to Belinda and begins to teach her sign language. She learns how to read lips and ends up being a very good pupil. But when the doctor goes away on business, he returns to Belinda and finds a shocking discovery while taking her to a doctor in another town.

    Stephen McNally and Jan Sterling are supporting characters and they give fine performances. But the real stars here, are the four ones that were nominated for Oscars. Agnes Moorehead is one of the most interesting and mysterious characters, Charles Bickford is the one that you'll be rooting for, Lew Ayres will make you feel special, and Jane Wyman will give you one of the greatest performances of the '40s and possibly of all time.

    The film was nominated for twelve Academy Awards. This is a fantastic thing for any film. Sadly, it was only awarded the Oscar for Best Actress. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if it had had more of a success like it should have had.
  • Outstanding and forgotten masterpiece from the late-1940s that led the way in 1948 with a dozen Oscar nominations, but somehow lost most of its steam as the Academy Awards were handed out. The titled character (Jane Wyman in a well-deserved Oscar-winning part) is a beautiful young lady who sadly happens to be deaf and mute. She is treated as an outcast by those within her Nova Scotia village's landscape. Her father (Oscar-nominee Charles Bickford) and aunt (Oscar-nominee Agnes Moorehead) love her very much, but become easily frustrated when they have trouble communicating with the youth on their small farm. When kind doctor Lew Ayres (yet another Oscar-nominee) comes to town he begins to teach Wyman how to read, teach her sign language and teaches her about life and love. Naturally those within the community despise the new outsider (they have never cared for Wyman and her family either). Jan Sterling comes to hate the doctor as she is turned down by Ayers and town bully Stephen McNally commits a horrific act by raping Wyman one night in her father's barn. A pregnancy occurs and the townspeople believe that Ayers is the culprit. Now those unfriendly people in the community wish to take Wyman's new-born child for their own, believing that Wyman is not fit to be a mother. Jean Negulesco (Oscar-nominated for direction) was a film-maker that never got too cute. He let his performers dominate the action and "Johnny Belinda" is no exception here. His subtle direction just adds to everyone else in the film. "Johnny Belinda" sometimes plays more like a stage play than an actual motion picture (this is a compliment by the way) and that just adds to the emotions and realism that are displayed throughout this fine movie. 5 stars out of 5.
  • The former star of the Dr. Kildare films, Lew Ayres, was put on the outside of the film industry after he filed to be a Conscientious Objecter during WWII. Most people seem to ignore the fact that even tho' he did so, he also signed up to serve in the most dangerous duty on the battlefield, as a Medic and as a Chaplin's Assistant. Lew was sent to the South Pacific, New Guinea and the Phillipines, all hot spots. That shows a lot of heroism to me.

    "Johnny Belinda"(1948) starred Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Agnes Moorehead and Charles Bickford, with Jan Sterling and Steven McNally. They make a well-rounded cast for a for an excellent movie.

    Jane portrays a deaf mute, Belinda, who tho' bright but has no one to teach her to communicate. Lew is Doctor Richardson, who comes to town to help the people of the Isle of Cape Breton. They are stand-offish and he is rejected. Belinda and the Doctor become friends and he begins to teach her to use sign language and give her other instructions.

    While the Doc is away on a trip, Belinda is raped by one of the towns 'upstanding' folk. When the Doc returns he takes her to be examined by another doctor who fills him in that she is expecting. Of course, Doc Richardson is blamed.

    Jan Sterling, who tries to seduce the Doc and Steven McNally, as the brute, add to this cast and the movie.

    And you've got to see how this situation is handles.

    Jane Wyman won the 1948 Oscar. Lew Ayres, finally, got the kind of part he deserved. And, the fans, received a movie worth watching.
  • 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.!
  • I had always written Jane Wyman off as just the ex-wife of Ronald Reagan and the matriarch of the Falcon Crest clan, but this movie really changed my mind about her. I was completely blown away by her performance as a deaf-mute. It is very easy to fall into stereotypes when playing physically challenged roles (especially in 1948), but Wyman underplays her part with great skill. She rises above the melodrama of the film without saying a single word and everything can be seen in her eyes. This film is truly a shining moment in her career.
  • wbrainard29 December 2002
    That Jane Wyman, then in private life Mrs. Ronald Reagan, was able to find the strength to film this masterpiece of her career so soon after the birth and death of her baby daughter in 1947 is a glimpse to us of her utter sheer determination and complete professionalism. Miss Wyman uses milestones of her own life in her acting; she becomes the character and thus we catch emeralds and wheats, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad. It makes for a performance the audience never forgets and the film remains fresh after having had seen it several times. The supporting cast is pure gold. I understand that Jack Warner buried the film for nearly a year after completion and only got on the band wagon after Wyman made him take out an apology in the trades which lead to the big Oscar buildup which snagged Jane Wyman her best actress oscar for 1948. Sadly her greatest professional triumph marked also the death of her marriage to husband Ronald Reagan.
  • Tahhh11 September 2007
    This is one of the films which you have to see, simply because it's such a superbly made movie, and it's fine if you want to shrug it off, later on, as sentimentality without substance. It's emotionally compelling, acted to a crisp all around, filmed beautifully, and although there really isn't all that much to it (it's not a film that raises questions, but it didn't set out to raise questions), you're in good hands from the beginning, and can settle back for some old-fashioned story-telling.

    The late Jane Wyman's performance won her a very deserved Oscar, and although the film is quite sentimental in places, and tends to tie up all the lose ends a little too tidily, if you can put aside your twenty-first century cynicism for a little while and let the film spin the yarn for you, you'll be absorbed and carried along with emotional satisfaction.

    Mostly you just have to see it for all the superlative acting, and the eloquence of Wyman's silence, which is a stunning tour-de-force.
  • lugonian23 January 2010
    JOHNNY BELINDA (Warner Brothers, 1948), directed by Jean Negulesco, is not exactly the one about an individual character named Johnny Belinda, but that of Belinda MacDonald, a deaf mute girl who gives birth to a child she calls Johnny. Although quite confusing in regards to name reference, there's nothing confusing about the dramatic theme taken from a 1940 stage play by Elmer Harris that served not only as one of the finest movies from the 1940s, but a poignant and touching performance by Jane Wyman.

    As the story unfolds with off-screen narration about of the residential workers in Cape Breton Island off Nova Scotia, Canada, the plot leads towards its introduction of Robert Richardson (Lew Ayres), a young medical doctor whose taken up residence in the area, with Stella Maguire (Jan Sterling) acting as his secretary who has a secret crush on him. One evening, Aggie (Agnes Moorehead), a poor farm woman living with her brother, Black MacDonald (Charles Bickford), comes to Richardson's home for assistance with her pregnant heifer. During the delivery, Richardson notices a quiet girl in the darkness, Belinda (Jane Wyman), McDonald's daughter, holding a lantern. Told by her father that she's a deaf mute, the doctor takes it upon himself devoting his time educating Belinda in teaching her sign language and lip reading. A quick learner, Belinda proves herself a capable student. One night as her father takes Aggie to visit with her sick sister, Belinda, home alone, is approached by the drunken Locky McCormick (Stephen McNally), one of her father's steady customers, who takes advantage of the situation by making his attack on "the dummy." Afterwards, MacDonald, who notices daughter acting strangely, advises Richardson for help. Feeling Belinda depressed in her own quiet world, he decides taking her to the city for a medical examination. Discovering from the doctor (Jonathan Hale) of Belinda's pregnancy, Richardson does everything in his power to make her life more easier. After giving birth to her boy, Johnny, matters become more complex as the gossiping villagers, believing Richardson to be the father, put him locally out of medical practice and discontinue purchasing wheat from the MacDonalds.

    With changing tastes in regards to types of movies audiences wanted to see during the post World War II years, tough and graphic "film noir" suspensers and/ or Technicolor musicals were the prime factors of the time. For its melodramatic theme and doses of sentiment, JOHNNY BELINDA seems like an outcast from the silent film era. Jane Wyman's Belinda, whose sensitive portrayal and fragile face could very well have been the sort of role awarded to Lillian Gish under D.W. Griffith's direction had such a product been possible in the twenties. JOHNNY BELINDA does parallel somewhat with Griffith's silent classic, WAY DOWN EAST (1920) set in a poor rural community with a tragic heroine (Gish) who falls victim of gossip after giving birth to a child fathered by a cad. JOHNNY BELINDA, goes a step further with its child-like deaf girl who falls victim of rape, a sequence handled quite discreetly.

    Regardless of Academy Award nominations for Lew Ayres (Best Actor); Charles Bickford and Agnes Moorehead (with Scottish accents down to the rolled Rs) in the supporting category, the most worthy award went to Wyman whose convincing character portrayal without uttering a single sound ranked one of the best accomplishes ever captured on screen. Once seen, it's hard to forget such key scenes as Belinda's rhapsodic discovery of music at the village dance; the tapping of her feet to the "felt" musical beat; her facial expression of happiness, sadness fear and courage; the reciting the Lord's prayer completely in sign language at her father's funeral; Belinda's tense trial for murder, and Max Steiner's unforgettable musical score. Ayres is a natural as the kind doctor, a role reminiscent to his "Doctor Kildare" portrayal in the medical film series for MGM (1938-1942), with mustache adding to his mature features. Stephen McNally does exceptionally well as the most unsympathetic character, along with Jan Sterling, in her motion picture debut, as his bride whose crucial scenes coming much later in the screenplay.

    With several TV adaptations to JOHNNY BELINDA over the years, the most recent being the 1982 remake with Richard Thomas and Roseanna Arquette, the original remains quite a moving and unforgettable experience if movie watching. Distributed to home video in the 1980s, and years later on DVD, it's commonly presented on Turner Classic Movies. As JOHNNY BELINDA paved the way for Jane Wyman with better leading roles ahead, nothing can really compare to the one as the quiet girl. (****)
  • Those eyes. Those eyes tell the story of love, loneliness, and a soul who wants to give and feel needed. The story of deaf-mute Jane Wyman goes beyond what most of today's movies could ever do. Agnes Moorehead (who should have won the Oscar) and Charles Bickford are simply wonderful, with Jan Sterling, good as the lady in love with the kind doctor. The scenes between Belinda and her father are very touching. I love the scenes between Belinda and the doctor, as they communicate and she learns the words for tree and day, etc. Seeing this always makes me want to know more about sign language. It's not only an entertaining movie, but the viewer learns what it's like to be in Belinda's world. This film shows how we are all connected to each other and how the most important message isn't merely conveyed in words. Those who have not been blessed to see this masterpiece need to right the wrong and buy this DVD today, and see Jane Wyman at her Oscar-winning best.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I found this to be a very interesting film for the 40's for it's strong subject matter, and the performances. Jane Wyman won the Best Actress Oscar here, and she's superb (though I still would have given the nod to De Havilland for "The Snake Pit", but that's strictly my opinion). Lew Ayres underplays beautifully. I would love to see some appreciation for this actor, I thought his performances in this, "The Dark Mirror" and "All Quiet On The Western Front" were all natural, subtle yet exemplary. Bickford and Moorehead are quite wonderful, and not forgetting Jan Sterling and Stephen McNally...did this typecast him forever as villain? I'm sure it did...

    I also thought it was beautifully told. There are many moments it could have slipped into pure melodrama, but there is a level of restraint to Jean Negulesco's work. I also found it to be deeply honest, and I loved the relationship between Belinda and the doctor. Instead of just inviting sympathy for her plight, we are also intrigued by his loneliness and how he needs her to help him, too. Their scenes together, particularly near the end, are very touching.
  • There are very few films that have literally brought tears to my eyes. They must be films of uncompromising emotional power. Films like Magnolia, The Passion of the Christ, and now Johnny Belinda.

    It is the story of a deaf and dumb young woman named Belinda. Treated as an unintelligent workhorse all her years, Belinda's life changes forever when a lonely new doctor moves into her small coastal Nova Scotian port town. He takes an immediate liking to her and, proving to her family that she is not the "dummy" they think, he teaches her to read lips. But after a drunken sexual assault leaves her pregnant, rumors begin to fly throughout the small town, and both Belinda and her loved ones must fight for what's right.

    The performances are wonderful. Of course, Jane Wyman simply steals the show in her Oscar-winning performance. She brings an incredible heart, warmth, and emotional resonance to the character of Belinda, and she does it without ever saying a word. The rest of the cast is marvelous as well, especially Charles Bickford, who lovingly portrays Belinda's father, and Stephen McNally, who turns Belinda's attacker into one of the most easy to loathe characters ever put on celluloid – yet the film still brilliantly keeps him at the level of a realistic personality – no one is a caricature.

    Director Jean Negulesco brings an understated visual beauty to the film reminiscent of the silent ages, when one had to use aesthetics to make up for the lack of aural stimulus. Every shot is a perfectly composed work of art, turning every moment of Belinda into a masterwork of lighting and raw, majestic nature. The seaside settings are utilized so well that they put Johnny Belinda in league with such legendary jaw-droppers as L'Avventura and Black Narcissus.

    But this film is much more than just visual appeal. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, often simultaneously. There are so many thought-provoking themes to gnaw on in Johnny Belinda - the way people view the handicapped, the bonds of parenthood, the power of rumors, the justification of violence as self-defense, and overall morality and humanity. Even the film's setting could be considered an allegory on Belinda – the brutal waves of the ocean constantly pounding against the serene shores.

    The film is also, as I mentioned before, emotionally overwhelming. While it certainly has a focused narrative, Belinda is foremost a progression of feelings, and they are so well conveyed that I was simply overcome with joy, pain, heartbreak, and hope. While the film is often described as a melodrama, it is far from a soap opera. There are no miraculous moments of sudden verbal triumph for Belinda, no ridiculously overacted moments of teary-eyed abandon – Johnny Belinda is a terribly real experience. There are aspects of the story that remain unresolved – not loose ends, but difficult problems that would most likely also remain unresolved in reality.

    However, I don't want to give the impression that Johnny Belinda is depressing. I felt uplifted and rapturous just as often as I felt overcome by grief and fear. I felt so much for these characters and I wanted so sorely for things to turn out a certain way – but I won't reveal whether they do or not. I will say that the film ends on a note of nearly unbearable poignancy, and this is the moment that massaged my tear ducts.

    My only complaint concerning the film is Max Steiner's score. He is perfectly suited for epic films like King Kong and Gone With The Wind, but here it feels somewhat over-dramatic and occasionally awkward. He tends to play up the melodramatic angle and spot score in a ubiquitous manner, which simply doesn't fit with a film like Johnny Belinda. Still, it tends to work more often than not, and it is not a major enough problem to work seriously to the film's detriment.

    This picture is a true gem. It has been unavailable for years, but thanks to Warner Brothers, it finally has a DVD release, and the restoration is simply glorious – it more than does justice to this cinematic treasure. Do yourself a favor and see Johnny Belinda.
  • Jane Wyman deservedly won the Academy Award for some of the best acting ever seen on the big screen. She is almost matched by the likes of Charles Bickford, Agnes Moorehead, Jan Sterling, Lew Ayres, and even Stephen McNally, giving the best performance of his career. With a less capable cast, "Johnny Belinda" could easily have degenerated into soap opera melodrama.

    Making the story of isolation and loneliness in a small fishing village on the island of Cape Breton, Canada, more meaningful is the image of a forsaken, harsh, and desolate landscape presented by cinematographer Ted McCord. The viewer is drawn into the life of fishermen and subsistence farmers who live on a day to day basis depending on the brutal weather and unpredictable sea for their livelihood. For a deaf and mute young woman, the isolation would seem unbearable.

    There is so much more to the film than just a study in loneliness in a faraway nearly forgotten land. It also involves human cruelty, pettiness, and treachery, but also human kindness, forgiveness, and mercy. In the end there is retribution and salvation for those who seek it.
  • I have read some great things about this movie before I saw it and I am very glad to say-it was all true!The screenplay,based upon the stage play by Elmer Harris,is fascinating,and all the characters are absolutely believable-at times you would say that you actually know these people.Their habits and beliefs are beautifully presented,so are all the beauties and drawbacks of village life.This is a touching drama with elements of romance about a modest doctor who sees hidden potentials and talents in a deaf-mute girl Belinda McDonald and does his best to show her and her family that she could live a normal life.He treats her as a human being and an intelligent girl which she is.He also helps her father and aunt to realize how smart and sensitive Belinda actually is.Things change for the worse after she was raped by a village rascal Locky.When the doctor finds out she is pregnant,the scandal is inevitable... I won't tell you the rest,you just have to see this magnificent movie.The direction is flawless,even though Negulesco is a relatively unknown director of the 40s(there were Huston,Ford,Wilder,Capra,Lang,Mankiewicz,etc.)Still,he manages to draw viewers' attention to important things-he used the script very well.Every member of the cast is the story of his own,but I simply must point out Jane Wyman.A strikingly beautiful woman,whom I saw before only in The Lost Weekend,was really mesmerising.Her stellar performance represents the best-played challenged person ever,and one of the most deserved Oscars in Hollywood history.You can see every her feeling and thought on her pretty face-I was swept off my feet by her power of expression.The scene in which she prays in sign language over her father's deathbed is among the most poignant ever made.I was lost for words when I saw it.The great accomplishment of the great actress.Lew Ayres portrayed the doctor marvelously-he experienced the same hell as Belinda,and still,he stood by her all the way.Certainly,one of his best roles.This is the first movie in which Jane Wyman and Agnes Moorehead starred together-they continued their partnership over the years.Agnes did great and also deserved the Academy award for her role of strict,but good aunt Aggie.(Claire Trevor got the Award,because she portrayed an alcoholic-a pure cliché.)Charles Bickford was very good as the patriarch who does all he can to keep his family together.He and Jane make beautiful father-daughter chemistry on screen.Other actors gave their own contribution to make this film a true masterpiece,which it is.This is a must-see for any classic film-lover and another proof that you can learn many,many things about life from classic movies.Every man carries the substance that makes him human inside his own heart.This is a monumental movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I have an unusual insight into this film that the average viewer won't have--my own daughter is deaf and we are a bilingual family--using sign language routinely in our home. However, despite this, I generally don't like films about handicapped people as often they just seem trite or contrived. That's why I actually expected not to like JOHNNY BELINDA--I incorrectly assumed it was a film that would make deaf people look noble or too sympathetic to be real. Wow was I wrong!! Instead, I saw that the film was exceptionally well-made in every way and was a great film regardless of your background. Plus, for 1948, it was an amazing film that dared to push the envelope of the Production Code. Although there is the general notion that the Code was 100% rigid and never allowed films to take risks, this film is a prime example that the Code COULD be in place and delicate topics such as rape could be addressed in American films. For this, it deserves kudos for being a brave and ground-breaking film.

    I also was happy to see that when Belinda (Jane Wyman) was taught sign language, the signs that the doctor (Lew Ayers) haltingly taught her were nearly perfect. Ayers was NOT supposed to be an expert but in the film he learned many signs from a book--and that's exactly how he signs. While slow (which is to be expected), he and Wyman use actual signs and they could easily be read and understood (something NOT true in many films showing sign language).

    Now as I alluded to in the first paragraph, the film isn't an overly saccharine in how it portrays deafness but is amazingly realistic--even using politically incorrect terms such as "dummy" or showing that many treated deaf people like they were mentally feeble! As far as the acting goes, Belinda's father (Charles Bickford), Belinda and the doctor play their parts very well--the writing was great and couldn't have been better and all three had the best performances of their careers. However, the writers also were exceptionally brave and deserve a huge round of applause, as the film chooses to address the vulnerability of a deaf person circa 1900--as Belinda is raped and becomes pregnant. Because she only just learned to communicate, she has no idea WHAT happened to her and cannot explain it to those who care about her! How all this is worked out is super-compelling and make this a great film--nearly deserving a score of 10. I think all too often films are given 10 and since I rarely do so, consider this before you see the film--it probably would have gotten a 10 if I wasn't such an old crank!
  • This was an unusually atmospheric melodrama with four powerful performances from Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Agnes Moorehead and Charles Bickford--not to mention two supporting players, Stephen McNally and Jan Sterling who shine in their roles. McNally is the town bully who rapes Belinda, a mute girl being coached to understand sign language by resident doctor, Lew Ayres. The plot thickens when Belinda's father (Charles Bickford) finds out and the story spins toward a taut, melodramatic climax. All of it is raised to a higher level by the quality of the writing, acting and direction. Other top female performances that year (1948)included Olivia de Havilland (for 'The Snake Pit') and Barbara Stanwyck ('Sorry, Wrong Number'). That Wyman won over such competition is a testimony to her brilliant performance. A moving melodrama, absorbing and extremely well acted by the entire cast. A TV version was done more recently but, like most remakes, it paled in comparison.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Jane Wyman's poignant, justly acclaimed performance as an isolated deaf-mute girl is the best thing about this old-fashioned 1948 Warner Brothers melodrama. Generally undervalued as an actress even though she bounced easily from sassy musical comedy chorines to long-suffering Douglas Sirk matrons, Wyman brings a touching authenticity to a character who through the kindness of a country doctor, finds liberation in her newly found ability to communicate. In what is probably his best film, director Jean Negulesco should be given credit for coaxing such a fine performance even though the actress at 34, is a mite mature for the role.

    The plot centers on kindly Dr. Richardson, who pays a house call to help deliver a calf for the irascible Black McDonald. There he notices Black's daughter Belinda, who is unable to hear or speak. Treated more like a mule by her family, she engenders the ridicule of the small town that refers to her dismissively as "The Dummy". The good doctor takes a platonic interest in Belinda and teaches her sign language and lip reading, and through the magic of Hollywood, she not only becomes adept but transforms into an attractive young woman curious about the world around her. There is a lovely scene where she watches the locals dancing, feels the resonance of a fiddle being played, and starts to dance as well. Unfortunately, she attracts the attention of Locky McCormick, a local ne'er-do-well who rapes and impregnates her. Scientologists will likely rejoice at the implied silent birthing scene. The film ends on a far-fetched, heavy-handed note, but the turn of events is not enough to ruin the movie.

    Longtime character actor Lew Ayres is a bit too passive and overly sincere as the well-meaning doctor, but one has to put some of the blame on the rather simplistic screenplay by Allen Vincent and Irma von Cube. Unsurprisingly, veterans Charles Bickford as Black and especially Agnes Moorehead as his taciturn sister Aggie are expert in their roles. Jan Sterling overplays the role of the doctor's smitten secretary, though Stephen McNally is appropriately despicable as Locky. Set in rural Nova Scotia, the townsfolk are portrayed in unfortunate broad strokes to reflect their small-mindedness, especially as they try to take the baby away from Belinda. The Mendocino coast provides a scenic replacement for Nova Scotia, and it's captured well in Ted McCord's crisp black-and-white cinematography. But see the movie for Wyman's masterful turn - that's really what keeps it from being dated hokum. The extras on the 2006 DVD are skimpy - the movie's original trailer and a vintage short released the same year, "The Little Archer".
  • edwagreen15 January 2006
    When Jane Wyman won the 1948 best actress award for "Johnny Belinda," she stated that as she did in the picture, she would keep her mouth shut again.

    Ms. Wyman had to learn sign language for her role as the deaf mute who is raped, but must prove her innocence. No one in town will believe or support her with the exception of a kindly doctor, played by Oscar nominated Lew Ayres.(It must be remembered that Ayres was a conscientious objector during World War 11. Under those circumstances, it is amazing that his career went as far as it did.)

    The film is enhanced by the great supporting performances of Agnes Moorehead, as Johnny's aunt and her father, the always supporting actor nominee Charles Bickford.Both Bickford and Moorehead were perennial losers.

    The film tries to convey that deaf mute people must be accepted by society and that the latter can't frown when they are molested in any way. Just as people who can speak, the deaf mute did not want this to happen to her.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Stellar performances are the order of the day in this tear-jerker with some profound moments ! Jane Wyman give the performance of her career, as the deaf mute, who has a great compassion for living and learning , and wanting acceptance ! Unfortunately , McCormack , the local lout, has designs on her and rapes her one night . Lew Ayres, the new town Doctor, and mentor to Belinda , discovers her pregnancy, and helps her through this difficult time. Charles Bickford, Belinda's father , rediscovers his feelings for her, and tries to mend their relationship. Agnes Moorehead, gives a very good performance, despite the lack of material to work with. Hardened by her working conditions , has made her bitter with age. The flaws in the story are pronounced, as to how the pregnancy period is dealt with by a male authors way of thinking, no morning sickness, how the rape is handled, little compassion for Belinda's feelings, i.e. she must be guilty if she is pregnant. But that being said, Wyman's flawless performance is compelling and heartfelt ! A triumph of the human spirit ! See the Piano for another triumph ! A must see ! A 10 !
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As good as the story was, I had a difficult time with one aspect of it. At no time following the rape of Belinda McDonald (Jane Wyman) was it ever explained to her how it was possible for her to have a baby. I know, she was an adult that should have known about the birds and the bees, but the story took extra pains to portray her as a 'dummy', and both her father and aunt for the longest time treated her as less than a full human being capable of learning and understanding. Actually, that was another problem I had with the story as well. It didn't take long for Doc Richardson (Lew Ayres) to demonstrate to Black McDonald (Charles Bickford) that Belinda was a sensitive person who could learn to sign, understand the alphabet and write on her own. But all prior to that time, father McDonald treated his daughter like a second class citizen and an employee of the household. His sudden turn when first called 'father' by Belinda seemed like too sudden a change of character for someone who harbored such severe feelings for so long.

    Be that as it may, the story is one of courage and compassion, and one which could have been made maudlin in the hands of a less skillful director. Many reviewers call Ms. Wyman's performance here as the best of her career, and though I haven't seen that many of her pictures, I would agree that she did a remarkable job here. Her capability with signing, along with Lew Ayres, added a much needed degree of plausibility to make the story a credible one. What perhaps was a bit too coincidental for things to work out satisfactorily was the shooting death of Locky McCormick (Stephen McNally), who was never called to account for the horrific rape of Belinda. If his wife Stella (Jan Sterling) had not 'cracked' at the trial, both the lives of Belinda and the doctor would have been irreparably damaged. That was as far as the story would go to admit that Stella had been in love with Doctor Richardson the entire time he lived in Cape Breton.
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