The Song of Bernadette (film)

The Song of Bernadette (film)

name = The Song of Bernadette

image_size = 150px
caption = original film poster
imdb_id = 0036377
director = Henry King
writer = George Seaton | starring = Jennifer Jones
William Eythe
Charles Bickford
Vincent Price
producer = William Perlberg
music = Alfred Newman
cinematography = Arthur C. Miller
distributor = Twentieth Century-Fox
released = 1943
runtime = 156 min.

"The Song of Bernadette" is a 1943 film which tells the story of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, who, from February to July 1858 in Lourdes, France, reported 18 visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was directed by Henry King.

The movie was adapted by George Seaton from a novelization of Bernadette's story, written by Franz Werfel. The novel was published in 1942 and was extremely popular, spending more than a year on the New York Times Best Seller list and 13 weeks atop the list.


On an errand with her sister Marie and school friend Jeanne to collect firewood outside the town of Lourdes, Bernadette is left behind when her companions warn her not to wade through the cold river by the Massabelle caves for fear of taking ill. About to cross anyway, Bernadette is distracted by a strange breeze and a change in the light. Investigating the cave, she finds a beautiful lady standing in brilliant light, holding a pearl rosary. She tells her sister and friend, who promise not to tell anyone else, but of course they do, and the story soon spreads all over town. Many, including Bernadette's Aunt Bernarde, believe her and stand up for her with her disbelieving parents, but Bernadette faces civil and church authorities alone. Repeatedly questioned, she stands solidly behind her outlandish story and continues to return to the cave as the lady has asked. She faces ridicule as the lady tells her to drink and wash at a spring that doesn't exist, but digs a hole in the ground and uses the wet sand and mud. The water begins to flow later and exhibits miraculous healing properties. The lady finally identifies herself as "the Immaculate Conception". Civil authorities try to have her declared insane, while the Church wants a formal investigation to find out if Bernadette's a fraud, insane, or genuine. They conclude that her experiences are real. Bernadette prefers to go on with an ordinary life, work, and possible marriage, but because she has seen the Virgin Mary, she is forced to take the veil instead. She is subjected to normal although rigorous spiritual training and hard work, but also emotional abuse from a cold and sinister novitiate director (a positively cadaverous Gladys Cooper) - her former teacher at school, who is skeptically jealous of all the attention Bernadette has been receiving as a result of the visions. Bernadette is diagnosed with tuberculosis of the bone, which causes intense pain, yet she has never complained or so much as mentioned it. The novice mistress, for whom pain and suffering are the only path to holiness, realizes Bernadette's saintliness, begs for forgiveness in the chapel, and becomes an ally of Bernadette. Knowing she is dying, Bernadette sends for Bishop Peyramale (Charles Bickford), the fatherly cleric from Lourdes who once doubted her and later became her staunchest ally, and tells him of her feelings of unworthiness and her concern that she will never see the lady again. But the lady appears in the room, smiling and holding out her arms. Only Bernadette can see her, however, and with a cry of "I love you!", she reaches out to the apparition, and falls back dead.


The plot follows the novel by Franz Werfel, which is not a documentary but a highly romanticized hagiography blending historical fact and fiction. Bernadette's real-life friend Antoine Nicolau is portrayed as being deeply in love with her, and vowing to remain unmarried when Bernadette enters the convent. No such relationship is documented as existing between the two. The government authorities, in particular Imperial Prosecutor Vital Dutour (played by Vincent Price) are portrayed as being much more anti-religion than they actually were [Trochu, Francois, "Saint Bernadette Soubirous" Tan Books 1993. Trochu provides background information on Bernadette's "inquisitors", revealing that they were not atheists or even freethinkers.] , and in fact Dutour was himself a devout Catholic who simply thought Bernadette was hallucinating. Other portrayals come closer to historical accuracy, particularly Anne Revere and Roman Bohnen as Bernadette's overworked parents, Charles Bickford as Father Peyramale, and Blanche Yurka as formidable Aunt Bernarde.

Bernadette's death in particular is cinematic. She would not have had enough breath to talk that much. Peyramale was not present at her deathbed, having himself died two years before. What is uncertain is whether or not she had a vision before she died. Witnesses said that some hours prior to her death, they saw Bernadette looking across the room with great concentration as she did when experiencing a vision, but she didn't say anything. Her last words were a phrase from the Hail Mary.


"The Song of Bernadette" won four Oscars in the 1943 Academy Awards; for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jennifer Jones), Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. In addition, the film was nominated for a further eight categories: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Charles Bickford), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Gladys Cooper), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Revere), Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Sound, Recording and Best Writing, Screenplay.

In the first Golden Globe Awards in 1944, the film won three awards, for Best Director - Motion Picture, Best Motion Picture - Drama and Best Motion Picture Actress (Jones).


*Jennifer Jones ... Bernadette
*Linda Darnell ... The Lady (The Virgin Mary)
*William Eythe ... Antoine Nicolau
*Charles Bickford ... Father Peyramale
*Vincent Price ... Prosecutor Vital Dutour
*Lee J. Cobb ... Dr. Dozous
*Gladys Cooper ... Sister Marie Therese Vauzous
*Anne Revere ... Louise Soubirous
*Roman Bohnen ... François Soubirous
*Mary Anderson ... Jeanne Abadie
*Patricia Morison ... Empress Eugenie
*Aubrey Mather ... Mayor Lacade
*Charles Dingle ... Jacomet
*Edith Barrett ... Croisine Bouhouhorts
*Sig Ruman ... Louis Bouriette
*Blanche Yurka ... Aunt Bernarde Casterot
*Ermadean Walters ... Marie Soubirous

The film stars Jennifer Jones, William Eythe, Charles Bickford, Vincent Price, Lee J. Cobb, Anne Revere, Gladys Cooper and Linda Darnell.

Jennifer Jones had made movies before, under her real name of Phyllis Isley. Zanuck had her credited as "introducing Jennifer Jones as Bernadette" in order to make the public think she was an unknown.

Many of the production staff believed The Lady should not be visible to the audience but that Bernadette's adoration of something she saw plainly should "render the invisible visible to others", as Werfel's book said the real Bernadette did. The choice of Darnell (then a few months pregnant) with her reputation as a so-called soft-porn modelFact|date=July 2007 angered Werfel, who threatened to take his name off the picture. Selznick was determined to use her, so he told Werfel that he had picked an unknown for the role of the Virgin Mary. He draped Darnell in heavier garments and veiling than the historical Bernadette reported for her lady, and filmed her in brilliant light. Darnell is recognizable in the final scene where she comes into Bernadette's room. The lady's few lines are also spoken by Darnell.

It may be difficult for modern viewers to understand the fuss made about Darnell's casting. The "soft porn" items in question were not films, but a series of photographs, in some of which Darnell is topless. Werfel apparently saw the pictures and demanded that she be removed from production. At the time, mildly erotic or risqué photos or films were called "blue", and this expression was used to describe the photographs in Selznick's biography "Showman" (Abacus, 1993). Darnell often portrayed sexy or sultry characters in films, most notably dance hall girl Chihuahua in the famous John Ford Western, "My Darling Clementine (movie)", but is not known for having made any "blue" films.

See also

* The Song of Bernadette (novel)
* Bernadette Soubirous
* Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes


* John Bear, "The #1 New York Times Best Seller: intriguing facts about the 484 books that have been #1 New York Times bestsellers since the first list, 50 years ago", Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1992

* [ Fan site of The Song of Bernadette]

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