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Joan of Arc (1948 film)

Joan of Arc is a 1948 Technicolor film directed by Victor Fleming; starring Ingrid Bergman as the French religious icon and war hero. It was produced by Walter Wanger. It is based on Maxwell Anderson's successful Broadway play Joan of Lorraine, which also starred Bergman, and was adapted for the screen by Anderson himself, in collaboration with Andrew Solt. Bergman had been lobbying to play Joan for many years, and this film was considered a dream project for her. It received mixed reviews and lower-than-expected box office, though it clearly was not a "financial disaster" as is often claimed.

The movie is considered by some to mark the start of a low period in the actress's career that would last until she made Anastasia in 1956. In April 1949, five months after the release of the film, and before it had gone out on general release, the revelation of Bergman's extramarital relationship with Italian director Roberto Rossellini brought her American screen career to a temporary halt. The film was subsequently drastically edited for its general release, and was not restored to its original length for nearly fifty years.

Bergman and co-star José Ferrer (making his first film appearance) received Academy Award nominations for their performances. The film was director Victor Fleming's last project — he died only two months after its release.

Plot

Unlike the play Joan of Lorraine, which is a play-within-a-play about an acting company presenting the story of Joan, the film is a straightforward recounting of the life of the French heroine. It begins with an obviously painted shot of the inside of a basilica with a shaft of light, possibly descending from heaven, shining down from the ceiling, and a solemn off-screen voice pronouncing the canonization of the Maid of Orleans. Then, what appears to be a church manuscript is shown recounting Joan's life in Latin, while some uncredited voiceover narration sets up the tale. The actual story of Joan then begins, from the time she becomes convinced that she has been divinely called to save France to her being burnt at the stake at the hands of the English and the Burgundians.

Differences between complete and edited versions

There are several differences between the full-length version of the film and the edited general release version.

  • One that is immediately noticeable is that there is actually a snippet from Joan's trial during the opening narration in the edited version, whereas in the full-length version, the events of Joan's life are shown in chronological order. The opening narration is much longer in the edited version than in the complete version, with some of it being dubbed in over snippets from edited-down versions of the opening scenes.
  • The edited version omits crucial scenes that are important to a psychological understanding of the narrative, such as the mention of a dream that Joan's father has which foretells of Joan's campaign against the English. When Joan hears of the dream, she becomes convinced that she has been divinely ordered to drive the English out of France.
  • Most of the first ten minutes of the film, a section showing Joan praying in the Domrémy shrine, followed by a family dinner and conversation which leads to the mention of the dream, are not in the edited version.
  • Severe breaks in continuity in the edited version are joined by the voiceover narration explaining what has happened between scenes. (In the complete 145-minute version, the narration is heard only at the beginning of the film, and there are no sudden breaks in continuity.)
  • Entire characters, such as Joan's father (played by Robert Barrat) and Father Pasquerel (played by Hurd Hatfield) are partially or totally omitted from the edited version.
  • Even the opening credits are different — in the edited version, the story begins right after we see Victor Fleming's director's credit, while in the full-length version, after the director's credit, a title card saying "The Players" appears onscreen, after which all the major lead and supporting actors — more than thirty of them — are listed in order of appearance and in groups (e.g., "At Domrémy", "At Chinon", etc.), much as in Fleming's other lengthy film epic Gone with the Wind.

The edited version might be considered more cinematic through its use of maps and voice-over narration to explain the political situation in France. (In the full-length version, Joan's family discusses the political situation during dinner.) The full-length version, although not presented as a play-within-a-play, as the stage version was, nevertheless resembles a stage-to-film adaptation, makes great use of Maxwell Anderson's original dialogue, and may seem, to some, stagy in its method of presentation, despite having a realistic depiction of the Siege of Orléans.

Awards and nominations

Production

Joan of Arc was made in 1947–1948 by an independent company, Sierra Pictures, created just for this production. Filming was done primarily at Hal Roach Studios, with location scenes shot in the Los Angeles area. It was first released in November 1948 by RKO. When the film was shortened for its general release, it was distributed, not by RKO, but by a company called Balboa Film Distributors, the same company which re-released Alfred Hitchcock's Under Capricorn, also starring Ingrid Bergman.

Reception

One of the criticisms of the film is that Bergman, who was 33 at the time she made the movie, was nearly twice as old as the real Joan of Arc; the Swedish actress would later play her (at age 39) in a 1954 Italian film, Giovanna d'Arco al rogo (Joan at the Stake). However, reviewers in 1948 did not object to this; it was common in those days for an older actress to play a teenager, as the twenty-four Jennifer Jones had in 1943's The Song of Bernadette, for which she won a Best Actress Oscar.

It cost $4.5 million at completion, but as of December 1951, the film had grossed six million dollars, three million less than was needed to cover production and distribution costs.

Versions

The film was edited from 145 minutes to 100 minutes for its general release in September 1950. The complete 145 minute version of Joan of Arc remained unseen in the U.S. for about forty-nine years. Although the complete Technicolor negatives remained in storage in Hollywood, the original soundtrack was thought to be lost. The movie was restored in 1998 after an uncut print in mint condition was found in Europe, containing the only known copy of the complete soundtrack. The restored version was hailed as being much superior to the edited version. It was released on DVD in 2004.

The complete, unedited version of the film has not been shown on American television as of September 2008. The edited version received its first television showing on CBS on the evening of April 12 1968.

External links

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