AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Jane Eyre
Director: Robert Stevenson (Dir)
Release Date:   Feb 1944
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 4 Feb 1944; Los Angeles opening: 10 Feb 1944
Production Date:   3 Feb--mid-Apr 1943
Duration (in mins):   95-97
Duration (in feet):   8,520
Duration (in reels):   10
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Orson Welles (Edward Rochester)  
    Joan Fontaine (Jane [Eyre])  
    Margaret O'Brien (Adele)  
    Peggy Ann Garner (Jane Eyre, as a child)  
    John Sutton (Dr. Rivers)  
    Sara Allgood (Bessie)  
    Henry Daniell (Henry Brocklehurst)  
    Agnes Moorehead (Mrs. Reed)  
    Aubrey Mather (Col. Percy Dent)  
    Edith Barrett (Mrs. Fairfax)  
    Barbara Everest (Lady Ingraham)  
    Hillary Brooke (Blanche Ingraham)  
    Ethel Griffies (Grace Poole)  
    Eily Malyon (Mrs. Skatcher)  
    Ivan Simpson (Mr. Woods)  
    Erskine Sanford (Mr. Briggs)  
    John Abbott (Mason)  
    Elizabeth Taylor (Helen)  
    Mae Marsh (Leah)  
    Mary Forbes (Mrs. Eshton)  
    Thomas Louden (Sir George Lynn)  
    Yorke Sherwood (Beadle)  
    Ronald Harris (John Reed)  
    Charles Irwin (Auctioneer)  
    Gwendolen Logan (Dowager)  
    Moyna MacGill (Dowager)  
    Gerald Oliver Smith (Footman at Gateshead)  
    Jean Fenwick (Guest)  
    Bud Lawler (Guest)  
    John Meredith (Guest)  
    Leslie Vincent (Guest)  
    Roseanne Murray (Guest)  
    Marion Rosamond (Guest)  
    Dan Wallace (Guest)  
    Billie Seward (Woman at party)  
    Ruthe Brady (Woman at party)  
    Adele Jergens (Woman at party)  
    Colin Campbell (Proprietor)  
    Eustace Wyatt (Dr. Carter)  
    David Clyde (Guard)  
    Harry Allen (Guard)  
    Charles Coleman (Guard)  
    Billy Bevan (Bookie)  
    Tempe Pigott (Fortune teller)  
    Alec Craig (Footman)  
    Frederick Worlock (Waiter)  
    George Kirby (Old gentleman)  
    Arthur Gould-Porter (Young man)  
    Alan Edmiston (Dealer)  
    Barry Macollum (Trustee)  
    Brandon Hurst (Trustee)  
    Nancy June Robinson (Girl)  

Summary: In 1829, nine-year-old orphan Jane Eyre lives at the English estate of her cruel aunt, Mrs. Reed, who favors her spoiled son John over the spirited Jane. Determined to be rid of Jane, Mrs. Reed sends her to Lowood Institution, an austere boarding school for orphaned and impoverished children, which is run by Henry Brocklehurst. Brocklehurst, a sadistic prig, warns the teachers and students to shun Jane, but kindhearted pupil Helen shares a meager portion of bread with her. Despite her disappointment over Lowood's austerity, Jane enjoys learning and her friendship with Helen deepens. Jane also appreciates the attention of Dr. Rivers, who tends to the pupils of Lowood and advises Brocklehurst to treat them more humanely. One day, Brocklehurst cuts off Helen's curly hair, then orders her and Jane to march in the rain as punishment for their "vanity" and "rebelliousness." The harsh experience proves fatal for Helen, and Jane loses her gentle friend. After Helen's death, Dr. Rivers encourages Jane to bury her grief and continue her education, which she does during the next ten years. In 1839, Brocklehurst offers Jane a teaching job, but she is determined to escape Lowood. After placing an ad seeking a position as a governess, Jane travels to a country estate known as Thornfield, where she is met by Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper. Mrs. Fairfax explains that Jane's pupil is a French girl named Adele, who is the ward of Thornfield's absent master, Edward Rochester. One evening, while Jane is taking a walk, a rider on horseback rises out of the mist and almost tramples her. The imperious rider twists his ankle when he falls, then rudely departs without divulging his name. Upon her return to Thornfield, Jane learns that the rider was Rochester, who mystifies her with his contradictory nature. Mrs. Fairfax advises Jane to make allowances for Rochester, who often stays away from Thornfield because of the unpleasant memories it holds. When Rochester seeks out Jane the next day, he is pleased by her honest admission that she does not find him handsome, and the rapport between them builds. That night, Jane is awakened by eerie laughter and when she rushes into the hallway, sees smoke coming from Rochester's bedroom. Jane awakens Rochester before he is consumed by the fire, and he allows her to assume that the blaze was set by Grace Poole, a supposedly unstable seamstress living in a little-used wing of the mansion. Although the incident draws the couple closer, the next morning, Jane is distressed to learn that Rochester has left for a house party at the home of Blanche Ingraham. The winter passes without word from Rochester, until one day, the household learns that he is to arrive with Blanche and other guests. Much to Jane's dismay, Mrs. Fairfax insinuates that Blanche will soon become Rochester's wife. Jane grows more troubled upon meeting the beautiful, haughty Blanche, but both she and Rochester feel their bond grow stronger when they talk. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Mason, of Spanish Town, Jamaica, and Jane does not see Rochester again until late that night when she is awakened by screams. Rochester escorts Jane to the wing habited by Grace and there she tends to Mason, who has been wounded. Rochester sends Mason away with a doctor, then walks with Jane, who thinks that Grace instigated the attack. Rochester states that he is to be married, and later, tells Jane that he will find a new position for her, as she believes that his bride will send Adele away to school. Soon after, Rochester accuses Blanche of caring more for his money than for him, and she leaves with her family and the other guests. Rochester then tests Jane by informing her that he has found another position for her, and when she finally confesses her love for him, he passionately proposes. Adele is thrilled that Jane is to be her new mother, but Mason stops the wedding ceremony by announcing that Rochester is already married to Mason's sister Bertha. Rochester then leads the wedding party to Thornfield and shows them Bertha, who is violently insane. Soon after, Jane tells Rochester for the last time that she loves him and leaves the mansion, despite his pleas for her to stay. With nowhere else to go, Jane returns to Mrs. Reed, who has fallen ill, and nurses her until her death. Jane learns from Dr. Rivers that Rochester has been inquiring after her, but she asks him not to reply. One night, however, Jane believes that she hears Rochester calling her name in great torment, and she rushes back to Thornfield. There she is told by Mrs. Fairfax that Bertha set the mansion on fire and Rochester was seriously injured in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue her. Just then, Rochester enters the ruins of the mansion, and Jane realizes that he is blind. She is overjoyed to be reunited with him, and her passion convinces him that she feels more for him than mere pity. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Production Text: William Goetz In Charge of Production
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Robert Stevenson (Dir)
  Arthur Jacobson (Asst dir)
  William Pereira (2d unit dir)
Producer: Kenneth Macgowan (Prod)
  Orson Welles (Assoc prod)
Writer: Aldous Huxley (Scr)
  Robert Stevenson (Scr)
  John Houseman (Scr)
  Ketti Frings (Contr to scr constr)
Photography: George Barnes (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: William Pereira (Prod des)
  James Basevi (Art dir)
  Wiard B. Ihnen (Art dir)
Film Editor: Walter Thompson (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Ross Dowd (Assoc)
Costumes: Renè Hubert (Cost)
Music: Bernard Herrmann (Mus)
Sound: W. D. Flick (Sd)
  Roger Heman (Sd)
Special Effects: Fred Sersen (Spec photog eff)
Make Up: Guy Pearce (Makeup artist)
  Maurice Seiderman (Orson Welles's makeup artist)
Production Misc: Barbara Keon (Scenario asst)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (London, 1847).
Authors: Charlotte Brontë

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 3/2/1944 dd/mm/yyyy LP12813

PCA NO: 9213
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

Genre: Romance
Sub-Genre: Historical
Subjects (Major): England
  Wards and guardians
Subjects (Minor): Arson
  Battered children
  Death and dying
  Great Danes
  Snobs and snobbishness
  Upper classes

Note: The opening title card of the film reads: "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë." Throughout the film, offscreen narration is spoken by Joan Fontaine as "Jane Eyre," and at the end of the picture, she paraphrases the book when describing the partial recovery of "Rochester's" sight: "And then one day, when our firstborn was put into his arms, he could see that the boy had inherited his own eyes, as they once were--large, brilliant and black." The character "Dr. Rivers," played by John Sutton, was created for the film and does not appear in Brontë's book. On 6 Oct 1941, NYT announced that independent producer David O. Selznick had joined United Artists and intended to produce Jane Eyre for release through UA. Other contemporary sources note that Selznick began preparations on Jane Eyre in early 1941, and that director Robert Stevenson, who was a member of the Brontë Society, had been interested in making a film adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's novel for several years. A Feb 1942 HR news item noted that Selznick was testing Sir Cedric Hardwicke for the role of "Brocklehurst," and that K. T. Stevens, Burgess Meredith and Gene Kelly would also test for the film. In Apr 1942, HR announced that Ronald Colman was "out" of the production, and that Selznick would test Alan Marshal to replace him. In Jul 1942, HR first speculated that Walter Pidgeon, Colman and Marshal were all "strong contenders" for the role of "Edward Rochester," then announced that Selznick had offered the role to Orson Welles, who had played the part previously in radio performances. An unsourced but contemporary article in the film's file at the AMPAS Library reported that Fontaine, Vivien Leigh and Katharine Hepburn were "neck-to-neck contenders" for the part of "Jane Eyre."
       In Oct 1942, however, Selznick began efforts to sell a number of his literary properties, and it appeared that Paramount would purchase the rights to Jane Eyre . The deal was not struck, however, and in Nov 1942, Selznick sold the completed script of Jane Eyre to Twentieth Century-Fox, along with the rights to Claudia and Keys of the Kingdom . Information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, discloses that Keith Winter and DeWitt Bodeen may have contributed to the completed script, and a contemporary guide for teachers quoted director Robert Stevenson as crediting Bodeen with doing "a good deal of our research work." In addition to the screenplay, Selznick sold the completed production designs executed by William Pereira and arranged for Twentieth Century-Fox to employ Pereira, Fontaine, Stevenson and cinematographer George Barnes on the picture. For more information about the sale of Selznick's properties to Twentieth Century-Fox, please see the entry above for Claudia .
       According to a memo from Selznick reprinted in a modern source, Selznick suggested the casting of Vivien Leigh's daughter, Suzanne Holman, as young Jane. A Jan 1943 HR news item announced that although Peggy Ann Garner had been scheduled to play Jane Eyre as a child, the part was re-assigned to Margaret O'Brien, who was borrowed from M-G-M, because the studio "changed the casting for a different type." In the finished film, however, Garner does play Jane, and O'Brien portrays "Adele." In Feb 1943, HR noted that Vincent Price was being tested for the role of Brocklehurst. Although a Feb 1943 studio press release announced that Glen Gallagher had been cast in the picture, his appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to a modern source, Igor Stravinsky was engaged to write the film's music score but did not finish due to disagreements with studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck. Stravinsky's compositions did not appear in the completed picture, and modern sources report that composer Bernard Herrmann was hired upon the request of Selznick and Welles.
       In discussing the studio's production plans, a 20 Dec 1942 NYT article noted that writer Aldous Huxley had intentionally decided to depict "Bertha Rochester" as an off-screen character who was discussed rather than seen so that "the inherent menace in the character will be more effective." The article also noted that "English censorship restrictions on the depiction of lunacy will also be satisfied by the off-screen device."
       Although no producer is listed in the onscreen credits or the SAB, HR production charts list Kenneth Macgowan as the producer and Welles as the associate producer. A 22 Jan 1943 HR production chart erroneously listed William Perlberg as the film's producer, even though several earlier news items had credited Macgowan. An 8 Apr 1943 HR news item noted that Goetz had announced that Welles would receive an onscreen credit as associate producer. In a 17 Apr 1943 memo to Goetz, reprinted in a modern source, Selznick protested Welles's proposed associate producer credit, claiming that it would detract from the achievement of Stevenson, who Selznick believed had largely acted as producer since the sale of the Jane Eyre screenplay. The HR review commented, "As several producers had a hand in bringing Jane Eyre to its glorious fulfillment, screen credit to any one individual was waived by all."
       Soon after the completion of Jane Eyre , Welles served as a consultant on the studio's two-reel short subject entitled Three Sisters of the Moors . The short, starring Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Mollie Lamont, Lynne Roberts and Heather Angel, told the story of the Brontë sisters and was intended to interest moviegoers in Jane Eyre . According to HR , in Feb 1944, Monogram announced that it would withdraw from circulation all prints of its own feature-length Jane Eyre , which was originally released in 1934. The HR news item noted that "despite requests to reissue the picture in various territories, Monogram feels it would be unethical to do so at this time while Twentieth Century-Fox is releasing its new version." A Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the Twentieth Century-Fox production, starring Welles and Loretta Young, aired on 5 Jun 1944. Other Lux Radio Theatre broadcasts aired on 27 Jun 1938 in a version starring Helen Hayes and Robert Montgomery, and on 14 Jun 1948 with Montgomery reprising his role as Rochester.
       In addition to numerous stage presentations, Brontë's novel has been adapted for the screen several times, one of the earliest of which was produced by Thanhouser Film Corp in 1910 in a one-reel version starring Marie Eline and Gloria Gallop (see AFI Catalog. Film Beginnings, 1893-1910 ; A.07844). Lisbeth Blackstone and Dallas Tyler starred in the 1914 Whitman Features Co. version, and in 1918, Edward Jose directed Alice Brady and Elliott Dexter in Woman and Wife for Select Pictures (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.2264 and F1.5064). In 1921, Hugo Ballin Productions released their version of Jane Eyre , which was directed by Ballin and starred Norman Trevor and Mabel Ballin (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.2782). The 1934 Monogram production was directed by Christy Cabanne and starred Virginia Bruce and Colin Clive (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.2203). Ethel Griffies played "Grace Poole" in both the Monogram and Twentieth Century-Fox productions. Other versions of the story include a 1970 British production starring Susannah York and George C. Scott, and directed by Delbert Mann; a 1996 European production directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starring William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg; and a 1997 British television co-producion, starring Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   5 Feb 1944.   
Daily Variety   2 Feb 44   p. 5.
Film Daily   3 Feb 44   p. 14.
Hollywood Citizen-News   11 Feb 1944.   
Hollywood Reporter   6 Feb 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Apr 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jul 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Jul 42   pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Jul 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Sep 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Sep 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Oct 42   p. 1, 4
Hollywood Reporter   16 Nov 42   p. 1, 6
Hollywood Reporter   7 Dec 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Dec 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Dec 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Jan 43   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jan 43   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jan 43   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Feb 43   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Feb 43   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Mar 43   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Apr 43   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Apr 43   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Apr 43   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   21 May 43   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 44   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Feb 44   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Feb 44   p. 17.
Motion Picture Daily   2 Feb 1944.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   5 Feb 44   p. 1741.
New York Times   22 Jun 1941.   
New York Times   6 Oct 1941.   
New York Times   20 Dec 1942.   
New York Times   4 Feb 44   p. 12.
New York Times   13 Feb 44   p. 3, sec II.
New York Times   16 Feb 1944.   
Variety   2 Feb 44   p. 18.

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.