William Dieterle’s Portrait of Jennie is quite possibly the most utterly romantic movie ever made. It’s a close-to-perfect blend of stylization and unabashed romance of the fatalist and fantasy kind. With a dose of artistically textured overlays, an effective musical score (almost entirely cribbed from Debussy), a perfect cast, impeccable effects, some tinted scenes, and one Technicolor shot, there’s nothing quite like it anywhere. Portrait of Jennie tells the story of Eben Adams (Joseph Cotten), a struggling—and unformed—artist in Depression-era New York, who meets a young girl, Jennie Appleton (Jennifer Jones), in Central Park. Jennie is a strange girl who seems to be from another time, but her look provides Adams with just the inspiration he needs to unlock his true artistic calling. Stranger still, Jennie appears to be a little older each time he sees her—claiming she’s growing up in a hurry for him—but he doesn’t really suspect anything is wrong till she tells him about her parents just being killed in an accident at the theater where they perform—an accident that took place years and years earlier in a theater long since gone. All this is leading to a romance (when Jennie is 18) and a revelation that isn’t hard to guess. But guessing the revelation has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the movie.
Before you comment
The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.