Monday, October 22, 2012

Repost: A Birthday Tribute to Joan Fontaine

NOTE: Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine turns 95 today. Reposted below is my tribute to Miss Fontaine of two years ago, updated with links to several more Fontaine films reviewed over the past couple of years. Those who aren't yet very familiar with Fontaine's work might find some of the films listed below a good place to start -- I particularly recommend her performances in THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943) and FROM THIS DAY FORWARD (1946), along with her classics REBECCA (1940), SUSPICION (1941), and JANE EYRE (1943). I look forward myself to continuing to explore more of her films in the months and years to come. Happy Birthday to a wonderful actress!

Actress Joan Fontaine turned 93 years old yesterday.


The Oscar-winning Fontaine is part of a relatively unique family -- her sister, Olivia de Havilland, is also an Oscar-winning actress. de Havilland turned 94 last summer. Unfortunately, as most film fans are aware, the sisters have been estranged for many years.

My favorite Fontaine performance has always been her role as the Second Mrs. DeWinter in REBECCA (1940), for which I believe she should have won the Oscar. Instead, she received a consolation Oscar the following year for another Hitchcock film, SUSPICION (1941).

I've seen SUSPICION multiple times, though not in recent years; I never particularly cared for that film, but suspect a lot of my reaction had to do with Cary Grant's ambiguous lead role, as a man who was obviously meant to be a murderer but was saved from that fate in the final scenes only because he was...Cary Grant. I hope to take a fresh look at SUSPICION before too long.

Other favorite Fontaine performances include the title role in JANE EYRE (1943), which I've enjoyed many times over the years, and the devious Christabel in BORN TO BE BAD (1950), a film I enjoyed tremendously when I first saw it a year ago.

Earlier this year I was gifted with a copy of the hard-to-find Fontaine film THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943)...my daughters have already enjoyed it, and I've been savoring looking forward to this film, which has been on my viewing wish list for years. Somehow it's fun just knowing it's waiting for me, but that's another one I really need to move to the top of my stack soon! I've been wanting to view it at just the right moment, as I expect seeing the film to be something of an emotional experience on multiple levels. It has a remarkable cast including Charles Boyer, Alexis Smith, Brenda Marshall, Charles Coburn, Peter Lorre, Joyce Reynolds, Jean Muir, and Dame May Whitty.

Other Fontaine films I'm still looking forward to seeing for the very first time include GUNGA DIN (1939) -- hard to believe I haven't seen a film starring Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.! -- THIS ABOVE ALL (1942), FROM THIS DAY FORWARD (1946), LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN (1947), SEPTEMBER AFFAIR (1950), and IVANHOE (1952).

The Self-Styled Siren posted a great review of Fontaine's IVY (1947) earlier this week. It costars Herbert Marshall (one of the really great movie voices) and sounds fascinating.

There's also a nice photo post at Discovering Ida, and Olivia and Joan: Sisters of the Silver Screen marked the day by linking to a radio production of FROM THIS DAY FORWARD, starring Fontaine and Mark Stevens.

Fontaine films previously reviewed here: NO MORE LADIES (1935), a tiny role which was her first film credit, billed as Joan Burfield, and THE WOMEN (1939), a small but noticeable part which helped boost her career into leading roles.

Miss Fontaine's birthday week seems like the perfect time to express appreciation for her role in providing so many hours of excellent entertainment, with the promise of much more to enjoy in the future.

October 22, 2011 Update: Here's links for Joan Fontaine movies reviewed in the past year: THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943), SEPTEMBER AFFAIR (1950), DARLING, HOW COULD YOU! (1951), and FLIGHT TO TANGIER (1953).

October 22, 2012 Update: Joan Fontaine movies seen in the past year: MAID'S NIGHT OUT (1938), FROM THIS DAY FORWARD (1946), and UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957).

More reviews: THE MAN WHO FOUND HIMSELF (1937), SKY GIANT (1938), and SUSPICION (1941).

2013 Update: More reviews! Here's YOU CAN'T BEAT LOVE (1937), VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (1961), and LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN (1948).

2014 Update: Reviews of FRENCHMAN'S CREEK (1944) and IVY (1947).

December 15, 2013 Update: Joan Fontaine Dies at 96.

4 Comments:

Blogger Blake Lucas said...

You know how hard I'm pushing for you to put LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN to the top of your must-sees. I would have also said REBECCA was my favorite of her performances, if it weren't for this one. This surely is her best.
And an exquisite movie in all ways.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Blake! I really love her in REBECCA. The last time I saw it (one of many viewings) I appreciated so many nuances of her performance in a fresh way.

I happened across the chat you had at Dave Kehr's blog on Lew Landers and read the recommendations with interest, as I've recorded many Landers films today and also a few days ago. I watched most of THE MAN WHO FOUND HIMSELF today and thought it got better as it went along, mainly due to Fontaine being a fresh breeze who blows into the movie. Will finish it tomorrow and then post my thoughts.

Best wishes,
Laura

11:32 PM  
OpenID movieclassics said...

Happy birthday to a great actress! Really enjoyed this posting, Laura. I saw her in 'The Constant Nymph' recently and loved her performance in that - also a big fan of 'Rebecca' and 'Suspicion', though I agree with you about the dodgy ending of the latter. 'Jane Eyre' is my favourite novel and there are other adaptations that I prefer, but Fontaine is great in that too and makes a good combination with Welles.

I also like her in 'The Women', and I saw her a while back in 'The Bigamist' with Ida Lupino and Edmond O'Brien, which I found an interesting film though I don't remember it in all that much detail now. One movie where I'd have to say she was miscast, though, was 'A Damsel in Distress', where she has to dance with Fred Astaire, which isn't really playing to her talents! Judy

2:58 AM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Thanks for tribute. Joan made a lot of good films.
A pity she and Olivia didn't make a film together.
Always thought it was odd costing, Joan and Fred Astaire in Damsel in Distress.
I liked her in BEYOND A REASONALE DOUBT. Though in the 50s,Joan started wearing a rather severe hair style which I didn't like.

7:40 AM  

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