The great classic horror novel "Jane Eyre" has been adapted for the movies many times, and the latest version opens this weekend. I liked it, but for me the definitive version will always be the one made in 1943, starring Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles. I’m Bill Kurtis for Roger Ebert. It tells the story of a powerless young woman, without connections or family, who goes to work as a governess for a sinister man named Rochester.
Her work takes place within Rochester's home, Thornhill, a forbidding Gothic mansion with countless rooms and many secrets. The master is often absent, and Thornhill is managed by Miss Fairfax, the housekeeper, played by Edith Barrett. There are strange notes in her voice when she discusses Mr. Rochester.
Rochester and Jane Eyre are powerfully attracted to one another, but unable to act on their feelings, because there is a Mrs. Rochester, who is mysteriously absent.
"Jane Eyre" was directed by Robert Stevenson, who also directed "Mary Poppins," who is expert at the standard Hollywood studio style. He cheerfully uses low-angle shots to make Orson Welles loom over the helpless Joan Fontaine. We forget that when they made the film, they were about the same age. You can see "Jane Eyre" very easily; it's streaming right now on Netflix.
And if you look very closely at Jane Eyre's young friend at school, you can see the first screen appearance of Elizabeth Taylor.