Monday, November 04, 2013


In wintry 1930s New York, struggling artist Eben Adams (Joseph Cotten) can't sell his paintings. Matthews, an art dealer (Cecil Kellaway), is friendly but rejects his works; however, Matthews' partner Spinney (Ethel Barrymore) agrees to take one piece, and tells him he needs love in his life for his talent to bloom. Later in Central Park, Adams meets a teenage girl named Jennie (Jennifer Jones) dressed in clothes of a bygone era. He is charmed by her, but disconcerted when she says her parents are entertainers at a theater that Eben knows was torn down many years ago. Over the next few weeks, he sees her in the park frequently; each time, she looks older, and as she tells him stories of her life, it seems as if time is going by more quickly for her than for him. A dramatic painting of a lighthouse spooks her, and it turns that she is indeed from an earlier era. Eben begins a portrait of her which Spinney approves of, but then he discovers that Jennie died young, in a storm off Cape Cod. Can Eben somehow transcend time to save Jennie from her fate?

This romantic fantasy is visually quite beautiful, even if the plot and characters aren't all they might have been. Many of the scenes involving Jennie are shot with what would seem to be a burlap bag filter to look as if they are on canvas. New York in winter looks quite romantic. The climactic storm looks good as well, and the black & white movie switches to color tints in the last reel before changing to full Technicolor for the final shot of the title portrait. Cotten and Jones work well together—though the almost 30-year-old Jones can't really pass as a teenager in the early scenes. Though the visuals and the fantasy plot kept my interest, more fleshing-out of characters, lead and supporting, might have made this a more compelling movie. Barrymore and Kellaway are fine, as is David Wayne as a taxi-driver buddy who helps Cotten get a commission to paint a mural at an Irish pub. Lillian Gish appears briefly as a nun. But the film doesn't have a lived-in feel like IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE or THE BISHOP’S WIFE do. [TCM]

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