1948 was a long time ago in terms of social acceptance of disability. It was a long time ago in terms of understanding rape. Johnny Belinda deals with both subjects in a beautiful, humanizing way. It’s a must-see move from Hollywood’s golden age.
Johnny Belinda was the first movie to deal openly with the subject of rape. Here’s the trailer:
For those of you who were born after 1970, some of the performers will be new faces. To some of you born before 1960 you will recognize faces but have different roles in mind. The best example is Agnes Moorehead. To most of you, she’s Endora from Bewitched. What a shame. This woman could act, and she was in over 115 productions in her day. If it was classic, she was probably in it, or should have been.
Overall, the cast is delightful. Charles Bickford plays Belinda’s father, and does a smashing job in this role. Torn between personal anguish over a daughter with troubles, and the love of a father, his face tells the story.
Jane Wyman is Belinda. She is so good at not speaking that she won the first Academy Award since the silent era for an actor/actress without a line in a movie. Tough acting job, but she does it all with her body language and eyes.
I like Lew Ayres, and I like him in this role. That’s about it: I liked his performance.
The story is – well, go watch the thing. It’s available free on several services, and you’ll no doubt find it in the DVD collection at Amazon.
I promise you it’s time well spent. A great movie from a great era. Groundbreaking in its portrayal of the deaf/mute character Belinda. Daring in its approach to the topic of rape. Well photographed, superior acting, and pretty good music.
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