Monday, December 16, 2013
The Essential Films of Joan Fontaine
Just one day after Peter O'Toole's death, Academy Award winning actress Joan Fontaine has passed away at the age of 96. Fontaine was best known for the Alfred Hitchcock films Rebecca and Suspicion as well as other classics like Letter from an Unknown Woman and Ivanhoe.
Fontaine's first onscreen appearance was in the film Warner Bros. film No More Ladies starring Joan Crawford and Robert Montgomery. She went on to star in a number of classics in the 30s and 40s such as Gunga Din (1939), The Women (1939), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Jane Eyre (1943), Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) and Ivanhoe (1952). With the advent of television in the 50s, Fontaine had a successful career on the small screen as well making appearances on "Four Star Playhouse", "Ford Television Theater", "The 20th Century Fox Hour", "The Joseph Cotten Show", "Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse", "One Step Beyond", "Checkmate", "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour", "The Bing Crosby Show", "Ryan's Hope" and "The Love Boat." Her last work was as a voice actress for the animated television movie Good King Wenceslas (1994).
Fontaine's work as Lina, a woman who's convinced her husband may be a murderer, in Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress. She was also nominated for the title role in Hitchcock's Rebecca in 1940 and again in 1943 for The Constant Nymph. She was also nominated for a Daytime Emmy for her work on the soap opera, "Ryan's Hope."
Her Essential Films:
Fontaine plays Mrs. De Winter, the new wife of Maxim de Winter, a charming widower. But she soon learns that she is living in the shadow of her husband's late wife in the halls of the mysterious Manderlay.
Lina, a shy young heiress, becomes increasingly suspicious of her new charming husband, Johnnie (Cary Grant), of which she knows little about his past. Soon the suspicion turns into a paranoia that Johnnie is only out for inheritance and is plotting to kill her. Is she mistaken or is Johnnie planning a murder? The role that won her an Oscar for Best Actress.
Stefan Brand is forced into a duel, but he has no intentions of going through with it... instead opting to flee the city. However he notices a letter from a mysterious woman of his past that he has know memory of. Fontaine plays Lisa Berndle, who once had a fling with Brand that he can no longer remember. When she sees him again years later, Lisa is prepared to abandon her family for Stefan, but at what cost?
Author Tom Garrett and his publisher Austin Spencer concoct a outlandish plan to demonstrate weaknesses in the justice system by framing Garrett as a murderer. The plan all along is to have Spencer exonerate him in the end. Fontaine plays Susan, Garrett's fiancé, who is in the dark about the entire plan. The trial does not go as expected, and suspense and intrigue follow.
Fontaine plays the title role in this adaptation of the renowned Charlotte Brontë novel. Jane Eyre, orphaned as a young girl, raised in abusive home, only to rise above and become a governess at a stately manor. While there, she falls for the older master of the house, Edward Rochester (a young Orson Welles). Readers of the book will know how this mostly faithful adaptation explores a love with a multitude of obstacles... not the least of which is the specter of Rochester's wife.
Other Notable Films:
A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS (1937)
GUNGA DIN (1939)
THE WOMEN (1939)
THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943)
BORN TO BE BAD (1950)
THE BIGAMIST (1953)
VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (1961)
THE WITCHES (1966)