• Unrated, 1 hr. 43 min.
  • Drama, Classics
  • Directed By:
    Jean Negulesco
    In Theaters:
    Sep 14, 1948 Wide
    On DVD:
    Jan 31, 2006
  • Warner Bros. Pictures

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Johnny Belinda Reviews

Page 1 of 4
Spencer S

Super Reviewer

April 4, 2010
As a child this film, so bold and brass for its time, scared me with its depiction of the rape of a deaf girl. Still tragically complicated and ultimately a cultural masterpiece, Johnny Belinda not only possesses the qualities that made the exceptional Miral Worker a phenomena, but also the ruthless libel that has occured all throughout history, and is fairly missing from the movies of the time.
stevenecarrier
stevenecarrier

Super Reviewer

July 29, 2010
While the ending to "Johnny, Belinda" is surprisingly understanding and Jane Wyman's star making and Oscar winning performance is lovely, it's still a pretty dumb movie. The way deafness is handled in the picture is quite silly, and the events (rape and murder and misunderstanding in Canada) comes out a wash. See this film for the acting and a portrait on how misunderstood conditions were handled on screen back in the 40s.
jjnxn
jjnxn

Super Reviewer

April 20, 2007
jane is great in this atmospheric drama
Byron B

Super Reviewer

May 23, 2007
I also seem to be attracted to movies about people with disabilities or special abilities. This movie shows how recently people didn't understand deafness. One teacher takes the time to show that Belinda can communicate, that Belinda is a whole human being who can take care of herself in many ways, and that she will protect her son like any mother would.
John B

Super Reviewer

November 15, 2013
Wyman is quite convincing as a deaf-mute girl who is forced to deal with a family that reacts violently to her condition.
cody f

Super Reviewer

May 14, 2008
A nice little film about a young country doctor who meets a deaf girl,teaches her sign language and how to write.Then she gets raped.
jam233
September 12, 2009
A very emotional drama, very touchingly filmed. Jane Wyman is excellent as the deaf mute girl. The subject matter is surprisingly bold for 1948. Wyman did win the Oscar that year. The supporting cast is exceptional. Great score.
April 21, 2014
Elevated by a strong central performance from Jane Wyman, Johnny Belinda is a touching and tender film.
August 18, 2011
"Johnny Belinda" is one of the best dramas of the '40's. Belinda (Wyman) is a deaf-mute living in Nova Scotia with her kind hearted father and aunt (Moorehead). Belinda is a positive person for what she has to endure, and as soon as Dr. Robert (Ayres) comes in, her life gets even better when she learns sign language. But just as things are going great, a bully (McNally) rapes her, and she becomes pregnant. Everybody shuns Belinda, her family, and Robert for having a child out of wedlock, and she can't even fend for herself. But things take an even worse turn when Belinda and Robert plan to movie into the country. "Johnny Belinda" was (obviously) one of the many good films for 1948 (to name a few: "Joan of Arc", "I Remember Mama", "Hamlet") and also one of the most nominated, and all of the nods they got they truly deserved. The movie didn't win anything, except a Best Actress prize for Jane Wyman, who gives one of the most unique performances. Though I still think Olivia de Havilland should have gotten the Oscar for "The Snake Pit", I still think Wyman still does a very very good job in her role. It seems like to get an Oscar as an actor, you have to be overly-dramatic and you have to cry, but Wyman gives a very subtle performance as Belinda and proves that you can still be powerful even if you can't speak. And the other actors do really live up to her too. "Johnny Belinda" is a very good movie that I really think is worth watching. Recommended.
starlett2005
August 4, 2011
Johnny Belinda is an amazing film. It is about a doctor's to tutor a deaf/mute woman but it gets undermined when she is raped. Jane Wyman and Lew Ayres give excellent performances. The screenplay is well written and touching. Jean Negulesco did a great job directing this movie. I enjoyed this motion picture because of the drama. Johnny Belinda is a must see.
Adrian B.
September 8, 2010
Johnny Belinda is a really interesting film that takes a big risk with two major topics of concern: deaf people and rape. It is about a woman, played by Johnny Belinda, who is assisted by a doctor, Lew Ayres, into trying to understand other people through sign language. Then a cruel man, played by Stephen McNally, comes in and rapes her, right in her barn and she is impregnated (the likeliness of the happening is extremely rare in life, yet I am not aware of any other film that involves rape causing a pregnancy). It is a fascinating story, with a very good Oscar preformance by Jane Wyman, who makes no sound with her lips what-so-ever (very impressive). The supporting acting by Ayres and Agnes Moorehead are also quite good. The use of sign language often throughout the film is great and the fact this film is taken place on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia is also quite different. An extremely good and interesting film, one in which should be on 1001 Movies List.
gillianren
November 23, 2010
It's Not Condescending If You Learn a Valuable Lesson

We all know how this works. You could get away with all sorts of things which were against the Code provided you approached them with a certain amount of moral outrage. Oh, there were a few things you still couldn't touch, but even there, it helped if your story was Based on a Shocking True Story. (Though nobody seems inclined to give me any details other than that it was on Prince Edward Island, not Cape Breton.) There are still limits, of course. One still rather wonders how they got the whole thing past Joe Breen. The evildoers do come to a bad end, but it's not an evil which can be much wiped out. Well, except in the Victorian fashion of even more deaths.

Doctor Robert Richardson (Lew Ayres) has come to a tiny fishing village to find his surcease after the War. (Which war is left unsaid; since the woman whose life it's based on was born in 1852, it's probably modernized to World War II.) Of course, the locals don't trust him; the locals never trust the New Man. But one night, Aggie MacDonald (Agnes Moorehead) calls him down to her brother's farm to doctor the cow. She says Black (Charles Bickford) would never go to the expense himself, but it's needed. While there, he meets Black's daughter, the deaf-mute Belinda (Jane Wyman), generally just called "the Dummy." Only the doctor realizes that Belinda isn't stupid, and he starts to teach her all sorts of things, most importantly sign language. She comes out of her shell, and she catches the eye of Locky McCormick (Stephen McNally). Who rapes and impregnates her.

Jane Wyman won the Best Actress Oscar for this, given the Academy's fondness for awarding people for playing the disabled. However, as is often the case in that sort of movie, it isn't really about her. It's about the Brave and Noble Doctor Who Overcomes Local Prejudice to Help the Poor Disabled Girl. He's willing to Take in the Child of Her Shame, even calling him "our little son." Yes, she's a major aspect of the Dramatic Climax, but he rescues her from it. And so forth. She doesn't overcome obstacles on her own. She doesn't find out about sign language on her own. She doesn't teach herself to read or write. She just follows what the hearing person teaches her to do--and the great relief is that her deafness isn't hereditary, so her child will be born normal. Though all things considered, it doesn't seem likely he would have been deaf, given no one but Belinda is in the situation.

Locky is just irredeemably evil. That's all there is to it. That's all there's supposed to be to it. He rapes Belinda basically just because he can. To spite Stella (Jan Sterling), possibly. It's definitely true that he makes her jealous by showing attention to "the Dummy" at a dance. Of course, she's really involved with him because she can't get the doctor. But it really seems just as likely that he's doing it because she can't complain. The movie even gives her some sort of silly amnesia so that she has to be told she's pregnant. Though one supposes no one's ever bothered to tell her how sex works both because they think she's stupid and because they don't think she'll ever have it. Still, you'd hope they'd explain it to her after they knew she was having a baby, and she never accuses anyone. She must know that something caused it. But no--let's pretend she can't or that she doesn't remember or something.

So yeah, I don't know. I don't think it's some classic of Western cinema, more a sort of curiosity. A movie that dodged the Code. A movie based on a true story no one really seems to know about. Lydia Dingwell doesn't even have a Wikipedia page, and the page for [i]Johnny Belinda[/i] doesn't have a section about the real story, just a glossing over in the lead paragraph. It's on one of the thousand movies lists I have, I don't remember which one, and I find it vaguely irritating that some spots are filled with movies like this while excellent ones go a-begging. It's not quite bad enough that I want to go scrounging through films made in 1948 to find a woman more deserving of that Oscar, but I have to tell you, I don't have high hopes of finding one regardless. It's quite often harder to find quality women's roles in any given year anyway.
November 13, 2010
A MUST SEE for any acting fan. Jane Wyman gives one of the most stunning performances in film history without saying a single word. She won a much deserved Best Actress Oscar for her work. Also a great supporting performance from Agnes Moorehead.
Zeppo1
July 5, 2009
***1/2 (out of four)

Jane Wyman won an Oscar for her turn as Belinda, a deaf/mute girl who is considered an outcast by the narrow minded Nova Scotia small town. The local doctor (Lew Ayers) takes an interest in her and sees her intelligence as he tries to communicate with her.

Without saying a single word in the picture, Jane Wyman delivers a memorable performance. Ayers, Charles Bickford(as her father) and Agnes Moorehead are all equally good. The film doesn't sink into melodrama which helps lift its very serious themes and allows it to not seem silly to todays viewers.
jazza923
April 8, 2005
A very emotional drama, very touchingly filmed. Jane Wyman is excellent as the deaf mute girl. The subject matter is surprisingly bold for 1948. Wyman did win the Oscar that year. The supporting cast is exceptional. Great score.
Bizen-in-a-Box
February 22, 2005
I just caught this one on Turner Classics. It's an old movie, but it's a good one. Most of the characters seem overwrought and parodied, but that's the period. Jane Wyman deserved the Oscar. She's believeable and likeable as the deaf-mute girl who comes to life after a doctor comes to a small town and begins teaching her sign language.

Naturally, drama follows when she is raped. She blocks out the rape. The modern me wants to kick the guy's ass for raping the girl, but that's not how it is done in a small town, of course. Of course, she also becomes pregnant and keeps the kid.

No one ever accused Hollywood of realism, that's for sure. In real small towns, she would have disappeared for a few months and returned without the child. Or she would have found a way to rid herself of the kid - Like a coat hanger or herbs that force cycles. None of the stuff in the movie would fly today.

The courtroom scenes are a joke too.

I gave the movie a positive review because it [i]is[/i] a good movie for the period. Good watch.

But if you go in expecting to see real drama, forget it. It's just soapy sap wrapped up in a fluffy cotton bathrobe. All it shows you is how shabbily women were treated - And how grateful we should be that those small towns and their 'tudes are a thing of the distant past.
Othello
February 17, 2004
(VHS) (First Viewing, 2nd Negulesco film)

Though many times it falls into that Irish homespun mode that really bothers me, I do have to admit that [b]Johnny Belinda[/b] ended up being a much better film than I expected, and mostly due to Jane Wyman's Oscar winning performance as a poor deaf woman who is raped and has an illegitimate son because of it.

[b]Johnny Belinda[/b] in my mind stands as one of those competently made studio era films that are very well crafted but completely lack that "wow!" factor. It's worth watching for Wyman's performance, but little else.
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