DEVOTION (director: Curtis Bernhardt; screenwriters: based on an original story by Theodore Reeves/Keith Winter/Edward Chodorov; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Rudi Fehr; music: Erich Wolfgang Korngold; cast: Ida Lupino (Emily Bronte), Paul Henreid (Arthur Nicholls), Olivia de Havilland (Charlotte Bronte), Sydney Greenstreet (William Makepeace Thackeray), Nancy Coleman (Anne Bronte), Arthur Kennedy (Branwell Bronte), Montagu Love(Reverend Bronte), Ethel Griffies(Aunt Branwell), Victor Franken (M. Heger), Odette Myrtil(Madame Heger); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Buckner; Warner Brothers; 1946)
“Makes no effort to apologize for being historically inaccurate.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Curtis Bernhardt (“Sirocco”/”Conflict”/”Miss Sadie Thompson“) questioningly, confusingly and sentimentally directs this studio-bound film as if in a swoon, as he does everything he can to dumb it down and avoid telling about the Bronte sisters’ literary genius to instead keep it overwrought with untrue melodramatics. It’s an entertaining (in a campy way) but painlessly absurd highly romanticized big-budget Hollywood film about the Bronte sisters and their talented but wastrel temperamental brother Branwell (Arthur Kennedy). It’s an almost risible telling of the Brontes that never quite gets what they’re about, and it makes no effort to apologize for being historically inaccurate. The period film is set in Yorkshire, England, during the Victorian age. It’s based on an original story by Theodore Reeves and is written by Edward Chodorov and Keith Winter.
In the early 1800s, sisters Charlotte (Olivia de Havilland), the bitchy future author of Jane Eyre, and Anne Bronte (Nancy Coleman), the quiet future author of Agnes Gray, prepare to leave their dreamy sister Emily (Ida Lupino), the future author of Wuthering Heights, their playful brother Branwell (Arthur Kennedy), their loyal matronly aunt (Ethel Griffies) and stern vicar father (Montagu Love) to work as governesses. The girls wish to gain a more worldly outlook on life by leaving for a year their home in the village of Haworth, Yorkshire, as they prep for careers as writers.
In the meantime Arthur Nicholls (Paul Henreid) arrives as the new curate for the Bronte sisters’ father. He inexplicably speaks with an Austrian accent. The handsome curate attracts the romantic interest of Emily (not historically true) and soon there’s a love triangle when Charlotte returns from working as a governess. The kindly curate is even more attracted to the beautiful Charlotte, who delights in stealing him from sis.
Emily is viewed sympathetically as the responsible sister; Charlotte as the arrogant one. Sister Anne has a small part and is depicted as the delicate one. Brother Branwell is viewed as a talented drunk, who messes up his life and blames his sisters for his downfall. The vicar is the stern patriarch who can’t seem to understand his children, while Aunt Branwell spends her time trying to clean up the messy Bronte house and keep the girls in line.
It’s all so mawkish and lacking in literary taste, presenting a story more like a banal soap opera than a work about great writers.
REVIEWED ON 2/8/2011 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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