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Joan of Arc is a 1948 Technicolor film directed by Victor Fleming; starring Ingrid Bergman as the French religious icon and war heroine. It was produced by Walter Wanger. It is based on Maxwell Anderson's successful Broadway play Joan of Lorraine, which also starred Bergman, and was adapted for the screen by Anderson himself, in collaboration with Andrew Solt. Bergman had been lobbying to play Joan for many years, and this film was considered a dream project for her. It received mixed reviews and lower-than-expected box office, though it clearly was not a "financial disaster" as is often claimed. Donald Spoto, in a biography of Ingrid Bergman, even claims that "the critics' denunuciations notwithstanding, the film earned back its investment with a sturdy profit". [1]

The movie is considered by some to mark the start of a low period in the actress's career that would last until she made Anastasia in 1956. In April 1949, five months after the release of the film, and before it had gone out on general release, the revelation of Bergman's extramarital relationship with Italian director Roberto Rossellini brought her American screen career to a temporary halt. The nearly two-and-a-half hour film was subsequently drastically edited for its general release, and was not restored to its original length for nearly fifty years.

Bergman and co-star José Ferrer (making his first film appearance and playing the Dauphin)[2] received Academy Award nominations for their performances. The film was director Victor Fleming's last project — he died only two months after its release.

In Michael Sragow's recent (2008) biography of the director, he claims that Fleming, who was, according to Sragrow, romantically involved with Ingrid Bergman at the time, was deeply unhappy with the finished product, and even wept upon seeing it for the first time.[3] Sragrow speculates that the disappointment of the failed relationship and the failure of the film may have led to Fleming's fatal heart attack, but there is no real evidence to support this. While contemporary critics may have agreed with Fleming's assessment of Joan of Arc, more recent reviewers of the restored complete version on DVD have not.[4][5][6][7]


Unlike the play Joan of Lorraine, which is a play-within-a-play about an acting company presenting the story of Joan, the film is a straightforward recounting of the life of the French heroine. It begins with an obviously painted shot of the inside of a basilica with a shaft of light, possibly descending from heaven, shining down from the ceiling, and a solemn off-screen voice pronouncing the canonization of the Maid of Orleans. Then, the opening page of what appears to be a church manuscript recounting Joan's life in Latin is shown on the screen, while some uncredited voiceover narration by actor Shepperd Strudwick sets up the tale. The actual story of Joan then begins, from the time she becomes convinced that she has been divinely called to save France to her being burnt at the stake at the hands of the English and the Burgundians.

Differences between complete and edited versions

There are several differences between the full-length version of the film and the edited general release version.

  • One that is immediately noticeable is that there is actually a snippet from Joan's trial during the opening narration in the edited version, whereas in the full-length version, the events of Joan's life are shown in chronological order. The opening narration is much longer in the edited version than in the complete version, with some of it being dubbed in over snippets from edited-down versions of the opening scenes.
  • The edited version omits crucial scenes that are important to a psychological understanding of the narrative, such as the mention of a dream that Joan's father has which foretells of Joan's campaign against the English. When Joan hears of the dream, she becomes convinced that she has been divinely ordered to drive the English out of France.
  • Most of the first ten minutes of the film, a section showing Joan praying in the Domrémy shrine, followed by a family dinner and conversation which leads to the mention of the dream, are not in the edited version.
  • Severe breaks in continuity in the edited version are joined by the voiceover narration explaining what has happened between scenes. (In the complete 145-minute version, the narration is heard only at the beginning of the film, and there are no sudden breaks in continuity.)
  • Entire characters, such as Joan's father (played by Robert Barrat) and Father Pasquerel (played by Hurd Hatfield) are partially or totally omitted from the edited version.
  • Even the title sequence is different — in the edited version, the story begins after Victor Fleming's director's credit, while in the full-length version, after the director's credit, a title card saying "The Players" appears onscreen, after which all the major lead and supporting actors, as well as the characters that they play, are listed in order of appearance and in groups (e.g., "At Domrémy", "At Chinon", etc.), much as in Fleming's other lengthy film epic Gone with the Wind. More than thirty of the actors are listed.

The edited version might be considered more cinematic through its use of maps and voice-over narration to explain the political situation in France. (In the full-length version, Joan's family discusses the political situation during dinner.) The full-length version, although not presented as a play-within-a-play, as the stage version was, nevertheless resembles a stage-to-film adaptation, makes great use of Maxwell Anderson's original dialogue, and may seem, to some, stagy in its method of presentation, despite having a realistic depiction of the Siege of Orléans.

Academy Awards and nominations

  • Best Actress (nomination) - Ingrid Bergman [8]
  • Best Supporting Actor (nomination) - José Ferrer
  • Best Costume Design (color) (won) - Barbara Karinska, Dorothy Jeakins
  • Best Cinematography (color) (won) - Joseph Valentine, William Skall, Winton Hoch
  • Best Film Editing (nomination) - Frank Sullivan
  • Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (color) (nomination) - Richard Day, Edwin Casey Roberts, Joseph Kish
  • Best Score, Dramatic or Comedy Picture (nomination) - Hugo Friedhofer
  • Honorary Award - Walter Wanger "for distinguished service to the industry in adding to its moral stature in the world community by his production of the picture Joan of Arc." (Wanger refused the award in protest of the film's absence in the Best Picture category.)


Joan of Arc was made in 1947–1948 by an independent company, Sierra Pictures, created especially for this production, and not to be confused with the production company with the same name that made mostly silent films. Filming was done primarily at Hal Roach Studios, with location scenes shot in the Los Angeles area. The movie was first released in November 1948 by RKO. When the film was shortened for its general release in 1950, it was distributed, not by RKO, but by a company called Balboa Film Distributors, the same company which re-released Alfred Hitchcock's Under Capricorn, also starring Ingrid Bergman.

The 1948 Sierra Pictures never produced another film after Joan of Arc.


One of the criticisms of the film is that Bergman, who was 33 at the time she made the movie, was nearly twice as old as the real Joan of Arc; the Swedish actress would later play her (at age 39) in a 1954 Italian film, Giovanna d'Arco al rogo (Joan at the Stake). However, reviewers in 1948 did not object to this; it was common in those days for an older actress to play a teenager, as the twenty-four Jennifer Jones had in 1943's The Song of Bernadette, for which she won a Best Actress Oscar. Children were also sometimes played by older actors at the time; the sixteen year-old Judy Garland had very convincingly played twelve year-old Dorothy Gale in the 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz, another film directed by Victor Fleming.

Joan of Arc cost $4.5 million at completion, but as of December 1951, the film had grossed six million dollars, three million less than was needed to cover production and distribution costs.


The film was edited from 145 minutes to 100 minutes for its general release in September 1950. The complete 145 minute version of Joan of Arc remained unseen in the U.S. for about forty-nine years. Although the complete Technicolor negatives remained in storage in Hollywood, the original soundtrack was thought to be lost. The movie was restored in 1998 after an uncut print in mint condition was found in Europe, containing the only known copy of the complete soundtrack. When it finally appeared on DVD, the restored complete version was hailed by online movie critics as being much superior to the edited version. It was released on DVD in 2004.

The complete, unedited version of the film has still not been shown on American television as of September 2009, not even on cable TV. The edited version received its first television showing on CBS on the evening of April 12, 1968, and has been shown on Ted Turner's WTCG and on cable several times.


External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Joan of Arc (1948 film). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.