I must be going out of my mind! NOBODY wants to watch a ten-minute YouTube video, especially when it's about a novel! Oh well, if you don't have time for it, I'll understand.
The audio clips are from the film starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. Maybe I should add Peggy Ann Garner who got an oscar for her role as the kid in this film. Does anyone know who I'm talking about? She was the idealistic girl in "A Tree grows in Brooklyn." Whatever happened to her? She was a genius! And Henry Daniell who plays the school master, might have delivered his best-ever performance here. I feel sorry for Garner and Daniell. They were both brilliant but Hollywood didn't often make the kind of film that could take advantage of their kind of talent. Two great performers, wasted!
Wasting classically eloquent actors was a common practice in old Hollywood. Maybe eloquent actors required eloquent scripts, and writers who could do that were in short supply. Maybe Daniell's talent was perceived as being uniquely English, or suitable only for the stage. Maybe articulate actors suffered from the false perception that film was a visual medium that didn't require great dialogue. The feeling might have been, "Don't have an actor ask for the salt if he can accomplish that by just pointing." Actually I agree with that..most of the time...but if you have eloquent performers like Garner and Daniell then I want to see them beg for the salt, demand the salt, cry over the salt, have lordly disdain for the salt, get on their knees and cradle the salt. I want the ultimate request for salt that will forever after change the way I think about asking for salt!
I love the scene where Jane talks to the schoolmaster. In the hands of lesser actors and a lesser writer it would only have been about the collision between stern age and idealistic youth. Here it's much more nuanced. The schoolmaster takes pride in his ability with words. He spits them out like weapons. He's obviously bright and skilled, but the audience is repelled to think of the small-mindedness that must have led him to use these assets against a child. The kid is earnest and full of passionate goodness, but she's also reckless. She's ready to throw her life away over small things, and that makes her tragically vulnerable to the predatory adults. Two opposites are brought into conflict and given beautiful words to say...sheer bliss for the audience!