JOAN FONTAINE – a class act

I don’t know whether she and her sister Olivia de Havilland ever made up but I’d like to think they did because they were both supremely talented actresses. And both made lists of good movies as long as your arm. Joan was first shown to advantage in Hitchcock’s early Hollywood films Rebecca and Suspicion, the latter winning her an Academy Award some think she deserved for Rebecca the year before.Joan’s most affecting performance for me, however, was in Max Ophuls’s poignant, beautful film of unrequited love, Letter from an Unknown Woman, set in a studio fabricated Vienna and Linz. Ophuls’s orchestration of images exhibits his customary mastery of resonant mise-en-scene with tracking shots that seem to relentlessly imprison her as the romantic young woman who becomes a victim through a naive crush on handsome, vain, self-absorbed pianist and next door neighbour Louis Jourdan.It’s a magnificent piece of film making, and Joan gives it its heart and soul.

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