Synopsis by Hal Erickson
After years of dumb-blonde and best-friend roles, Jane Wyman proved her skills as a dramatic actress -- and won an Academy Award in the bargain -- in Johnny Belinda. Adapted from a stage play by Elmer Harris, the story takes place in Nova Scotia, where deaf-mute Belinda (Wyman) leads a lonely existence on the hardscrabble farm of her father Black Macdonald (Charles Bickford) and her aunt Aggie (Agnes Moorehead). Newly arrived doctor Robert Richardson (Lew Ayres) takes a special interest in Belinda, vowing to ease her road in life by teaching her sign language. Despite initial resistance from her father and aunt, Belinda quickly learns how to communicate with others, opening a whole, wonderful new world for her. But things take a sorry turn when local lout Locky (Stephan McNally) corners poor Belinda after a village dance and rapes her. If the ending seems a bit ambiguous, it is because director Jean Negulesco intended it that way, allowing the viewer to draw his or her own conclusion regarding Belinda's future relationship with her mentor Dr. Richardson. Upon accepting her Oscar, Jane Wyman commented on the fact that she accomplished this feat through the simple expedient of "keeping my mouth shut." But there is nothing simple or facile in Wyman's astonishing performance as Belinda, which far outclasses the actresses who repeated the role in the two TV remakes. Also worthy of praise is the lush musical score by Max Steiner, one of his best post-Casablanca efforts.
misunderstanding, child, deafness, doctor/nurse, false-accusation, farming, friendship, illegitimacy, innocence, killing, mute, pregnancy, rape, trial [courtroom]
High Artistic Quality