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Johnny Belinda (1948 film)


Johnny Belinda (1948 film)

Johnny Belinda
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jean Negulesco
Produced by Jerry Wald
Screenplay by Allen Vincent
Irma von Cube
Based on Johnny Belinda
1940 play 
by Elmer Blaney Harris
Starring Jane Wyman
Lew Ayres
Charles Bickford
Agnes Moorehead
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Ted McCord
Edited by David Weisbart
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • September 14, 1948 (1948-09-14)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $4.1 million (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

Johnny Belinda is a 1948 American drama film based on the 1940 Broadway stage hit of the same name, by Elmer Blaney Harris. The play was adapted for the screen by writers Allen Vincent and Irma von Cube, and directed by Jean Negulesco.

The story is based on an actual incident that happened near Harris's summer residence in Fortune Bridge, Bay Fortune, Prince Edward Island. The title character is based on the real-life Lydia Dingwell (1852-1931), of Dingwells Mills, Prince Edward Island. The film dramatizes the consequences of spreading lies and rumors, and the horror of rape. The latter subject had previously been prohibited by the Motion Picture Production Code. Johnny Belinda is widely considered to be the first Hollywood film for which the restriction was relaxed, and as such was controversial at the time of its initial release.

The film stars Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Charles Bickford, Agnes Moorehead, Stephen McNally, and Jan Sterling. Wyman's performance earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

It was filmed in northern California around Mendocino.

The film was remade first as a 1967 television movie starring Mia Farrow as Belinda, Ian Bannen as her doctor, and David Carradine as the rapist, and in 1982 as another TV remake with Rosanna Arquette as Belinda and Richard Thomas as the doctor. Also, a live version aired on Australian television in 1959 as part of the Shell Presents series.[2]


  • Plot summary 1
  • Main cast and characters 2
  • Other cast members 3
  • Reception 4
  • Awards 5
    • 21st Academy Awards 5.1
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Plot summary

The film is the story of a deaf-mute young woman, Belinda McDonald (Jane Wyman), who is befriended by the new doctor, Dr. Robert Richardson (Lew Ayres), who comes to Cape Breton Island on the east coast of Canada. The doctor realizes that, although she cannot hear or speak, Belinda is very intelligent. She lives on a farm with her father, Black McDonald (Charles Bickford), and her aunt, Aggie McDonald (Agnes Moorehead), and rarely goes into town. The family sells farm goods to the nearby town, mainly flour. Her father and aunt resent Belinda because her mother died giving birth to her. Dr. Richardson teaches Belinda sign language and what things are. Over time, his affection for her grows.

Dr. Richardson's secretary, Stella (Jan Sterling), is attracted to him and tries to get his attention, but the doctor does not reciprocate her feelings. After Stella figures out that he is becoming attracted to Belinda, she starts to resent both of them.

One of the family's customers, Locky McCormick (Stephen McNally), gets drunk at a dance, leaves the dance, and goes to the farm when Belinda is alone and rapes her, which results in her pregnancy. Belinda gives birth to a healthy baby boy, whom she names Johnny. The people in town began to shun the McDonald family and Dr. Richardson, as they suspect he is the father of Belinda's child because he has spent a lot of time with her. Dr. Richardson suggests to Black that he marry Belinda to quiet the gossiping town folk. Black rejects this idea as he knows that Dr. Richardson does not truly love Belinda, but merely pities her.

Locky goes to the McDonald farm under the pretense of purchasing ground barley, but really wants to get a look at Johnny. When Black sees him, he orders Locky to leave. Locky inadvertently reveals to Black that he is the father of the child. Black follows Locky and threatens to expose him to the town. They have a fight on a seaside cliff and Locky throws Black off the cliff into the sea, killing him.

Belinda and her aunt Aggie try to run the farm but they are struggling to pay the bills and keep the farm running. The town, at the urging of Locky, has a meeting and declares Belinda "unfit" to care for the child. When Locky and Stella come to take Johnny, Belinda first makes Stella realize that she is smarter than the townspeople have given her credit for. She also makes it clear that she will not give up her baby without a fight. Stella confronts Locky, who confesses that the child is his. He then tries to retrieve the baby, but, despite Belinda's efforts to stop him, he manages to make his way upstairs to the room where Johnny is. However, before Locky can unlock the door, Belinda shoots and kills Locky with a shotgun. Belinda is arrested and goes on trial for murder. At the trial, Dr. Richardson testifies that she was protecting her property and family. The court dismisses this as the doctor's love for her, but then finally Stella, holding old deep romantic feelings for the doctor, corroborates the doctor's story, saying that her husband had confessed the truth about the rape to her on the day he was killed. Belinda is set free, and she, Johnny, and Dr. Richardson leave together.

Main cast and characters

Other cast members


The film was the second most popular movie at the British box office in 1948.[3]



21st Academy Awards

Award Result Winner[5]
Best Motion Picture Nominated Warner Bros. (Jerry Wald, Producer)
Best Director Nominated Jean Negulesco
Best Actor Nominated Lew Ayres
Best Actress Won Jane Wyman
Best Writing, Screenplay Nominated Irma von Cube and Allen Vincent
Best Supporting Actor Nominated Charles Bickford
Best Supporting Actress Nominated Agnes Moorehead
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Black-and-White) Nominated Robert Haas and William Wallace
Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) Nominated Ted McCord
Best Film Editing Nominated David Weisbart
Best Music (Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) Nominated Max Steiner
Best Sound Recording Nominated Nathan O. Levinson

See also


  1. ^ "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964 p 69
  2. ^,515986&dq=autumn+affair&hl=en
  3. ^ "The Third Man As Popular Film Of Year.".  
  4. ^ "NY Times: Johnny Belinda". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-20. 
  5. ^ "The 21st Academy Awards (1949) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-18. 

External links

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