The ABC's of Film Noir
The ABC's of Film Noir

Saint Joan (1957) Classic Movie Review 29

Saint Joan (1957)

Saint Joan (1957)

Stay where you are, woman. A dead saint is always safer for the Church than a living one...

Saint Joan (1957) is an Anglo film adaptation of a George Bernard Shaw play. The movie flows like a play and brings very little originality to the story. Quite frankly would not even review this film except for Otto Preminger directing and Richard Widmark‘s over the top portray of The Dauphin, Charles VII.

Rough Script Saint Joan 1957

Saint Joan (1957) is an Anglo film adaptation of a George Bernard Shaw play. The movie flows like a play and brings very little originality to the story. Quite frankly would not even review this film except for Otto Preminger directing and Richard Widmark‘s over the top portray of The Dauphin, Charles VII. Of course, we are still on the Richard Widmark line.

The movie is told in flashback after Charles wakes in his bedroom to find the 25-years dead Joan there. They jump back to the beginning of her story and then end again in the bedroom.

As I previously said Richard Widmark was cast as The Dauphin, Charles VII. I covered him pretty extensively in Episode 26 – Time Limit (1957).

Jean Seberg played St. Joan of Arc. Born in Iowa, Jean won a publicity contest in which Preminger chose between 18,000 women to play Joan. This film and her next helped to stall her career until Breathless (1960). In all she was in over 30 movies including Lilith (1964) with Warren Beatty and one of my personal favorites Paint Your Wagon (1969) where she played the wife of Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood.

She became active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and was associated with the Black Panther party. She died at the age of 40 in 1979 from an apparent suicide by barbiturate overdose.

Richard Todd was acting as Dunois, Bastard of Orleans. Todd was a British actor that received limited fame in US movies. In World War II he served as a paratrooper. He peaked with The Hasty Heart (1949). Following this, he was generally a character actor in British films.

John Gielgud was cast as the Earl of Warwick. Gielgud was one of the great Shakespearean actors with a theater career that lasted 64 years. His first motion picture was the silent Who Is the Man? (1924) with his last being Elizabeth (1998). Oddly he won a best supporting actor Oscar playing the butler in Arthur (1981).

Harry Andrews played English priest John de Stogumber. Andrews like man English actors began performing Shakespeare on the stage. His first film role was in Paratrooper (1953). Some of his other roles include Moby Dick (1956), The Devil’s Disciple (1959), 55 Days at Peking (1963), the psychotic martinet in The Hill (1965) with Sean Connery, The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) with Charlton Heston, The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), and the Battle of Britain (1969).

Finlay Currie was cast as Archbishop of Rheims. Currie was born in Scotland and began stage work at the age of 20. It took him 34 more years before he began film work. After that, he had steady work for 30 more years. He is well known for playing Magwitch in Great Expectations (1946). However one of his greatest roles was that of Shunderson, Dr. Praetorius’ (Cary Grant’s) faithful servant in People Will Talk (1951). After movies, he became an antique dealer. He died at the age of 90 in England.

The opening scene is set in the bedroom of Charles VII (Richard Widmark) of France. He is having a fitful sleep. It 1456, and has been 25-years since the execution of the Joan of Arc (Jean Seberg). Joan appears in his room. She calls him Charlie in a very informal way. The king tells her that she has been re-tried and that her sentence has been annulled following her death.

The movie switches back 25-year and Joan is preventing the hens from laying and the cows giving milk until the squire gives her a horse, armor, and men to got to the Dauphin. She gives a great speech and the squire gives her what she requests. As soon as he does the hens start laying again. Joan and three riders head off to meet the Dauphin. Joan has switched from a long haired maid to short hair and military clothing.

When she arrives at the Dauphins castle a man accosts her and she says he is near death and a second later he drops dead. Her letter of introduction from the squire is taken to the Dauphin. The Captain of the Guard believes in Joan.

The commander of the army is very abusive to the Dauphin.

They try to trick Joan by having someone pretend to be king. But Joan guided by God see through the trick.

Archbishop of Rheims (Finlay Currie) is taken in by Joan’s charm and she gets to meet the Dauphin alone.

The Dauphin believes and gives Joan command of the Army.

Joan heads off to Orleans with her convert the captain of the guard while the nobles of the court party on without a care. When Joan arrives the west winds are keeping Dunois, Bastard of Orleans from crossing the river. She prays and the wind changes and the bastard become a new convert.

The French army takes Orleans and the Dauphin can be crowned king in the cathedral. Charles is so weak he barely makes it through the coronation.

The King is done with Joan and wants no more from her. Joan cries and shows vanity and doubt about her mission. She craves the return to battle.

The King plays hopscotch and Joan confronts him to move on Paris. The Archbishop threatens him and the bastard denies her. They tell her she is alone and if caught she will be burned as a witch.

It switches back to the bedroom and the king tells her he gave good advice. The Earl of Warwick (John Gielgud) comes to the dream and says he paid to have her tried after the Burgundian capture her and that burning Joan made her a saint and Charles a king.

It switches back to Joan in a cell being questioned by the Inquisitor (Felix Aylmer). The English give her to the Catholic Church for trial. They have the trial and try to catch her in heresy. In real life, they got her on the charge of cross-dressing.

In the movie, they threatened to put her on the rack. The Earl of Warwick and John de Stogumber (Harry Andrews) complain that Joan is not being taken care of fast enough. Stogumber talks about Joan being shot through the neck at Orleans and fighting all day.

The trial begins and Joan signed a confession but when she found out that she would be given life in prison she recanted. They find her guilty and excommunicate her. The Earl of Warwick sends in men to carry out the burning. The priest refused to give Joan a cross but an English soldier gives her two sticks tied together. Many in the crowd are struck with remorse as she dies including Stogumber. Following the burning, the master executioner meets with the Earl of Warwick and says everything burned except her heart and he would dispose of any evidence that she ever existed.

The scene switches back to the king’s dream and Warwick says the church was as much to blame as the English. The King says he saw justice done to Bishop Cauchon (Anton Walbrook) but the bishop appears and denies the king’s statement. The Bishop says they excommunicated his dead body for his part in the trial.

The Bastard shows and says he has driven the English out and he is still alive. He said her way was right and that he should not have let her be burnt but he was busy at the time. The man who gave Joan a crucifix arrives from Hell and says he has one day off a year for tying the stick together. He also says he is out of time and makes a jab at Nazis and give a shout out to the Americans.

The king says he has dreamed of her enough. She walks upstairs towards heaven asking how long before the world will be ready for the saints.


Preminger was criticized for casting a rookie among so many veterans and her acting was panned

World-Famous Short Summary – Country girl goes to the big city and thing end badly at first but later get better.

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