Joseph Cotten Jennifer Jones Portrait of Jennie
A haunting story of a rift in time, "Portrait of Jennie" (1948) was taken from a novel by Robert Nathan and directed by William Dieterle. Cotten plays struggling artist Eben Adams who finds inspiration and happiness with Jennie, (Jennifer Jones) a mysterious girl he meets by chance in Central Park. When she first appears, Jennie is a precocious twelve-year-old who chatters on about places and events that happened years ago as if they were current. Eben never knows when he will next meet her, but each time he does, Jennie has grown a little older. One day she is in his apartment when he returns home, a beautiful young woman of eighteen, and Eben begins to sketch her for a portrait.

Jennie appears once more, now in her twenties, and Eben finishes his masterpiece, his Portrait of Jennie. Now deeply in love, the two plan to be together forever, but Jennie tells Eben she must first be away for a short time - she mentions Land's End at Cape Cod.

Months go by, and when Jennie does not reappear, a despondent Eben tries to trace her - a nun (Lillian Gish) at a convent where Jennie attended school remembers her very well, but tells Eben that Jennie died years ago - drowned in a huge storm that struck...Land's End. Eben makes the journey to Cape Cod, and must race against time and the elements for the chance to alter destiny.

Not a success upon its release, "Portrait of Jennie" has grown in its appeal in the years since - the ethereal story of an expansion of time, a collapse of boundaries, or an overlapping of both. The chemistry between Cotten and the luminous Jennifer Jones was never better. The stunning cinematography by Oscar-nominated Joe August and composer Dimitri Tiomkin's use of themes by Claude Debussy add immeasurably to the dreamlike quality of the film.


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