Monday, August 22, 2011

Victor Fleming's Technicolored Joan of Arc: Portraying a Life of Faith

Cradle Catholics who grew up in the tumultuous years following Vatican II, my husband and I as children learned virtually nothing about saints. Greg first heard of Joan of Arc from a Brady Bunch episode; I learned a bit about her in my high school church youth group, but dismissed her as a nut case.

I've been curious about Joan of Arc ever since I read about her in Father James Martin's My Life with the Saints earlier this year. So I rented Victor Fleming's 1948 movie on Netflix. I recommend this movie to anyone who wants to learn some basics about this remarkable saint. Older children and teens can also learn a lot about St. Joan by watching this movie.

When this movie came out, Fleming (at left)  already was well known for directing the Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. He was a sought-after director during Hollywood's Golden Age. His Joan of Arc, which garnered seven Academy Award nominations and two Academy Awards, stars Ingrid Bergman as Saint Joan and José  Ferrer as the beleaguered King Charles VII of  France. While Joan of Arc marked Ferrer's Hollywood debut, the film turned out to be Fleming's last. He died at age 59 of a heart attack shortly after Joan of Arc's release.
To be sure, his Technicolor movie is pure Hollywood, with its obviously painted backdrops, heavy use of dramatic lighting and an emotional musical score to underline key moments in St. Joan's life and martyrdom. Nonetheless, the movie is a good introduction to this remarkable saint. 
The movie makes it clear the illiterate peasant girl's motivations to overcome English occupation of French soil were purely spiritual.
I found this wonderful prayer to St. Joan. It underscores her life and her charism.

In the face of your enemies, in the face of harassment, ridicule, and doubt, you held firm in your faith. Even in your abandonment, alone and without friends, you held firm in your faith. Even as you faced your own mortality, you held firm in your faith. I pray that I may be as bold in my beliefs as you, St. Joan. I ask that you ride alongside me in my own battles. Help me be mindful that what is worthwhile can be won when I persist. Help me hold firm in my faith. Help me believe in my ability to act well and wisely. Amen.


  1. Allison, I have been listening to Mark Twain's Joan of Arc on audiotape, also a good resource for learning about this holy young woman. Thanks for the movie suggestion and prayer!

  2. @Joan: I have read that book. It is a great one!