The Song of Bernadette is a 1943 drama film which tells the story of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, who, from February to July 1858 in Lourdes, France, reported 18 visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was directed by Henry King.
The film was adapted by George Seaton from a novelization of Bernadette's story, written by Franz Werfel. The novel was published in 1942 and was extremely popular, spending more than a year on the New York Times Best Seller list and 13 weeks heading the list.
Francois Soubirous (Roman Bohnen), a former miller now unemployed, is forced to live at the city jail with his wife (Anne Revere), his two sons, and his two daughters. One morning he goes to find work, and is told to take the contaminated trash from the hospital and dump it in the cave at Lourdes.
At the Catholic school (run by the Sisters of Charity of Nevers) which she and her sisters attend, fourteen-year old Bernadette Soubirous (Jennifer Jones) is shamed in front of the class by Sister Vazous, the teacher (Gladys Cooper), for not having learned her catechism well. AbbéDominique Peyramale (Charles Bickford) enters and awards the students holy cards, but is told by Sister Vazous that Bernadette does not deserve one, because she has not studied, and that it would not be fair to the other students. Peyramale encourages Bernadette to study harder.
Later that afternoon, on an errand with her sister Marie (Ermadean Walters) and school friend Jeanne (Mary Anderson) to collect firewood outside the town of Lourdes, Bernadette is left behind when her companions warn her not to wade through the cold river by the Massabielle caves for fear of taking ill. About to cross anyway, Bernadette is distracted by a strange breeze and a change in the light. Investigating the cave, she finds a beautiful lady standing in brilliant light, holding a pearl rosary. She tells her sister and friend, who promise not to tell anyone else, but of course they do, and the story soon spreads all over town.
Many, including Bernadette's Aunt Bernarde (Blanche Yurka), are convinced of her sincerity and stand up for her against her disbelieving parents, but Bernadette faces civil and church authorities alone. Repeatedly questioned, she stands solidly behind her outlandish story and continues to return to the cave as the lady has asked. She faces ridicule as the lady tells her to drink and wash at a spring that doesn't exist, but digs a hole in the ground and uses the wet sand and mud. The water begins to flow later and exhibits miraculous healing properties. The lady finally identifies herself as "the Immaculate Conception". Civil authorities try to have Bernadette declared insane, while Abbé Peyramale, the fatherly cleric who once doubted her and now becomes her staunchest ally, asks for a formal investigation to find out if Bernadette is a fraud, insane, or genuine. The grotto is closed and the Bishop of Tarbes (Charles Waldron) declares that unless the Emperor orders the grotto to openedm there will be no investigation by the church. Shortly thereafter, the Emperor's infant son falls ill and, under instructions from the Empress (Patricia Morison), the child's nanny obtains a bottle of the water. Arrested for violating the closure order, she appears in court, identifies herself as the Empress' employee, and pays the fines of the other persons who attempted to enter the grotto, so that they will not have to serve time in jail. The magistrate permits her to go and to take the bottle of water with her. The Emperor's son drinks the water and recovers. The Empress believes that his recovery is miraculous, but the Emperor is not sure. The Empress upbraids him for doubting God, and at her insistence, the Emperor gives the order to reopen the grotto. The Bishop of Tarbes then directs the commission to convene. The investigation takes many years, and Bernadette is questioned again and again, but the commission eventually determines that Bernadette experienced visions and was visited by the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.
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