Johnny Belinda

Jean Negulesco's Johnny Belinda is a straight melodrama, no chaser, that at least for the first half exercises remarkable restraint--it seems to unfold entirely naturally as Lew Ayres' doctor meets and forms an interest in Jane Wyman's deaf mute Belinda, and Negulesco's spare black-and-white filmmaking serves the simple story admirably. It gets overwrought about the time of Belinda's father's death (to his credit, Negulesco's staging of the fight between father and killer is a real nail-biter), and by the time of the murder trial you can see the script straining to squeeze every last drop of drama and suspense out of what should have been an open-and-shut case.

Wyman's huge eyes and wide, unspeaking lips are the movie, of course, but I can't help liking Lew Ayres' doctor--something I suppose he prepared for by playing the lead on all those Dr. Kildare pictures.

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