The Fahrenheit of Cool

“I think I must admit so fair a guest when it asks entrance to my heart. ”         Jane Eyre

A few weeks ago I watched Orson Welles in Jane Eyre. It is a favorite book of mine. I identify on many levels with not only Jane, but Mr. Rochester as well- oh dear, that may explain some of my dysfunction…but anyway, the movie was wonderful. About an hour in, I knew it was taking its own approach as Jane was still languishing in the orphanage (albeit with the lovely Liz Taylor to keep her company). Aldous Huxley, as one of the screen writers, left entire plot lines out, but his choices and cuts added to the quality of the film, while respecting the heart of the story. It is a feat that is so rare, I had to consciously unbrace my anticipation of disappointment about forty minutes into the film and sweetly submit.

Of course neither Jane nor Mr. Rochester are beautiful people, it’s an important element of the book. I don’t find Orson Welles particularly attractive, but I am aware that he was (at that time) very good looking, never the less in this film he brilliantly battled the outer asshole of Edward Rochester with the inner wounded but lovely man. I won’t even say a word about Joan Fontaine’s diaphanous beauty…it is Hollywood after all where awkwardness or timidity has always passed for “ugly,” and Fontaine is so tender that her Jane was quite sufficient.

Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am souless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you – and fully as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.” – Charlotte Bronttë, Jane Eyre

I was feeling very warmly towards Welles and so was excited to have him featured this week in my Film History class. We watched a documentary about the battle between Hearst and Welles over Citizen Kane. The film reviewed Welles’ rise to fame and particularly his War of the Worlds radio infamy.

I remember hearing the broadcast a few years ago (perhaps it was an anniversary, I don’t know). While the radio show was brilliant conceptually, as well as in its execution, as I was watching the documentary I began to feel very uncomfortable by what I could only see as Welles’ inner asshole. It just seemed mean to me. It may be terribly uncool to genuinely feel something, but why should a person be made to feel a fool because they trusted? The brazen coldness with which he treated people was unkind.

The wires in my brain are all crossed, Welles’ sensitive portrayal of Mr. Rochester keeps colliding into the image of his dismissive attitude in the wake of the War of the Worlds episode that is now seared into my mind. I hate that.

But I know. I do. It is easier to be cold.

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4 responses to “The Fahrenheit of Cool

  1. I like your thoughts here Jessica. I have been meaning to see the new film Jane Erye. I will check it out. I get your drift on the ambiguity of Wells.

  2. The Welles version has made the strongest impression on me thus far.
    It is the ambiguity…the same sort that dreams provoke; sometimes I dream a horrible dream about someone I am not upset with, or vise versa, a lovely dream about someone who has caused me pain and I want to say, “Brain! stop it! you are confusing me!”

  3. I take your point but I think you are missing a bigger one – that Welles was criticising his own profession, of the hold the media had over people. and the panic over his radio broadcast has become mythologised since then. All people had to do was to look out the window to see if there was an invasion happening. If they were too stupid to do this, it is hard to feel sorry for them, like people who get ripped off in bad investments. If you think he was tough, stop and think of how much people trusted Hitler. There are bigger evils than what Welles did, much much bigger.

  4. There certainly are! That said however, many of the world’s evils rest on smug superiority. I believe that most of the people of the surrounding “invaded” town were more skeptical because they could see that nothing was really amiss, but for the people that were farther away…I don’t know, you don’t blame the crowds when someone yells “Fire!” in a movie theater…at any rate I prefer a world were we humans maintain some trust in one another – the world is cold enough.

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