Constant Nymph (1943): Joan Fontaine Oscar Nominated Film


Edmund Goulding’s 1943 melodrama “The Constant Nymph” is the third and best version of Margaret Kennedy’s best-selling novel, which was also done as a stage play by Kennedy and Basil Dean (see below).

Joan Fontaine received her third Best Actress Oscar nomination for playing a Belgian waif who falls for a famous composer (Charles Boyer), who then breaks her heart when he marries her cousin (Alexis Smith).

Kennedy’s book centers on a teenage girl who falls in love with a family friend who eventually marries her cousin. As a result, the two competing girls show jealousy over their common love for the man.  At the time, the book’s depiction of adolescent sexuality was considered audacious and shocking.

Starring Ivor Novello, Mabel Poulton and Benita Hume, yhe novel was first adapted for the screen in 1928 by Adrian Brunel and Alma Reville (Hitchcock’s wife and collaborator) and directed by Brunel and Basil Dean. 

It was again made into a film in 1934, from a script by Dorothy Farnum and directed by Dean, featuring Victoria Hopper, Brian Aherne and Leonora Corbett.

The third version is the most compelling and the most technically accomplished due to the superb cast of Charles Boyer, Joan Fontaine, Brenda Marshall, Alexis Smith, Charles Coburn, Dame May Whitty and Peter Lorre and high production values.

The film benefits from a lovely score composed by the brilliant musician Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Best Actress Oscar was Jennifer Jones for “The Song of Bernadette.  Joan Fonatine has been nominated twice before for an Oscar, for Rebecca” in 1940 and for “Suspicion,” in 1941, winning for the latter.

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