Constant Nymph, The (1943): Edmund Goulding Melodrama, Starring Charles Boyer and Joan Fontaine in Third and Last Oscar Nominated Role

Edmund Goulding’s 1943 melodrama The Constant Nymph is the third and best version of Margaret Kennedy’s best-selling novel, which had also been done as a stage play by Margaret 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 very own 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.

Screen Versions

Starring Ivor Novello, the 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 the remade by Basil Dean in 1934, featuring Brian Aherne.

The third version is the most compelling and the most technically accomplished due to the superb cast of Charles Boyer, Fontaine, and Smith (all in good form), and polished 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 Fontaine has been nominated twice before for the Best Actress Oscar, for “Rebecca” in 1940 and for “Suspicion,” in 1941, winning for the latter.

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