Joseph Cotton plays a Manhattan artist, Eben Adams, a skillful but uninspired painter who has known neither pain nor love in his gentlemanly, easy-going life. A local gallery owner, played marvelously by Ethel Barrymore, nurtures Eben in a motherly manner, warning him that he will only begin to do great work after he has honestly lived in the world.
Eben's daily walks take him through Central Park where one day he meets a school girl, mysteriously misplaced in time & full of allusions to things of the past. She declares her love for Eben & makes him promise to wait for her to grow up, as she intends to do so very quickly.
Each time he encounters Jenny, played with dewy-eyed innocence & a touch of strangeness by Jennifer Jones, she is a bit older, rapidly growing up as she promised. Eben from clues Jenny has dropped about her life discovers exactly who she is -- or was -- but even knowing he has become enamored of a ghost, he lives only for each encounter.
He begins work on a portrait of Jenny which is to be a gigantic leap forward in his development as an artist, for now his life is full of emotion, both & sadness. He comes to believe that even if he only paints this one great painting & never another, his life as an artist will have had purpose. And when that painting is done, he is drawn to the place of Jenny's final fate, & to her promise that they shall be together forever.
Based as it is on a very well written novel by Robert Nathan, the film version of Portrait of Jenny is a literate, poetic & highly romantic love story. It is not merely sentimental, though it is also that. It has simple yet innovative cinematography that shows the whole world as though everything were an artist's painting. It has fine performances, genuine mysteriousness & suspense, beauty & intelligence, & one helluva action climax.
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