skip navigation
Portrait of Jennie

Portrait of Jennie(1949)

share:
Remind Me

TCMDb Archive MaterialsView all archives (3)

FULL SYNOPSIS

powered by AFI

In the winter of 1934, artist Eben Adam's work is rejected by art dealers Matthews and Spinney. Depressed, Eben goes to Central Park, where he sits down on a bench next to an object wrapped in newspaper. When he begins to open it, Eben hears a young girl named Jennie Appleton call out that it is hers. Jennie, who is dressed in turn-of-the-century clothes, claims that her parents are actors at a vaudeville house called Hammerstein's Victoria, but Eben says that theater was torn down decades earlier. She begins examining his paintings and becomes frightened by one depicting a lighthouse on a rocky point off Cape Cod. Jennie tells Eben that she must leave, so he turns to get her package for her. When he turns back a moment later, however, Jennie is gone. Inside his room at a boardinghouse, Eben opens the package, which contains Jennie's silk scarf. Eben then begins his portrait of Jennie, and the next day, while dining at a restaurant, tells his taxi driver friend, Gus O'Toole, about her. Eben takes out the scarf to show Gus and notices an advertisement for Jennie's parents' act on the newspaper, which is dated 1910. Later, Gus introduces Eben to restaurant's Irish American owner, Mr. Moore, and convinces him to hire Eben to paint a mural of Irish politician "Mic" Collins above the bar, which Gus insists will attract patriotic Irish customers. Days later, Eben again encounters Jennie in the park and is surprised to see that she is already a teenager. When Eben asks to meet her parents, Jennie agrees to return to the park with them, but does not. Eben decides to look for her in Times Square. There, he finds the place where Hammerstein's had been, and the guard at the new building, Pete, who had also worked for Hammerstein's, tells Eben to see a black woman named Clara Morgan. Clara, who knew the Appletons well, shows him photographs of Jennie and tells him that Jennie's parents were killed one night when their high-wire broke during a performance. Afterward, Jennie was sent to live at a convent. That evening, Eben goes back to the park where a sobbing Jennie tells him about her parents' death, which she maintains occurred earlier in the evening. Later, Moore holds a big party to celebrate the unveiling of the Collins mural. When Jennie returns again, she has matured into a beautiful college student. Soon after Eben finishes the portrait, Jennie leaves, but tells him that they will meet again. After she is gone, Eben goes to the convent where she lived and learns that Jennie drowned years ago after her boat was lost in a tidal wave off Cape Cod. Hoping to rescue her across time, Eben rents a boat and rows out to the spot near the lighthouse where Jennie drowned. Suddenly a storm erupts, and Eben's boat is smashed against the rocks below the lighthouse. After calling out Jennie's name, Eben sees her boat tossing in the waves and rushes to help her onto the rocks. The tide is too strong though, and she is swept away.