The Vision Scenes in Bernadette

Newman's and Powell's Contributions


  • Roland Jackson Claremont Graduate University



Alfred Newman, Edward Powell, original film score, borrowings from composers


The 1943 movie The Song of Bernadette names Alfred Newman as its “composer.” But his chief assistant at the time, Edward Powell, appears to have made a number of important contributions. If Newman provided the themes and harmonies with their positioning within the individual scenes, Powell worked out the scorings and registers, and at times filled out the harmonies with additional notes or counter-melodies. In this regard Newman and Powell can be considered a “team.” They also shared enthusiasms concerning composers, such as Sibelius, Wagner, or Ravel, from whom thematic ideas appear to have been borrowed, e.g. Sibelius’s “forest murmurs” (Symphony no.5) with its strangely dissonant chromaticisms, or the opulent celesta and harp effects in the first vision scene that recall Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. The three vision scenes are based on essentially the same thematic material, although the third brings in a quotation from Victoria’s motet “Ave Maria,” which subsequently becomes a leitmotif throughout the movie, underscoring those moments when a sacred feeling was suggested or emphasized.

Author Biography

Roland Jackson, Claremont Graduate University

Professor emeritus musicology Claremont Graduate University



How to Cite

Jackson, R. (2011). The Vision Scenes in Bernadette: Newman’s and Powell’s Contributions. Journal of Film Music, 3(2), 111–125.