The 1957 “Saint Joan” movie is adapted from the Shaw play.
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With “Saint Joan”, Shaw reached the height of his fame as a dramatist. Fascinated by the story of Joan of Arc (canonized in 1920), but unhappy with “the whitewash which disfigures her beyond recognition,” he presents a realistic Joan: proud, intolerant, naïve, foolhardy, always brave-a rebel who challenged the conventions and values of her day.
George Bernard Shaw’s play, Saint Joan, completed in 1925, began the modern rehabilitation of the icon as a fully human, fallible character–not to mention a poster girl for teenage rebellion and feminism. Shaw’s Joan, like the real Maid of Orleans, leads the fight to drive the English out of her native France, insists on direct communication with her God instead of submitting to the mediation of Catholic priests, and refuses to dress, speak, or act according to traditional notions of how women were expected to behave. Until the closing scene of Shaw’s play, however, neither Joan nor her foes are cast in neatly heroic terms. Both are earnestly pursuing their partial visions of the truth. In the play’s famous epilogue, Shaw suggests that even 400 years later, most of us are so limited by our own perspectives that we are unable to tell the difference between a saint and a heretic. “O God that madest this beautiful earth, when will it be ready to receive Thy saints?” Joan asks, preparing for her death. “How long, O Lord, how long?” –Michael Joseph Gross, Amazon.com review