A thoroughly engaging adaption of the brooding classic, this film rises above the turgid tone often imposed on other classics brought to the screen. Joan Fontaine turns in a brilliantly deceptively understated performance, and Orson Welles restrains from the scenery chewing that marred some of his own projects; there is surprising chemistry between them. At times, Welles is a downright "sexy" leading man! The script (credited to John Houseman and Aldous Huxley) captures the right "tone" of Victorian cruelty and repression.
Under Robert Stevenson's direction Fontaine/Welles seem to capture the essence of two abused outsiders resisting their attraction for one another, trying to adhere to convention. A strong supporting cast. There are brief though memorable appearances by Agnes Moorehead, Elizabeth Taylor and Peggy Ann Garner as "young" Jane.
George Barnes' camera captures appropriately stark images of Ross Dowd and Thomas Little's sets. Charlotte Bronte's grim novel is well suited to the excellent B/W, cinematography: a memorable scene early in the film has young Jane being punished by being forced to stand on a stool that is nearly in the center of a fan of shadows cast by the stair railing, It is almost reminiscent of expressionist German films of the Weimar years.
The film manages to entertain as well as inform. Purists may object to the last 3 lines of the film which hint at a slightly happier denouement than the book offered. In spite of that, Jane Eyre is still a nearly flawless film.