I have queued every film adaptation of Jane Eyre that Netflix has, because why wouldn't I? It may impress you to know that there are eight, all of which I plan to watch. No, nine if you count the one with Timothy Dalton, which I reluctantly do.
So far, my favorite is the 2006 BBC miniseries. It's extremely loyal to the book and to the descriptions of the characters. I cannot say the same for the 1944 Orson Welles/Joan Fontaine film, which takes obnoxious license with the story, but is ultimately still watchable. It also stars a young Elizabeth Taylor as Jane's only school friend, who dies. I would say spoiler alert, but this book was published 165 years ago; you're on your own.
The Welles version was done while he was still young and babely, frankly too babely to be a convincing Rochester, but he makes up for this with his gruff, barky demeanor and reluctant smile. Joan Fontaine was also too pretty to play a believable Jane, but we make do. Unfortunately, she portrays a totally boring Jane, who simpers around seeming weak instead of interesting and willful. The film shows a protracted view of Jane's unfortunate childhood, and we see just how terrible Lowood was. Almost more terrible, in fact, than is described in the book. This movie is all about how sad Jane is and how lucky she is to be rescued by a strange yelling man, rather than how resilient she is and how she rescues him, as CB had it.
Maybe I'm being too hard on this film because I've seen it done better. For an era that produced some intolerable period pieces and adaptations, it is not terrible. Also, Agnes Moorehead plays Jane's bitch aunt, three years after playing the crappy abandoning mother in Citizen Kane. At this time, she seems to have been typecast as the plain domestic failure who knows she sucks but can't seem to do anything about it. Thank god she showed everyone what the fuck was up later on Bewitched.
In closing, I just saw this on tumblr. The tag! Ah, the internet is for everyone.