Classic TV, Page To Screen, Romance

Jane Eyre Discussion Part 2: My Favourite Screen Adaptation

With the novel Jane Eyre being so beloved, it is not hard to see why so many screen adaptations for this one exist. There have been many big and small screen adaptations made over the years. I like many of them, and despise a good many more of them.

My biggest complaint by far about this story on screen, is that most of the adaptations cut far too much of the novel out. The development of Jane and Rochester’s romance is often rushed, and there is too much cut out from the rest of the story. Much of the beautiful original language of the novel is also missing, making the dialogue more akin to modern language.

I think that the worst adaptations are the 1934 and 2011 film versions. I think the best of the big screen versions is the 1943 film starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine.

I also have a real soft spot for the much underrated 1970 TV film, starring George C. Scott and Susannah York; this version still cuts much out, but Scott is the actor who is pretty much like the Rochester of the novel in terms of looks and mood.

My favourite screen adaptation however will always be the 1983 miniseries, starring Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke.  This one has held a special place in my heart since I borrowed the video boxset from my local Library. This was made by the BBC and directed by Julian Amyes. It was adapted for the screen by Alexander Baron. Why do I love this adaptation so much? How much time do you have? 

I think the performances by Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke are superb. They both make you care for their characters of Rochester and Jane. Zelah captures Jane’s quiet and gentle nature, and also her inner self yearning to break free. In the later part of the series when she flees Thornfield, Zelah makes Jane so vulnerable and devastated you just want to wrap her up in your arms. Timothy captures the enigmatic nature, despair, tenderness and frustration of Rochester perfectly. I also think the height difference between Timothy and Zelah works for the series because they just look so adorable together.

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The series is also pretty much word for word like the book. It even contains the vast majority of the original language that other adaptations change. It also features the gypsy fortune teller sequence. It also focuses heavily on Jane’s childhood, and upon her time later with Rivers and his sisters, something which other adaptations barely focus upon. The series lets the actors act, and lets them bring these characters to life. The series isn’t rushed in any way.

This is also the only adaptation where I as a viewer feel what Jane and Rochester are going through. The proposal sequence is a good example of this, Zelah makes your heart break when she delivers the famous speech about Jane having heart. The way she and Timothy look at each other in this is incredible. I can’t find the words to describe what those looks convey, they just have such strong chemistry and make you believe the emotional bond between the characters. You believe that they really are falling in love before you.

This adaptation also focuses on the fact that Jane and Rochester each serve as a rescuer for the other. Jane saves Rochester from depression and horror, and he saves her from cruelty and a life of blending into the background, instead of standing out in the crowd. Zelah and Timothy convey all that perfectly, particularly in the scene where Rochester tells Jane he has found the pure and innocent being he wishes to be with in life.

This series features strong performances from the entire cast, and it really is the adaptation which is the closest to the book. There are many adaptations out there, but it is to this one that I return again, and again and again.

The series itself is also a good example of the sort of series that we in Britain used to excel at producing. Series that took their time and were not rushed. Series that allow the actors to convey all we need (no need for fancy editing, or for intrusive music in every scene).

My favourite scenes are the following. The “so, you’ve come out at last” scene where Jane becomes ill and faints. The proposal scene. The scene on the stairs where Rochester says he thinks Jane looks depressed. Young Jane standing up to Mrs. Reed. All the scenes with Grace Poole. Jane saving Rochester from the fire, and their conversation afterwards. Jane asking for permission to go and visit her aunt. Rochester looking at Jane’s paintings. The aftermath of Mason getting attacked by Bertha. The gypsy fortune scene. All the scenes where Jane is staying with the Rivers siblings. The “is this my mustard seed?” scene. Rochester greeting Jane in the grounds when she returns from her aunts house. Rochester begging Jane to stay with him. The final scenes.

If there is a downside to the series I would say it lies in the casting of Zelah. Whilst she is superb as Jane, she looks much older than Jane’s eighteen years. This seems to always be a problem in all of the adaptations. Timothy is also more handsome than the Rochester of the novel (who to my mind resembles how George C. Scott looked in the 1970 film)but he really is the best actor to capture the personality and torment of the man.

Beautiful costumes and music all add something to the series. My favourites from amongst the supporting cast are Mary Tamm, as the beautiful and self centred Blanche. Robert James, as the cold and cruel Mr. Brocklehurst. Jean Harvey as the loveable and loyal Mrs. Fairfax.

I’d love to hear from you what you think of this series? What are your favourite screen adaptations of this story? Leave your comments below.

 

 

 

Classic TV

My Five Favourite Classic TV Series

 

I’ve been inspired by Eva, over at coffeeclassicsandcraziness and her recent post about her favourite TV series to write my own post on this subject. I have many favourite series from across the years. This post will just focus on my five favourite classic era series. I will do another about my more modern favourites.

Here are my five favourite classic era series.

1- The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)

This is a series I return to again and again, and I am still impressed, scared and moved each time I revisit the zone. A groundbreaking Science Fiction series looking at things such as racism, conformity, paranoia, the need to survive at all costs, and making us think about just what it means to be human. Famous for its twist endings that leave you open mouthed in shock. I love the creepy episodes and the ones that make you cry the most.

This series features some of the biggest stars from the classic era, and it is a real treat to see them appear. I so envy those people who were alive to see this series on its original broadcast.  You can read my post about the series here.

 

2- Star Trek (1966-1969)

I love all the Star Trek series, my favourite series are this and Deep Space Nine. This series shows us a future for humanity that I wish for everyday to become a reality. The series shows us people treating each other equally. In this future humans have put aside the need for war, the inclination towards violence, hate and prejudice to work as one for a better future and to explore new worlds.

The series follows the crew of the Federation starship Enterprise. They are led by the fearless Captain James Kirk (William Shatner). Each week the crew get caught up in a new adventure and make first contact with a new species. Kirk has the support of a good crew, and the constant presence of his best friends, Commander Spock and Dr. McCoy. Commander Spock (Leonard Nimoy)is half Vulcan and half human, and he does not show emotion easily. Dr. McCoy(De Forest Kelley)  on the other hand is compassionate and brutally honest. The bickering between McCoy and Spock is a series highlight, they may argue, but they are close friends despite their differences.  It is the friendship of the main trio that makes this series a favourite of mine. I also love the inspiring future for humanity depicted here.

 

3- Kojak (1973- 1978)

One of my favourite detective series. There is a realistic look to this one, and you feel as though you are watching real police officers deal with real victims and criminals.  Kojak is set in 1970’s New York, and follows the cases of a detective squad; they are led by the honest, badass (and it has to be said)very sexy, Lt.Theo Kojak(Telly Savalas).

I like the bond Theo has with his men, in particular with the young and hot headed Detective Bobby Crocker (Kevin Dobson). Exciting stories, lovable characters, filmed on location, and featuring a strong lead performance by Savalas.  “Who loves ya baby?” 🙂

 

4- Doctor Who (1963 to the present day)

The first episode of this aired here in the UK on the day after President Kennedy was assassinated. Due to that horrendous event, the series didn’t initially make quite the impact it perhaps would have done otherwise, due to people watching the news. However, it soon picked up a large following and became one of the most popular series in our countries TV history.

The Doctor is a Time Lord, a member of a race who regenerate into new bodies whenever they die. He loves humanity and is drawn to us. Over the decades (and through 12 different regenerations)he saves humanity (and other species)and has adventures through time and space. I like all the actors who have played the Doctor, as they have all brought something different to the role and made it their own. My favourites are Jon Pertwee (3rd Doctor), Tom Baker (4th),Sylvester McCoy (7th), Matt Smith (11th)and Peter Capaldi (current Doctor).

 

5- MASH (1972-1983)

A comedy set in an army field hospital may not sound like a barrel of laughs on paper, but boy does it induce fits of laughter when viewed. Over the years we laughed and cried with Pierce, Klinger, Winchester, Trapper, Hunnicutt, Father Mulcahy, Houlihan, Blake, O’Reilly, Potter and Burns, and they became like family. The series follows the staff of a mobile American army hospital during the Korean war. We follow the lives of the doctors and nurses who risk their own lives (and mental health)trying to save the injured, only to see them sent back to battle once they’ve been patched up.

The staff play jokes on one another, drink to excess and often argue and annoy each other, but this is their way of coping with the horror and waste they are witness to on a daily basis. They are all highly qualified and dedicated medical staff, who are all trying their best in an extremely difficult situation. I love all the characters in this, but Winchester, Klinger, Hawkeye and Mulcahy are my favourites.

What are your favourite classic era series? I’d love to get your views in the comments on the ones I’ve written about.

 

Classic TV, True Story

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 3: Elizabeth R (1971, TV Miniseries)

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In the mood for a good miniseries to enjoy this weekend? Then look no further then this British classic. The series focuses on the life of Queen Elizabeth I, Britain’s legendary Virgin Queen.

The daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth had a rocky start in life, but bided her time, won the hearts of her people and went on to become one of the greatest monarchs this country has ever known.

Power struggles, murder, intrigue, treachery, love, courage and a strong female lead, this series has it all. One of the best and most accurate depictions of the Tudor dynasty ever seen on screen.

Glenda Jackson gives the performance of her life as Elizabeth. Over the years many other fine actresses (Bette Davis, Flora Robson, Helen Mirren and Cate Blanchett)have portrayed Elizabeth on screen; none of them has ever matched Glenda’s unforgettable performance, she doesn’t just portray Elizabeth, she becomes Elizabeth. Glenda does a superb job here, both as the terrified young princess fighting for her life and reputation, and as the fearless, strong, passionate and undisputed ruler of England, sacrificing her own happiness to give everything she has to her country.

The series focuses on her entire reign (1558-1603)which would become known as The Golden Age. We see the key events that shaped her life and reign, we also follow her friendship/relationship with Lord Robert Dudley(Robert Hardy)the love of her life who sadly never claimed her heart the way her country did. Jackson and Hardy make me feel for this couple so much, it would seem the pair really loved each other, and Dudley allowed Elizabeth to be herself when she most needed to, but there was to be no happy ending or marriage for them despite their attachment.

Excellent performances from the entire cast, stunning costumes, and probably what is the most accurate depiction of the Tudor court we will ever see. The series also doesn’t shy away from the brutality of this period, horrific executions, murder, selfishness which leads to betrayal and murder, it is hard for me to accept that such terrible things were so easily accepted.

My favourite episodes are The Marriage Game, Horrible Conspiracies, The Lion’s Cub and Shadow In The Sun.

A perfect choice to watch over this cold weekend. If you’re a fan then please share your thoughts. If you’ve never seen this, I hope you check it out and enjoy it.

 

Classic TV, Science Fiction

The Twilight Zone(1959-1964): Come And Take A Trip With Me

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I love this series! Scary, sad, fascinating, shocking and most of all imaginative. Growing up I had heard and read a lot about this series, but had only ever seen a handful of episodes. That all changed a couple of years ago, when I treated myself to the complete series on Blu-ray(the episodes are beautifully cleaned up). It is now one of my favourite series.

I think this is the most human series I have watched. What I mean by that is it so perfectly captures what it means to be human, our weaknesses, strengths etc.

The series shows the best and worst of humanity. Wouldn’t we all love to offer advice/support to our younger selves? By watching Walking Distance we feel like we have.

By watching No Time Like The Past, we can see that good intentions may not be possible or even advisable. Sometimes our desire for self preservation gets the better of us, watch The Shelter for a prime example of this.

Created by Rod Serling, the series first came into being with a script written by Serling, called The Time Element. This unofficial pilot episode was aired on the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, in November 1958. Martin Balsam(who would also feature in the official series)and William Bendix were the stars. This story of a man who claims to be able to time travel back to Pearl Harbor just before the infamous attack, sets the tone for the series we all know today.

The official series aired a year later and would continue until 1964. The series is primarily classed as Science Fiction, featuring many stories of time travel, alien invaders and alien worlds. I like many of those episodes, but my personal favourites are the creepy ones; episodes such as The Grave, Thirty- Fathom Grave, The Hitch-Hiker(the first episode I ever saw),Deaths-head Revisited and The Howling Man, these all scare and make me think in equal measure, and they are all personal favourites.

The powerful performances and different weekly settings ensured the series was popular, but its real claim to fame was the twist ending to each episode. These endings are the series trademark, we are left often reassessing the previous 25 minutes we have watched once the twists are revealed. I love that no matter how many times I watch an episode the twist still retains the shock factor, even when I know full well what’s coming next.

It is a credit to Serling and his superb writing staff that the series is still as powerful today as it was when it first aired. I also like how you never know where you’ll end up next; one episode could be set on an alien world, another set in the old west, and another in the present(50’s and 60’s). Serling’s series also tackled the big issues of his day, particularly racism, fear of nuclear war and fear of people/places unknown to another set of people; the morality tales still stand up well today.

I can also think of no other series where the creator became such an integral part of their own series(not even Alfred Hitchcock on his anthology series.) Serling provides voice over narration for all episodes and filmed intros and outros to the episodes. The face of Serling is as much a part of the series as the music and twists. In the Blu-ray boxset, Serling’s intros/outros are included in all the episodes.

I consider the first three seasons to be the best. I’m in the minority of fans who actually like season 4(locks self in sealed vault to escape onslaught of season 4 hate.) While I will agree with the main critics that the hour long format here was a mistake; I strongly disagree that the episodes found here are the weakest.

Some of my favourites from this season are The Thirty-Fathom Grave, On Thursday We Leave For Home, Miniature(one of the most moving of all Twilight Zone episodes, featuring a young Robert Duvall),The New Exhibit, Jess-Belle and Printer’s Devil.

I actually think season 5 is the worst, many of the episodes are terrible(what went wrong with the writing here?)There are a few gems to be found though: In Praise of Pip, Nightmare at 20,000 feet(perhaps the best known of all the episodes),An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge, Living Doll, Night Call and Stopover in a Quiet Town.

Throughout the series there are fan favourites including: Time Enough At Last, The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street(although I think this would have worked better as a paranoia story, without the alien involvement that we later discover), Nightmare at 20,000 feet, Walking Distance, A Stop At Willoughby and The Odyssey of Flight 33; there are somewhat lesser appreciated gems too, including: The Last Flight, Nick of Time, People Are Alike All Over, One For The Angels, Printer’s Devil, The Hunt, The Passersby, I Shot An Arrrow Into The Air(surely the origins of Serling’s film The Planet of the Apes?),Judgement Night, The Silence, Passage For Trumpet and Mirror Image.

I love how many big film stars feature in this series. I envy classic era audiences who got to tune in weekly not knowing who would appear next. A handful of stars made more than one appearance: Jack Klugman(superb in several deeply moving episodes), Burgess Meredith, William Shatner, Martin Balsam etc. I think the quality of the work is evident given the amount of film stars who agreed to guest star in these episodes.

The series also features one of the most instantly recognisable themes in TV history. Chances are if you’ve never seen an episode, you’ll have heard that intro tune at some point in your life.

I suppose there is also the big question as to just what exactly The Twilight Zone is or means? I take it that it is a phrase that perfectly sums up a the weird and unexplainable events in life. I have often found myself saying “I can’t believe this, it’s like I’m in The Twilight Zone”, when faced with bizarre or horrible situations.

My ten favourite episodes are the following: The Passersby, Walking Distance, The Last Flight, The Grave, Printer’s Devil, The Odyssey of Flight 33, The Changing of the Guard, In Praise of Pip, The Howling Man and One For The Angels.

Similar series which I like include: One Step Beyond and Thriller.

Please share your thoughts on the series. What are your favourite episodes? Never seen an episode? What are you waiting for? The Zone awaits you, just make sure you get a return ticket though, because you wouldn’t want to get stuck there, now would you?