Posted in costume drama, Elizabeth Gaskell, tagged Andrew Davies, Anna Maguire, Anthony Howell, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, BBC, Bill Paterson, Charles Darwin, Francesca Annis, Iain Glen, Justine Waddell, Keeley Hawes, Michael Gambon, Nicholas Renton, Penelope Wilton, Tom Hollander on May 22, 2010|
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I’ve now watched this Andrew Davies adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s last novel at least three times over the years (it might even be four), and my admiration grows each time. I think it must be one of his very greatest TV adaptations, up there with his takes on Middlemarch, Pride and Prejudice and Vanity Fair – and it is yet another one from the late 1990s, a period which saw an extraordinary flowering of classic adaptations. All the cast are superb, with my very favourite performances coming from Francesca Annis and Michael Gambon. For me, Wives and Daughters is Gaskell’s masterpiece, and this is a version which does it justice. Sadly she didn’t live to write the last few pages of her novel, but I rather like the ending this mini-series supplies – though I’ll discuss that at the end!
This mini-series looks beautiful, set in the countryside throughout (apart from brief glimpses of Cynthia in London and Roger in Africa), with endless shots of sweeping green landscapes and country houses. Director Nicholas Renton also made the fine 1998 version of Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, which has a similar feeling for country scenery. However, like his FFTMC, this isn’t just an idyllic picture of country life – it is made clear how characters are hemmed in and how difficult it is for anyone to escape the atmosphere of gossip and all the little rules governing village society. Wives and Daughters doesn’t deal with changing times as overtly as North and South, but the theme is still there, as is class conflict. The Squire in particular is clinging to the past while everything changes around him.
For anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen the mini-series, the story centres on a doctor’s daughter, Molly Gibson, who gains a new step-mother and step-sister, Hyacinth and Cynthia, when her father remarries – and on the tensions within this ill-assorted instant family. However, if you haven’t read/seen it, you’d be best not to read on until you have, as I’ll be discussing aspects of the whole plot – and also, as with North and South, you have a great double treat in store from the book and film.:)
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Posted in costume drama, Elizabeth Gaskell, tagged Anna Maxwell Martin, BBC, Brendan Coyle, Brian Percival, Daniela Denby-Ashe, John Light, Lesley Manville, Martin Phipps, Pauline Quirke, Peter Greenhalgh, Richard Armitage, Rupert Evans, Sandy Welch, Simon Elliot, Sinead Cusack, Tim Pigott-Smith, William Houston on May 2, 2010|
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Screenwriter Sandy Welch’s version of Elizabeth Gaskell’s industrial novel has to be one of the best BBC classic adaptations. It’s a series which was an immediate hit on first screening – partly because of Richard Armitage’s brooding portrayal of Thornton, but also I think because of the story itself, since I remember a previous BBC adaptation in 1975 being very popular, though sadly I never had the opportunity to see it at the time. I’d love the chance to compare the 2004 mini-series with the earlier version, which starred Patrick Stewart and Rosalie Shanks.
The series has stunning cinematography by Peter Greenhalgh and set design by Simon Elliot, together with a haunting musical score by Martin Phipps. The director, Brian Percival, is also directing some episodes of the eagerly-awaited BBC costume series Downton Abbey. I’m going to discuss the whole plot in this review, so if you haven’t seen it I’d definitely advise doing so before you read on – and, if you are watching it for the first time, what a treat you have in store!
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First of all, apologies to all who read my blog for taking so long about writing my promised review of the BBC North and South – I have watched it all again, and found it even better than I remembered, but I was tempted to reread the book too and haven’t finished yet, though I’m nearly there.:)
When I decided to have a Gaskell season here, I had failed to realise it was her bicentenary in 2010 and that a lot of special events are planned to mark the occasion – here is a link to a posting at a blog I hadn’t previously come across (found this one via Fly High, Maria:), which has links to a lot of Gaskell sites. Most of the events are in Manchester or Knutsford so I don’t think it is likely I’ll manage to make it there, but I do hope to see the window being dedicated to her in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey.
N&S review coming up very soon!
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Posted in costume drama, Elizabeth Gaskell, tagged Alex Etel, BBC, Celia Imrie, Claudie Blakley, Dame Judi Dench, Francesca Annis, Heidi Thomas, Imelda Staunton, Jodie Whittaker, Jonathan Pryce, Lesley Sharp, Matthew McNulty, Rory Kinnear, Sue Birtwhistle, Susie Conklin, Tim Curry, Tom Hiddleston on April 10, 2010|
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I’ve now watched Return to Cranford (that’s the title on the DVD, though on TV it was just billed as the Cranford Christmas special) twice. When I first watched it, over the Christmas holidays, I found myself slightly bewildered, as I didn’t remember who all the characters were or how they tied in with one another. However, after re-watching the original series I did get a lot more out of this sequel, as I’d hoped. I’m going to discuss the whole plot in this review, so, if you haven’t watched it yet, you might want to come back to my review after you have!
Rereading Cranford, I was surprised to find that the major storyline about the railway arriving and causing upheaval to the old-fashioned small town, which is at the centre of this two-part drama, carrying on from the end of the first series, isn’t in the book at all. As I mentioned in my review of the first series, it contained quite a lot that isn’t in Gaskell’s text, including some of the most moving incidents – but there is even more new material in this two-part series. In fact, just about the only sections which are taken from Gaskell’s Cranford stories are the story about Mrs Jameson’s cousin, Lady Glenmire (Celia Imrie) coming to stay and dismaying her snobbish relation with her down-to-earth attitude… plus the hilarious sequence about Miss Pole (Imelda Staunton) ordering a “cage” from Paris for her pet cockatoo (this is the plot of the short story The Cage at Cranford) and another comic section, near the end, about a magician, Signor Brunoni (Tim Curry) putting on a show in the town.
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Posted in costume drama, Elizabeth Gaskell, tagged Alex Etel, Andrew Buchan, Barbara Flynn, BBC, Claudie Blakley, Cranford, Dame Eileen Atkins, Dame Judi Dench, Francesca Annis, Heidi Thomas, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter, Julia McKenzie, Julia Sawalha, Kimberley Nixon, Lisa Dillon, Michael Gambon, Philip Glenister, Simon Curtis, Simon Woods, Steve Hodson, Sue Birtwhistle, Susie Conklin on March 31, 2010|
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Dame Judi Dench, Lisa Dillon and Dame Eileen Atkins as Miss Matty, Mary Smith and Miss Jenkyns.
First of all, sorry to have been silent – I’ve been busy again, but have been watching costume dramas even though I haven’t been writing about them! Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favourite 19th-century authors and I’m now planning to have a season on my blog about adaptations of her work, starting with Cranford and its sequel and then going on to North and South and Wives and Daughters.
There were also 1970s adaptations of all these books, which I would love to compare with the more recent versions, as well as a 1964 Mary Barton and a 1982 version of her novella Cousin Phillis – but sadly none of these are ever repeated or available on video/DVD, so it seems unlikely I’ll get the chance to see them unless the BBC starts delving into its archives.
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