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Posts Tagged ‘Sue Birtwhistle’

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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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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I’ve now finished re-watching the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice – and loved it all over again. I also watched the featurette included on the DVD, where producer Sue Birtwhistle discusses how much care was taken with every detail of this production, down to tailoring the costumes to the individuals and even choosing houses for filming which echoed the personalities of the characters living there.

I think all this attention to detail has paid off, together with the leisurely length, in giving the whole production a multi-layered, rich feeling. It’s quite a wrench when it comes to an end and you have to step out of that world and come back to the present – although that final shot, with Darcy and Elizabeth sharing their only kiss, is what viewers have been waiting for right from the start. 

The wedding scene

The wedding scene

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