Monday, November 08, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Jane Eyre (1971)

I had a lovely surprise a few days ago, as it transpired that a friend who had read my recent post about wanting to see the George C. Scott-Susannah York version of JANE EYRE happened to own a copy! I watched it this evening and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The three stars of the film are Scott, York, and John Williams' Emmy-winning musical score. Scott and York, who were both nominated for Emmy Awards, are perfectly cast as Edward Rochester and Jane Eyre, and they have terrific chemistry. Their yearning for one another and their hopes for finally achieving happiness made me teary-eyed at times. It was a wonderful, compelling gothic romance, perfectly accented by Williams' evocative music.

I do have to confess that since becoming a parent, I skip over reading or watching most of the opening scenes at Lowood. It's just too hard watching the little girls living in such an abusive environment. I watched enough of these scenes to give me a taste, but mostly skimmed through on fast-forward till I got to what I consider the real start of the story, Jane's arrival at Thornfield. From that point on, I was completely immersed in Jane's story.

The ending is lovely and touching, although I did wish for a brief epilogue showing Jane and Edward's later happiness, as described in the book.

The supporting cast includes familiar faces from British television such as Jean Marsh (UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS), Nyree Dawn Porter (THE FORSYTE SAGA), and Angharad Rees (POLDARK). Marsh is the crazy wife, Porter plays Blanche, and Rees is a house party guest. Jack Hawkins plays Mr. Brocklehurst in the Lowood scenes, and Ian Bannen is St. John Rivers, with Kara Wilson and Michele Dotrice playing his sisters. (Dotrice is the daughter of Roy Dotrice and the sister of Karen Dotrice of MARY POPPINS; she's the widow of Edward Woodward.)

There have been many releases of this version on VHS and DVD. The print I viewed wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. There were some stray lines here and there and a couple abrupt scene jumps, but visually it was definitely watchable. It was roughly 10 minutes short of the 110-minute running time given at IMDb; the missing footage is supposed to be in the new release from VCI. Although it sounds from reviews as though the VCI print falls short of being a beautifully remastered print, I'm now inclined to get it at some point, because I know I'll want to enjoy watching this again. Christmas is coming...

A note on the year: some sources date the film with the year 1970, as it debuted in the UK in December of that year. Other references give the film's year as 1971, when it was first shown on American TV. I've used the U.S. date here.

JANE EYRE was directed by Delbert Mann (MARTY).

Now if only Scott's 1976 Hallmark Hall of Fame production of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was available to see once more...but wait a minute...look what I just found on YouTube!!

Update: I just watched the first seven chapters of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and was having a glorious time seeing it for the first time in over 30 years...but the final two chapters appear to be missing! Not fair... Scott's wife, Trish Van Devere, plays Belle with the perfect mix of spirit and kindness, and it's amazing how much acting Scott does with just his eyes. The show is as beautiful as I remembered, and I can see why it made such an impression on me when I was young. I hope I can see the rest of it very soon.

January 15, 2011 Update: Sad news today, Susannah York has passed away at the age of 72.

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