Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

October 22, 2005

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Robin Chapman on Jane Eyre (1973), more than one Bway JE (?), and some confusion…

The New York TimesJuly 18, 1982, Sunday, Late City Final Edition
SECTION: Section 2A; Page 3, Column 1; Arts and Leisure Desk
HEADLINE: TELEVISION WEEK
BYLINE: By Eleanor Blau

A New Jane

'Jane Eyre,'' the Charlotte Bronte novel, arrives on Channel 13 in four parts starting Wednesday evening at 8, offering a new look at a much-filmed heroine. Jane, hired as a governess at that mysterious house, Thornfield Hall, headed by the romantic and tyrannical Mr. Rochester, has inspired at least three pre-talkie films and two with sound: in 1934 (with Virginia Bruce and Colin Clive), and in 1944 (Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles). There was even a Broadway version in 1958 (Jan Brooks and Eric Portman) [Hmmm…] and a 1971 television movie (Susannah York and George C. Scott).

In this BBC version, starring Sorcha Cusack (daughter of the actor Cyril Cusack) and Michael Jayston, Jane will tell her own story – as she does in the first-person novel. According to Robin Chapman, the novelist and playwright who did the adaptation, ''usually when people dramatize 'Jane Eyre' they take away the narrative voice-over of Jane herself and this turns the book on its head.

''I think Charlotte Bronte was an early feminist,'' Mr. Chapman said last week speaking by phone from England. ''She debunks the Byronic glamour associated with Rochester.'' The first view we get of Rochester is a typically romantic, macho one, riding a horse – but he falls, Mr. Chapman noted. And by the time Jane is reunited with him at the end of the novel, ''he is reduced to a human being.'' He has been blinded but some of his sight is being restored. ''It's very much a parable,'' Mr. Chapman said.

And now, for the confusion:

Putting on Eyres

Please help me, I have drained my memory cells.

I would like to know the name of a movie featuring George C. Scott. He was married to an insane woman and kept her locked in the attic.

He was in love with another woman. His wife set the house on fire and, in the rescue attempt, he lost his sight.

His character's name in the movie was Rothchild.

I thought it was "Wuthering Heights," but after seeing it on TV recently, I found out it was not.

My friends cannot recall the name, and some of them wonder if it is a movie.

I told them I could never think of such a plot. I'd be a writer if I could.

"Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte is a virtual sister volume to Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre." The sibling Gothic novelists and their works are often confused. George C. Scott and Susannah York starred in the 1971 British TV-movie version, the third filming we can find. Virginia Bruce and Colin Clive starred in a 1934 rendering, and Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine played the leads in a famous 1944 feature showcasing a very young Elizabeth Taylor. By the way, Bronte's brooding hero is named Rochester, not Rothchild.

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