Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

April 30, 2006

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Old Footage Comes to Light


In the history of a musical, one can never be sure what will come to the surface and when. Yesterday a 14 minute fragment of footage from the Gordon/Caird Jane Eyre: The Musical came to light, out of the depths of fandom where it had been cherished for several years. Only 14 minutes of the production at La Jolla. this production lies at the centre of the massive reconception of the work, when it transformed from 'musicalised BBC drama' to 'Cliff Notes Jane Eyre.' It is peculiar, and any new material is something special. I do have a full audio recording of the work, but it leaves me with more questions than answers.

This clip includes the Gypsy scene and the proposal. The quality is rather poor but good enough to show some of the staging- the elusive chestnut tree for example. Unfortunately the clip cuts off abruptly before the moment the tree is struck- which is something of a mystery to me; how it was done. I asked the composer, Paul Gordon, about this once. He recalled that there were in fact two trees. That they were rapidly switched and that it was 'very noisey'. The tree was so noisey that it 'not infrequently set off the fire alarms' and the theatre would have to be evacuated! Somewhat too realistic, perhaps!

I think the technical demands of using this effect in turn had an effect on the music. There is a strange bit of music during the La Jolla proposal scene which fans of it have mockingly dubbed 'Rochester Triumphant.' Now, the recording is made from the sound board so the effects are always louder and more obnoxious than they would be in the theatre, but 'Rochester Triumphant' features trumpet fanfares and other effects culminating in a shout of exhaultation from Mr Rochester followed by bells and a choir. It is awful, doesn't appear before or after this stage in the show's development. And I think it is all to cover up the noise of the tree.

For those who are curious, the cry goes something like this:

Let fire burn wild and deep,
Raging skies bleed bitter rain
but there is peace, I have my Jane!

This last image is from the gypsy scene and apparently shows Mr Rochester doing his impression of a matador (just to show off his acting ability, of course! His hair is also notorious in this production. It is quite a hideous Zamorna wig) and there's Jane encouraging this sort of behaviour.

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April 29, 2006

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Filed under: Films,Interviews,Jane Eyre (1997),Media,Productions,Reviews,TV,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 9:39 pm

Ciaran Hinds on playing Mr Rochester

This is a supplement to a very old post on Ciaran's take on the role of Mr Rochester in the 1997 film Jane Eyre opposite Samantha Morton. As part of a series of posts called 'Actors on Playing Mr Rochester' I had posted some of his rather off-base conceptions of Edward Rochester. Now, it gets so much worse, but we know now why he has such delusions… the poor, poor man:

Firstly, Mr Rochester's mysterious moustache is revealled to be the result of lazy facial hair adaptation from his stint as Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert: "At least half the facial make-up was there. They just chopped bits off the beard willy-nilly."

Hmnnn… *taps foot*

He was chosen for Rochester after the director, Robert Young, heard him play the part on radio. "He told me there was passion in my voice. I couldn't evaluate whether I was right or wrong. I haven't seen any film versions, or read the book. I don't want to because I'd worry about the impossibility of translating it to the screen. I'd wonder why particular scenes are left out, and that would cause frustration as well as getting in the way of the screen writer, who has worked very hard for a long time and knows more about it than me. Sam (his co-star Samantha Morton) has read the book several times, so I developed the character through her. She's only 19 and has an amazing talent. She treated me like her grandfather," he jokes. "The danger is that Rochester has been played so many times I risk being shot down by the critics. But a good story is a good story, whatever, and this is still about two hearts. I hope I can communicate real emotions. I hope against hope sometimes, but there's an extraordinary feeling when you get it right."

Hnnn!!!!! *taps foot faster*

Rochester is, he believes, selfish, arrogant, chauvinistic, bullying, sexist. "You could say he's a man of his time, a rich landowner, with power which he abuses. I wouldn't fancy him, and I wonder why women find him attractive. It's the power, I think. My job is to try and make viewers have sympathy. I hope we show how his heart was hit badly by his first wife. She'd been a bit of a sex siren when younger. How was he to know she was barking mad? Jane is employed as a governess and responds to him like a genuine person. It's not 'Yes, sir, no, sir.' She looks him in the eye and speaks her mind, which is a new experience for him. He finds her fascinating. In the end he says 'We are one soul,' but he can't trust himself to open up completely and admit, 'I love you'. He is callous, too, in the way he flirts with Blanche in order to make Jane jealous".

…*twitch* Perhaps if he had read the book he might have half a clue why women find him attractive? And that Mr Rochester is decidedly …none of those things listed? …*deep clensing breath*

Then he muses on life and love: "Monogamy is a bizarre concept, don't you think?"

…uuuuuurgh! Read it, if you must but… ugh! But… thank you, siansaksa for this. Really. *twitch* I really should talk to Mags at Austenblog about where she got her 'Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness.'

ETA: …one more remark just in case anyone still had any suspicions that this actor had the least sympathy with his character:

His first professional job was as the back end of the horse in Cinderella. "From the back end of a horse to Mr Rochester. You could say there's not much difference. The horse was probably a lot more interesting."

April 27, 2006

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Digest of Today's Brontë News

Culled from Google News:

In Love with Love:
In a brief historicisation of the Romance novel the Brontës and Jane Austen are lumped together as 'The Gothics.' Characteristics thereof are delinated, while some interesting mental images for those who read this article too carefully provide some amusement.

From Page to Stage:
Humboldt Light Opera Company and College of the Redwoods present the musical drama Jane Eyre, April 28-May 13, at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday matinees on May 7 and 14 at 2 p.m. at the CR Forum Theater. (445-4310.)

More on the above production: A 'Gothic' Love Story. Tickets are $12 for general seating and $9 for students and seniors. (Image above is from this article).

A very odd nostalgic moment indeed, for a news article on violent crime: TODAY'S NOSTALGIA: On April 27, 1961, CBS' Family Classics aired a live production of Jane Eyre, starring Sally Ann Howes, Zachary Scott and Fritz Weaver. (*makes note to track this one down*)

Lucy Ellman's got a vulgar way of retelling Jane Eyre for her book 'Doctors and Nurses.' Read at your own risk.

Chris Rankin talks about his role as Edgar Linton in Wuthering Heights (near the end of the article): Wuthering Heights runs at The Capitol in Horsham from Thursday May 4 to Saturday May 6 at 7.30pm (plus Saturday matin?e, 2.30pm). Tickets start from £15 (concessions available). For more information, call the box office on 01403 750220 or visit the website at www.thecapitolhorsham.com

From an article on a play based on Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451:
Here’s Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights,” and there’s Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” – and is that Aristotle? The Book People have memorized books by heart with the hope of restoring them once out of these dangerous times.

Now how many out there think they could manage memorising one of the Brontë novels? Let me rephrase that… How many of you have memorised them?

And, a remarkably short yet informative life of Emily Brontë from the Navhind Times, India.

April 19, 2006

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Filed under: Articles,BBC,Films,Interviews,Jane Eyre,Jane Eyre (BBC 2006),Media,Productions,TV — by bronteana @ 1:10 pm

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – a new drama adaptation for BBC ONE


From the BBC Press Office (Thanks to Alison for the tip!):

Newcomer Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre) and Toby Stephens (Edward Rochester) head up an all-star cast in a passionate new version of the much-adored classic Jane Eyre for BBC ONE.The four-part serial also stars Francesca Annis as Lady Ingram, Christina Cole as Blanche Ingram, Lorraine Ashbourne as Mrs Fairfax, Pam Ferris as Grace Poole and Tara Fitzgerald as Mrs Reed.

Georgie Henley, who recently starred in the Christmas blockbuster The Chronicles of Narnia plays young Jane while Aidan McArdle plays the visionary John Eshton. The drama is currently filming entirely on location in Derbyshire.

Jane Tranter, BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning says: "Sandy Welch's wonderful version of Jane Eyre for BBC ONE will add that special ingredient to the mix of dramas due for transmission this autumn, which includes the new series of Robin Hood; Lizzie Mickery and Dan Percival's conspiracy thriller, State Within; Sally Wainwright's heart-warming series The Amazing Mrs Pritchard plus Russell T Davies's Torchwood for BBC THREE."

The sustainability and appeal of Jane Eyre lies in her universality and the audience's appetite for a well-told romantic tale.

Orphaned at a young age, Jane (Ruth Wilson) is placed with her wealthy aunt Mrs Reed (Tara Fitzgerald) who neglects Jane in favour of her own three spoiled children.

Mrs Reed's spitefulness leads her to withhold news that could change Jane's life for the better.

Instead she brands her a liar and sends Jane to Lowood School where she remains until the age of 19.

When she finally leaves the dark memories of Lowood behind, she embarks on a career as a governess and her first position is at Thornfield Hall, the home of the alluring and unpredictable Edward Rochester.

Jane's journey into the world and as a woman begins.

Producer Diederick Santer adds: "In her brand new adaptation of Jane Eyre, Sandy Welch has mined Bronte's novel for every ounce of passion, drama, colour, madness and horror available, bringing to life Jane's inner world with beauty, humour and at times great sadness.

"The locations we have chosen are stormy and majestic and I hope that Sandy's original take on the story will be enjoyed as much by long-term fans of the book as by those who have never read it."

Filming is underway until June at the historical medieval castle Haddon Hall, owned by Lord Edward Manners, and other locations across Derbyshire.

Jane Eyre is adapted by Sandy Welch (North and South, Magnificent Seven), directed by Susanna White (Bleak House) and the Executive Producer is Phillippa Giles.

The 'visionary John Eshton'?? What on earth can that mean? Humour, humour is good! Yes, I certainly cannot wait to see this. Also, as previously reported, it is confirmed for autumn not December, which is more good news!

March 22, 2006

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Filed under: BBC,Interviews,Jane Eyre (BBC 2006),Media,Productions,TV,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 11:29 pm

Toby Stephens prefers the Conflicted Man

Here are a few more tidbits for those desperate to hear more from our newest Rochester. From 'I'm much happier playing messed-up guys rather than the heroic lead. It's dull playing those parts'

With his striking good looks and an acting dynasty to die for – no less than Dame Maggie Smith and the late Robert Stephens for his parents – you'd think that Toby Stephens would be cornering the market in dashing, romantic leading roles.

Instead, his forte seems to be quite the opposite; crazed Bond villains (Die Another Day), tormented Cold War intellectuals (Kim Philby in Cambridge Spies) and, about to start filming, the enigmatic and mysterious Mr Rochester in a new BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre.

'I'm much happier playing messed-up guys rather than the heroic lead,' says 36-year-old Stephens. 'It's dull playing those parts. I'd rather play someone conflicted. They're always more challenging, and you've got more to work with.'

[…]

Right now Stephens' physical profile is extremely striking; he's darkened his hair and he's growing some pretty impressive sideburns in preparation to play one of English Lit's most troubled and misunderstood anti-heroes, Rochester, in Jane Eyre.

'The perfect messed-up guy – what more could I ask for?' he laughs

Yay! Sorry… I mean, splendid…

January 5, 2006

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Jane's Journey Part 4, and More News on JE '06?

And now we have James Barbour's interview from the November 6th episode of Broadway Beat 2000. A special thanks to 'English' and Kathey for helping me date this piece.

James Barbour (Mr Rochester): I had read the novel three times- the third time just before I went to do La Jolla, and that time with Rochester in mind. And I just realized at that point that- I mean, I've done roles like Billy Bigalow and The Beast. Billy Bigalow is a multidimentional role and he's always on all the time. The difference is this man has probably thirty more layers than Billy Bigalow does. And once I got in production, once we got in rehearsal I realised how- I mean, he's delicious! And that's what I gravitated to but it's the darkness, the happiness, the torture, the love, the unrequited love, I mean just unbelievable levels. And trying to make them all fit into one character was the challenge- and it still is the challenge. That's what I enjoy about it.

Next time, Mary Stout (Mrs Fairfax)!

For more on James Barbour and Rochester, see the post entitled Actors on Playing Mr Rochester Part 3.

Next, mysticgypsy informs me that she has recieved word from the BBC Drama webteam that there are no plans to produce either 'Jane Eyre' or 'Villette' anytime soon. This is no cause for alarm, I think. My friends discovered that the BBC was planning on releasing the 1973 production after months of hearing that they had no plans to.

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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