I greatly enjoyed this bittersweet tale written by Thomas Hardy when I first saw the 2003 adaptation (starring Ciaran Hinds, Johdi May, and James Purefroy) when it first aired in the USA on the A&E Network (those were the days - mysteries and period dramas!). So when I found this older adaptation on YouTube I was interested in see how it differs from the newer version. In point of fact they are not unalike, except in being older with less brilliant music and running a little longer than the newer version.
Synopsis: In a drunken and disheartened state, Michael Henchard sells his wife at a fair. When he becomes sober again he realises what he has done, and though unable to find his wife and child, changes his ways. He becomes the Mayor of the town and a wealthy business owner, his business grown so well he has to hire a partner accountant. Nearly twenty years later his past comes back to haunt him when his former wife and grown daughter come to him in their need. He takes them in and life seems to be pretty well perfect, but will secrets and Michael Henchard's own passionate nature let them stay at peace?
Actor Alan Bates portrays the character of Michael Henchard and does a fine job at capturing the passionate nature of this original character. From bold businessman to loving father. But...he's definitely not Ciaran Hinds (who's very convincing in the same role in the 2003 version)!
Alan Bates's other period drama appearances include: Hamlet (1990), Hard Times (1994) (which I have yet to see), Gosford Park (not the cleanest film but a good story full of amazing actors), Bertie and Elizabeth.
Acting over all way very good! There is a whole array of characters portrayed by many seasoned actors of the time. Here's just a few that I recognized:
- Janet Maw as Elizabeth-Jane Henchard - as the daughter of Michael Henchard's estranged wife Elizabeth-Jane grew up never knowing her father but her sweetness and gentleness easily lend themselves to being loved. Her character is perhaps the strongest and purest of any in the story. She herself is to be greatly respected. I actually enjoyed Janet Maw's portrayal much more than Johdi May's later performance of the same character. I immediately recognized Ms. Maw having greatly enjoyed her in The Barchester Chronicles as another lovely daughter. Her other roles have included The Carter Street Hangman (an excellent murder mystery).
- Jack Galloway as Donald Farfrae - in his role as Michael Henchard's business-smart Scottish partner Jack Galloway is brilliant. I actually prefer his Scottish brogue, ballad singing, straight-forward but gentle manner to actor James Purefroy's brooding manners in the same role. Unfortunately the only other period thing I've seen him in is Miss Marple: The Murder at the Vicarage.
- Richard Owens as Newson - Elizabeth-Jane's stepfather who is a naval man. This actor made a few brief appearances and I didn't recognize him at all. After viewing other things he's been in and chuckling over his role as "Pompus Bore" in The Abduction Club, I actually found something interesting! Richard Owens played a very charming version of Colonel Brandon in BBC's 1971 adaptation of Sense & Sensibility. What a find!
- Anna Massey as Lucetta Templeman - I've enjoyed Anna Massey's performance in mostly older character roles and her voice work on audio books but I quite looked forward to seeing her in this much younger role. She was in a word magnificent! Lucetta is a coquettish woman who has nearly past the bloom of life. Although not always a "good" woman, Lucetta does help Elizabeth-Jane find some freedom from her tyrannical father and she does fall for a man worthy of love. Anna Massey is brilliant, perhaps the performance of a lifetime! This series is worth watching for her alone! Ms. Massey's long list of other fantastic period drama roles include: Mrs. Norris in Mansfield Park (1983), Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest (2002), Aunt Stanbury in He Knew He Was Right, Oliver Twist (2007) and Tess of The D'Urbervilles (2008). And I look forward to seeing her in many other films in future!
Costumes are all correct for the period and have a great effect. Some of Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane's are particularly lovely examples of Victorian style! Music is not extraordinary but there are a few lovely ballads and dance songs. Sets are nice but mostly sound stages. Outdoor scenes are greatly effected by the sound of wind gusts but most are fine. Simply and older film done on a small budget with fine acting.
Highly recommend if you love older period dramas and especially Anna Massey. Below is a YouTube video with theme music and photos I created yesterday.
Very truly your's,