Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Watching Other Janes

Today I thought I would share with you my thoughts on early adaptations of Jane Eyre. The 1934 adaptation starring Colin Clive and Virginia Bruce, and the 1944 adaptation starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine.

The 1934 adaptation is almost comical. I'm not sure comedy was the intent, but this adaptation is only an hour and five minutes!!!! If you found some of the newer adaptations rushed (2011, 1996, 1997, etc.) then you may not believe how condensed it can be. There is also something awkward about this adaptation. Virginia Bruce is just not convincing as Jane Eyre. Not in any way. (And I really wish her clothes had fit her. The costumes just do not hang right on her, they just don't fit. OR else they were trying really hard to make them as unflattering to her as possible.) I could talk about all the hundreds of details that just weren't right about this edition, or you could watch for yourself.  But despite all that, I do consider it worth watching...if you're a big Jane Eyre fan! OR if you just want a GOOD laugh!!!!

Jane Eyre meets Mr. Rochester *before* she even meets Mrs. Fairfax or Adele
Jane (in a frilly dress) has her first conversation with Mr. Rochester and sings 
Naughty Adele in a Tree
Jane Puts Out the Fire All On Her Own
Adele being absolutely ridiculous in front of the guests but charming too
Mr. Rochester tricks Jane leading to the...  Proposal
Now this certainly wasn't in the book....OR...this Bertha doesn't quite look crazy

I recently rewatched the 1944 adaptation of Jane Eyre starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. I watched it at the first of the year and liked it, this time I may even have loved it. I think I appreciated Orson Welles' Mr. Rochester even more than before. One thing I've come to appreciate are the scenes between Jane and Edward. Particularly the oh-so-crucial scene between them after the big reveal. Orson Welles got this just right. He wasn't absurdly violent, he wasn't abusive; his heart ache and pain was transparent. He was full of sorrow and regret. Anyway, I thought this adaptation was great in the romance department. Passion, romance, drama, this movie has it in abundance. And this adaptation even features Jane as a child, even takes time to have her become good friends with Helen. True this one doesn't have her cousins or her inheritance. No St. John Rivers to propose marriage giving Jane Eyre an alternative. But. It does have John Sutton as "Dr. Rivers" the man responsible for saving the young Jane from her misery. Is it melodramatic? Yes. Is it entertaining? Yes!!! Is it worth watching?! Definitely!!!

I also appreciate this adaptation because of the childhood scenes we get with Jane, Helen, Mr. Brocklehurst, Mrs. Reed, and Dr. Rivers. I really enjoyed Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Reed--she was wonderful! And Henry Daniell as Mr. Brocklehurst, well, he's so brilliant at being evil!!! (Helen is played with Elizabeth Taylor, and she is quite angelic.)

Jane Eyre meets Mr. Rochester
The Oh-so-dramatic proposal 
The Happy Ending

I also watched a television adaption from 1949 starring Mary Sinclair as Jane Eyre and Charlton Heston as Edward Rochester. This may just be the worst Jane Eyre ever. It just doesn't work on any level. It's not entertaining; it's not believable as a drama, horror, or comedy. It takes an incredible amount of liberties with the book. There's not one character that is believable or likable in this production. Was it the acting? Was it the script-writing? I'm not sure. But I do think it's sad that the two commercials for Westinghouse products--the first for an electric range with not one but two ovens, and an electric sheet so you don't have to sleep with twelve pounds of blankets to stay warm--are more interesting than the drama itself.

Part one, part two, part three, part four.

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


CharmedLassie said...

Watched the 1944 adaptation a few months ago and rather liked it. There were very good scenes, obvious deviations, but an overall sense of loyalty to the story.

Becky said...

CharmedLassie, of the three the Orson Welles one is by far the best. I really, really, really, really like it actually. It's not technically as faithful to the book as some other adaptations, but what it has it has in abundance CHARISMA. It just works as film! said...

Nice looks at those old Jane Eyre films. The 1934 is a real crackup! I haven't seen the Heston version - and after reading your review, I don't especially want to, but will try to find it for the sake of completeness. Please visit my site for reviews of other Jane Eyre movies:

Becky said...

Here's the link to the whole 1949 film. I really enjoyed your website!!! I'm also trying to watch as many adaptations as possible.