Costumes in Jane Eyre Movie & TV Adaptions

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April 21, 1815, is Charlotte Brontë’s birthday. Seems like a good time to look at the movie and TV adaptions of her most famous novel Jane Eyre. While Brontë wrote four novels, none matched the success her first, which was published in 1847. Many movie and TV versions of Jane Eyre use the publication date as the time period for their setting. The costumes are typically 1840s. A few productions shift the story to the 1830s.

Literary Setting for Jane Eyre Movies & TV Adaptions

However, a close reading of the novel shows that the story is not contemporary to when Charlotte Brontë wrote it. Even Wikipedia (not usually a bastion of precise scholarship!) hints at the literary truth by stating: “The novel is set somewhere in the north of England, during the reign of George III (1760-1820).” There’s no citation for this, and while I’ve poured over my Norton Critical edition of the novel, I can’t find an exact reference. However, I did find a reference that sets the novel in approximately the 1810s.

In  Chapter XXXII, after Jane has left Rochester and Thornfield Hall and taken a post as village teacher, St. John Rivers gives her a book: “he laid on the table a new publication — a poem: one of those genuine productions so often vouchsafed to the fortunate pubic of those days — the golden age of literature.” Jane rhapsodizes about the prospect of reading this book as Rivers hands it to her and finally reveals the title: “While I was eagerly glancing at the bright pages of Marmion (for Marmion it was)…” And Marmion is a book of poetry by Sir Walter Scott published in February 1808. If the book is a “new publication,” it could be reasonably assumed to be no more than a year or two old, giving this transaction a date of 1810 at most.

This chapter of the novel takes place in November, and Jane has been away from Thornfield for about two years. She had worked as governess to Rochester’s ward, Adele, at Thornfield for about two years before that. Jane Eyre got the governess job after studying at the Lowood Institution for six years and teaching there for two years. She entered that school at age 10. So Jane Eyre should be age 18 to 22 during the main part of the the novel, and this part of the story should be set around the years 1806 to 1810 at the latest.

And I’m sorry to say, every movie and TV adaption of Jane Eyre gets this wrong! Still, some of them are very faithful to the rest of the novel’s text, so let’s take a look. I don’t claim to have seen every single one, but there are certain really, really good adaptions that I have seen and have opinions about.

 

Costumes in Jane Eyre Movies & TV Adaptions

 

Jane Eyre, 1934

Jane Eyre, 1934

Jane Eyre 1939: The first of many very blonde, very pretty Jane Eyres.

Jane: Virginia Bruce
Rochester: Colin Clive
Time Period: 1850s

Jane Eyre as a blonde! The child Jane has pretty blonde ringlets, and, less than 10 minutes into the film, she morphs into a pretty, pert, blonde, governess Jane, even though she’s supposed to be quite plain. Blanche Ingram even comments that the new governess is ‘quite pretty.’ Mr. Rochester is rather dashing, not especially brooding or Byronic. While the story is truncated (it’s barely over an hour long), surprisingly this film does hit many of the major plot points of the novel, if in its own silly fashion. The costumes are generically mid-Victorian but without corsets on the women and only hoops or petticoats for ball scenes, plus all the ladies have 1930s makeup as is typical for productions of this era. If you have time to kill, watch it on the Internet Archive.

Rating: 1 governess out of 5 wandering in the moors

 

Jane Eyre, 1943

Jane Eyre, 1943

Jane Eyre 1943: I’m dubious too.

Jane: Joan Fontaine
Rochester: Orson Welles
Time Period: 1840s (supposedly)

This is the first big-budget version of Jane Eyre on film. Joan Fontaine’s voiceover at the beginning says Jane was “born in 1820” so that’d mean the story is set in the ’40s. Well, kinda. The women’s gowns have some 1840s neckline details here and there, but the men’s outfits are tailored in a totally 1940s fashion. Orson Welles is a broody Rochester alright, but Joan Fontaine is too pretty to be Jane, and she’s just kind of overwhelmed by Welles’ scenery-chewing. This movie starts with a decent backstory of Jane at Lowood, including an uncredited Elizabeth Taylor as Jane’s childhood friend Helen Burns (side note: this is a small story in the novel, but Jane Eyre movie and TV adaptions freakin’ love to blow it out of proportion and make ‘angelic Helen Burns’ into a huge plot point; reread the book, and you’ll see that Jane’s relationship with her mentor Miss Temple was far more important, yet Miss Temple is usually ditched!). The film totally cuts out the final third of the novel where Jane meets St. John Rivers, making Jane and Rochester’s reunion rather pointless. It’s currently available on Netflix and pops up on Turner Movie Classics.

Rating: 2 governesses out of 5 wandering in the moors

Jane Eyre, 1943

Stripey!

Jane Eyre, 1943

Rochester wearing the skins of his enemies.

Jane Eyre, 1943

Pretty glam for a governess.

 

Jane Eyre, 1949

Jane Eyre, 1949

Jane Eyre 1949: Any idea what’s going on in this show?

Jane: Mary Sinclair
Rochester: Charlton Heston
Time Period: ???

I honestly can’t tell what time period this American TV production is supposed to be set in — 1940s fancy dress?  vaguely mid-Victorian? ye olden times? Mary Sinclair is (yet again) a very pretty Jane in weird long dresses with short sleeves or peter-pan collars, and Charlton Heston is a little creepy as Rochester in a somewhat 1820s tailcoat with flared collar. Adele is just in 1940s little-girl clothes, and Blanche Ingram (and friends) are in mid-Victorian gowns worn without hoops. This is a short adaption (especially for film), clocking in at less than an hour, and thus it cuts out a ton of the story, plus it really doesn’t use any of the novel’s language. If you’re dying of curiosity, you can watch it on the Internet Archive.

Rating: 1 governess out of 5 wandering in the moors

 

Jane Eyre, 1952

Jane Eyre, 1952

Jane Eyre 1953: Twu wuv, I guess.

Jane: Katharine Bard
Rochester: Kevin McCarthy
Time Period: ???

This is part of the same CBS-TV series as the 1949 production, but all I can find is one clip on YouTube. Looks like Jane is blonde, and Rochester is 1950s-handsome. She’s wearing something like an 1850s carriage gown, and he’s wearing something like an 1820s tailcoat. They’re the same age. The dialog has a few words from the novel, so OK, props for that.

Rating: all the governesses are lost wandering in the moors!

 

Jane Eyre, 1956

Jane Eyre, 1956

Jane Eyre 1956: What is Rochester up to?

Jane: Daphne Slater
Rochester: Stanley Baker
Time Period: ???

The first BBC production, a six-part miniseries, for which I can find little pictorial evidence. The Beeb is notorious for having lost or deleted many early TV shows, unfortunately.

Rating: all the governesses are lost wandering in the moors!

 

Jane Eyre, 1957

Jane Eyre, 1957

Jane Eyre 1957: Kind of scary, don’t be sad the tape is lost.

Jane: Joan Elan
Rochester: Patrick MacNee
Time Period: ???

Clearly, the 1950s had a thing for Jane Eyre on TV! This adaption on NBC-TV stars one of my childhood favorites, Patrick MacNee, who’d go on to play Patrick Steed in the original Avengers. But the screencaps I can find from this Brontë production don’t look very promising, either for faithfulness to the novel or for historically accurate costumes.

Rating: all the governesses are lost wandering in the moors!

 

Jane Eyre, 1961

Jane Eyre 1961

Jane Eyre 1961: This is all we got.

Jane: Sally Ann Howes
Rochester: Zachary Scott
Time Period: ???

This was an one-hour live American TV broadcast in black and white, and it’s doesn’t appear to have been recorded and saved. Sally Ann Howes as Jane looks like she’s wearing a prissy 1880s gown in the one promo still I could find (on an auction site).

Rating: all the governesses are lost wandering in the moors!

 

Jane Eyre, 1963

Jane Eyre, 1963

Jane Eyre 1961: Serious bizniz!

Jane: Ann Bell
Rochester: Richard Leech
Time Period: ???

Another six-episode BBC adaption, and two episodes are missing, I have no idea where to find the others. This publicity still shows a blonde-ish but appropriately plain Jane and a scary, glowering Rochester. The ’50s and ’60s were full of mean Rochesters, by the look of it.

Rating: all the governesses are lost wandering in the moors!

 

Jane Eyre, 1970

Jane Eyre, 1970

Jane Eyre 1970: Good actors gone bad.

Jane: Susannah York
Rochester: George C. Scott
Time Period: 1840s-ish

This is an American TV production with big-name actors and Emmy-award-winning music by John Williams (yes, of Star Wars fame later). That doesn’t make up for nondescript costuming and frankly boring dialog much of the time — only here and there does the film make reference to Charlotte Brontë’s actual words. The plot hits most of the novel’s key points in its own special way. From Blanche Ingram’s gowns, I figure they’re trying for 1840s, but doing it weakly (not enough structure in the garments, odd material and trim choices). I don’t buy George C. Scott as Rochester. He’s more of a crotchety grandpa figure here than a love interest for anyone. Susannah York (blonde!) doesn’t bring much passion to Jane either. The scenery and music are worth taking a peek at on the Internet Archive.

Rating: 2 governesses out of 5 wandering in the moors

Jane Eyre, 1970

This version of Jane Eyre makes me sad too.

Jane Eyre, 1970

One big party full of fug.

Jane Eyre, 1970

Nobody thinks this is a good idea.

 

Jane Eyre, 1973

Jane Eyre, 1973

Jane Eyre 1973: Literary accuracy, if not historical.

Jane: Sorcha Cusack
Rochester: Michael Jayston
Time Period: 1830s

This one is the first real (and fully extant!) attempt to put all of the novel on screen, in sequence, using Charlotte Brontë’s text. This five-part BBC miniseries is still available on DVD and has popped up on Netflix and even cable occasionally. Sorcha Cusack is modest and plain as Jane, not ugly but no beauty either. Michael Jayston had previously played the Tsar in Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), but luckily he’s not so wooden as Rochester (and looking at these pix now, he reminds me of Monty Python’s Terry Jones circa this period; but I didn’t feel this way when I watched the series). This Jane Eyre adaption can be a little stagey as the BBC ‘tele-plays’ of the time sometimes were, but it’s just so faithful to the book, I can overlook that. The costuming is a little inconsistent, but it’s generally quite good for the 1970s BBC. There’s some mega bonnet action, great gigot sleeves, and accurately dressed hair, though sometimes the fabric and trim choices are obviously theatrical (a common criticism in ’70s BBC productions; hey, they did a damn good job given the budget!).

Rating: 4 governesses out of 5 wandering in the moors

Jane Eyre, 1973

Perky bonnet.

Jane Eyre, 1973

Jane & Rochester, chillin’.

Jane Eyre, 1973

Poor fabric selection for Blanche Ingram & co.

 

Jane Eyre, 1983

Jane Eyre, 1983

Jane Eyre 1983: The most perfect adaption.

Jane: Zelah Clarke
Rochester: Timothy Dalton
Time Period: 1830s

The BBC outdid itself a decade later with an even longer, even more faithful adaption of Jane Eyre with 11 half-hour episodes that leave hardly anything of the book out. Zelah Clarke is a perfect Jane in both look and acting, and Timothy Dalton surprisingly works well as Rochester (at least, surprising if you’ve seen him as Heathcliff in the 1970 Wuthering Heights, but that’s another blog post). The costuming is excellent with high-quality materials, less of a theatrical look than earlier TV productions. Also, they really went for it with the giganto 1830s sleeves on the women’s gowns. Dang, if this was set in the 1810s, it would be the ultimate Jane Eyre movie or TV adaption EVAR! Fans of the book and fans of 1830s middle-class fashion will love the hell out of this production. It used to be on Netflix (maybe it’ll come back if we all wish hard enough?) and is available on DVD.

Rating: 5 governesses out of 5 wandering in the moors

Jane Eyre, 1983

Plain but period for 1830s.

Jane Eyre, 1983

Tea, sir?

Jane Eyre, 1983

Great dress on Blanche, played by Mary Tamm (who also played Romana I in Doctor Who).

Jane Eyre, 1983

Adele & Jane – wonderful pleated bertha on Jane.

Jane Eyre, 1983

Eliza & Georgiana Reed, in mourning; fabulous dresses & hair!

Jane Eyre, 1983

High drama!

Jane Eyre, 1983

The happy couple (not).

 

Jane Eyre, 1996

Jane Eyre, 1996

Jane Eyre 1996: What? We’re not perfect together?

Jane: Charlotte Gainsbourg
Rochester: William Hurt
Time Period: 1840s

I remember enjoying this when I saw it in the theater, but when I rewatched it on Netflix recently, ouch. William Hurt is like a flashback to George C. Scott as Rochester. OK, yes, there’s an age difference between Jane and Rochester; she’s 18 when they meet and he’s in his 30s. But that’s it. He’s not an old man — that makes it weird for modern audiences, and it wouldn’t have been all that common in the 19th century either. This isn’t an arranged royal marriage in the middle ages, people! That said, Gainsbourg is good as Jane, and I’m surprised she hasn’t been in many other movies of note. This film has a lot of well-known actors in the smaller parts, like Anna Paquin as young Jane, Joan Plowright as Mrs. Fairfax the housekeeper, and Elle Macpherson as Blanche Ingram (making her blonde instead of Jane, which comes up in a few adaptions; even though Blanche is raven-tressed in the novel). The costuming is good for a Hollywood production (the designer is Oscar-winner Jenny Beavan), and I think Blanche’s fancy gowns set the costumes squarely in the late 1840s.

Rating: 3 governesses out of 5 wandering in the moors

Jane Eyre, 1996

Jane wears this dress for a third of the movie.

Jane Eyre, 1996

Channeling George C. Scott.

Jane Eyre, 1996

This pelerine makes Jane pouty.

Jane Eyre, 1996

Blanche Ingram, supermodel.

Jane Eyre, 1996

Wuh?

 

Jane Eyre, 1997

Jane Eyre, 1997

Jane Eyre 1997: Watch it for the pleating & hunky Hinds.

Jane: Samantha Morton
Rochester: Ciarán Hinds
Time Period: 1830s

This is a joint American and UK production, first shown on the A&E Network in the US. It looks really good from the settings to costumes to both leads being easy on the eye. Samantha Morton and Ciarán Hinds are well matched as Jane and Rochester. However, the story, while generally following the novel, chops out a lot of the end section with Jane and St. John. If you’re looking for reasonable film examples of 1830s costumes, you could do worse than this Jane Eyre movie and TV adaption, including the day gowns worn by Jane (typically, it’s just Blanche’s fancy dresses that get attention from the costume designer). I like all the little pleating details and elaborate sleeve treatments that make “plain Jane” less boring.

Rating: 3 governesses out of 5 wandering in the moors

Jane Eyre, 1997

So much smocking!

Jane Eyre, 1997

How you doin’?

Jane Eyre, 1997

It’s all about Ciarán.

Jane Eyre, 1997

Don’t turn back!

 

Jane Eyre, 2006

Jane Eyre, 2006

Jane Eyre 2006: Lookin’ good!

Jane: Ruth Wilson
Rochester: Toby Stephens
Time Period: 1830s or 1840s

The most recent four-part BBC adaption of Jane Eyre played on PBS’ Masterpiece Theater in the U.S. It won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Costume for a Miniseries, Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries, and Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries — well deserved, because this version is gorgeous. Ruth Wilson may be the best-looking Jane Eyre yet, she has an unusual face, between weird and beautiful, that suits Jane, who Rochester calls ‘fairy,’ ‘sprite,’ and ‘elf-like’ throughout the novel. And Toby Stephens, rrow!, he’s rugged yet vulnerable, a classic Byronic hero as Rochester. Nothing crucial in the novel is left out, although events are compressed. The costumes are truly lovely, even if they kind of fudge around what year it’s supposed to be. See, Jane’s gowns are pretty straight-up 1840s with the pointed waistline and narrow sleeves, but Blanche and her lady-friends’ outfits are exaggerated OTT 1830s. They’re beautiful and fantastic, with perfectly period hair as well, but the styles seem a smidge out of step with Jane.

Rating: 4 governesses out of 5 wandering in the moors

Jane Eyre, 2006

1830s linebacker sleeves are awesome, but make me wonder when this movie is set.

Jane Eyre, 2006

Fey little Jane.

Jane Eyre, 2006

Icy blue for the ice queen.

Jane Eyre, 2006

Twinsies, really? Who does that?

Jane Eyre, 2006

Hotties in the front.

 

Jane Eyre, 2011

Jane Eyre, 2011

Jane Eyre 2011: Mad for plaids in the moors.

Jane: Mia Wasikowska
Rochester: Michael Fassbender
Time Period: 1840s

Finally, here’s the most recent big-screen adaption of Jane Eyre. Unlike in 1996, I didn’t go into this one with high hopes, thus seeing it was less disappointing. The story is told from the middle of the novel and in flashbacks; I guess it’s supposed to be hip and modern or maybe artsy. I just found it annoying. Where it does tell the story, this Jane Eyre movie adaptation covers the novel’s plot pretty well, not leaving out anything crucial. Mia Wasikowska is a decent choice for Jane — she has a singular appearance and conveys much emotion with few words. Michael Fassbender, well, I’m not as convinced. He’s not bad, he’s just not a classic Rochester. The costumes here are the main appeal, and they were designed by Oscar-winner Michael O’Connor (who also did The Duchess, 2008). Bonus point for excellent use of stripes and plaids in pretty much everyone’s outfits, plus an awesome scene of Jane taking off her wedding gown where you can see all the historically accurate lacings and layers. But I’m amused at the director Cary Fukunaga’s comment about the costumes: “The book was published in 1847 and takes place 10 years before that, but neither one of us liked the clothing of the 1830s,” Fukunaga says (in The Hollywood Reporter). “They’re not flattering dresses; women look like Valentine’s Day cards, with huge sleeves and triangular shoulders.” So we get a misidentification of the novel’s setting and a prejudice against certain historical fashions. GO YOU.

Rating: 3.75 governesses out of 5 wandering in the moors

Jane Eyre, 2011

Mrs. Reed in 1830s (tho’ she seems a bit young to me).

Jane Eyre, 2011

Simple & effective.

Jane Eyre, 2011

Plaid and little pleats.

Jane Eyre, 2011

No matter what you think of 1840s fashions, you have to love this dress!

Jane Eyre, 2011

Teeny little ruffles for Blanche.

Jane Eyre, 2011

Another great period print, plus cool bonnet (I mean, for a bonnet).

Jane Eyre, 2011

This might just be the most perfect Jane Eyre wedding gown (other than being the wrong period): it’s pretty, yet plain, well suited to her character.

Jane Eyre, 2011

And there it goes.

 

OK, fellow Brontë fans, which Jane Eyre movie or TV adaption is your favorite? How do they rank for historical costume accuracy and book faithfulness to you?

 

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. When she’s not dressing up in costumes, she can be found traveling the world with her sweetie and, occasionally, Kendra and Sarah. Her costuming and travel adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also maintains a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

23 Responses

  1. Michael L. McQuown

    At least it can be seen that there has been a steady progress in the costuming. I was trapped any years ago on an Atlantic sea crossing with a woman who was an expert on the Brontes, so I’m a bit gunshy to Bronte stories. But somebody out there really seems to love Jane.
    I note that most of the commentors on this thread are ladies. Be assured, that there are plenty of men who grotch and growl about sartorial misrepresentation, and especially so in regard to weapons and armour, but as much to clothing. “Vikings” has gotten some real heat for various infractions, but most for the Wessex soldiers wearing 15th century helmets! And, since I am a member of the HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) community, I hear some choice barbs from the women who fight with steel weapons in real armour about the fantasy stuff that –C movies come up with.

    Reply
  2. red*razors

    I will start with the caveat that I have seen very few of the other productions, but Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books, and my preferred version is the 2011 one. Fassbender was kindof unremarkable, but I like him so he gets a pass. I share Fukunaga’s prejudice against 30’s clothes as I ABHOR that period of dress, but I think they did it justice all the same and the early stuff looks well on screen. I adore the 40s clothes, the prints and the way they arranged them on the dresses, everything. I even really liked the flashback stucture!

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      If you love the book, definitely dig around for the 1983 version — sure, it’s got the 1830s gowns, but it’s SO true to the book, it’s unbelievable :) I do like the costumes in the 2011 version, they’re quite lovely 1840s (which I agree, are generally more attractive than ’30s).

      Reply
  3. abcfsk

    2011 version is the best by far, wasikowska’s delivery the truest to the book. one of the most gorgeously filmed movies of the last few years.

    Reply
  4. Joanne Renaud

    Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books ever. I know it technically has a Regency setting, but it’s impossible for me to picture that, since everyone acts in such an early Victorian way. Jane (to me, at least) wouldn’t be Jane without her 1840s poke bonnet and center-parted hair, straight out of a Ford Madox Brown drawing.

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      Interesting, bec. the novel harkens back more to the 18th century & works like Pamela, in the genre of servant girl marrying the master of the house. Funny that more productions don’t use late 1700s costumes :)

      Reply
      • Joanne Renaud

        Well, I think it takes some 18th century themes and puts a unique early Victorian feminist filter on them, which is one reason why the book is so fascinating.

        Reply
  5. quillandsaber

    I don’t know if we can take the timing to be the 1810s…Jane clearly says that the only dresses she owns are in grey and black, and that would be just plain absurd for the 1810s.

    Reply
  6. Loren

    I have a major soft spot for the Timothy Dalton version. I didn’t expect it to work for me but I really loved it.

    I really liked the 2011 one though too. The costumes were lovely, Mia was a good Jane and I think Fassbender is the only Rochester I ever got hot and bothered over.

    Reply
  7. San

    I enjoyed a lot the 2011 movie, I found it so beautiful I wanted to watch again every moment. I loved the actors chemistry and found Jane and Rochester much more interesting, realistic and human than in the book although I may not remember it well as I read it many years ago. I remember the book gave me the feeling of some kind of an almost parodic drama. Everything seemed too much even absurd sometime (Jane’s suffering and bad luck, the wife locked in the castle, Rochester’s bad temper, St-John etc.). In this movie, the story and the characters seemed more subtle and I immediately bought the love story.

    I loved the costume as well. But I didn’t know the story shouldn’t take place neither in the 1840s nor in the 1830s. Should it take place in the 1810s or have I misunderstood? :s

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      Yep, the novel’s text is set in 1810 or thereabouts, & no adaption has really noticed that. Odd, since Wuthering Heights has been set in most every year from the 1780s (correct) to the 1840s (incorrect), with no rhyme nor reason (watch for a post next week about that!). But Jane Eyre is so often in the 1830s-40s. Funny how movie/TV producers think.

      Reply
      • shannuoc

        I see! Thank you! I definitely should read it again, I didn’t notice or remember this early time setting. As others said, maybe it’s because the atmosphere of the book, its story, plot, and the way of thinking of Jane feel more like early victorian than georgian… I don’t know. On the other hand, there was gothic novels in the 18th and early 19th century hum… I’d like to see a Jane Eyre adaptation set in the1810s to get a better idea (and to see if it feels awkward or not).

        I’m looking forward for the next post about Wuthering Heights :)

        Reply
        • Trystan L. Bass

          Jane Eyre is definitely inspired by the gothic novels that started in the late 18th century :) I wrote my college thesis about the fairy & mythological references in the novel — Jane is always called “fae” & such, she’s labeled otherworldly throughout the book. That, plus the plot coincidences, Rochester’s temper, the ‘madwoman in the attic,’ all are very gothic tropes!

          Reply
      • Gwen

        It’s amazing that none of the adaptions have realised when the book was supposed to be set, considering that it is narrated from the perspective of someone speaking of a few decades earlier in their past, with several references to “in those days” customs! I personally think the descriptions of Adele’s clothes match what was fashionable for little girls starting in the late 1810s or early 20s, so that’s when I think of the story as taking place.

        Reply
  8. Kath

    My library has the Dalton version available on vhs, and it is well worth the time to watch it. It is my #1fav with Toby Stephens a close second.

    Reply
  9. ladylavinia1932

    I never saw the point in complaining about all of the actresses who have portrayed Jane Eyre. All of them were very attractive looking women. And with the exception of George C. Scott, who had a memorable looking face, all of the actors who portrayed Rochester were pretty good looking guys.

    Reply
  10. Pina

    Oh dear, I didn’t like the 2011 version at all, and I actually really like Mia Wasikowska, or at least want to like her. I think she has such a unique look. She’s so undeniably pretty without being your regular Hollywood hottie. She somehow looks so mysterious, so far away and different despite her regular features. And yet, I often find her acting so insipid. I’ve seen her in four roles (as Alice, as Jane, in Crimson Peak and in that artsy vampire film) and the only one where she seemed to attempt at some distinct facial expressions seemed to be the last one. And Fassbender seemed to pass over all of Rochester’s charm and put all the emphasis on his bitter and overbearing side, making you wonder why Jane likes him at all. And Jane herself came across as irritable and snappish. Perhaps the script writing was to blame for most of this, since it seems that for some reason they chose to omit most of the couple’s early positive interaction. The costumes and settings were indeed gorgeous, but most of this particular story’s charm comes from the relationship between Jane and Rochester, I think, so when their chemistry is off everything seems off. Sorry about the rant. This is my personal opinion, obviously, I don’t mean to give any offense.

    I find the 2006 version much better. Ruth Wilson is a brilliant actress, and Toby Stephens is truly charming (though perhaps a bit too goofy for Rochester).

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      Agreed. The 2011 was a close, but no cigar, version (not terrible, just not quite as good as it could have been), while the 2006 hewed closer to the novel with the acting and the costumes.

      Reply
    • Pamela Sage

      Not a costume expert, so not going to comment on that. 1983 was my favorite version (and I have every mini-series or movie length version), but 1973 (Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston) is my favorite for the acting. It’s a shade less complete than the 1983 version, but nothing important left out except for Rosamond Oliver and the dialogue is lifted straight from the novel. Michael Jayston is not your dark-eyed Rochester, but he conveys a huge amount of feeling with a mere glance and is not a conventionally handsome man. A signature moment is his glance and inflection when he is reviewing Jane’s portfolio and asks as much to himself as to Jane, “Where did you see — Latmos?” At that moment you realize that this man has just registered the hidden passions in Jane’s subconscious and recognized a kindred spirit. Some Janes have been too stiff. Sorcha Cusack plays Jane with appropriate propriety, but as a Jane who is thoroughly engaged in her conversations with Rochester. She is far from conventionally pretty, but has huge otherworldly expressive eyes. Unlike some versions, the chemistry between the two is obvious from the beginning. Stephanie Beacham makes a great Blanche as well. This is out-of -print after being out on DVD from Acorn Media for a couple years, but there are some copies floating around on Ebay and other sites.

      Reply
  11. ladylavinia1932

    My problems with the 2011 adaptation was Michael Fassbender. I think he is a great actor, but for some reason, I found his portrayal of Edward Rochester to be rather mixed. I was more impressed with Mia Wasikowska’s performance as Jane.

    I would have ranked the 1973 version with 3 out of 5 governesses. Jane’s voice over was a pain in my ass.

    Reply

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