In 1996, two adaptions of the Daniel Defoe novel The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders were brought to the screen — an American film version starring Robin Wright Penn and a British TV version starring Alex Kingston. The American film took the character of Moll, makes her a prostitute (with Stockard Channing as the madame), and eventually Moll falls in love with an artsy dude and is “redeemed.” This is almost entirely nothing like Defoe’s book.
The four-part British miniseries of Moll Flanders is very faithful to the novel and uses a great deal of the actual text, including having Kingston’s Moll directly address the audience. The original work is written as an autobiography, so breaking the third wall and using voiceovers gives a strong first-person feeling. It doesn’t hurt that Kingston is a highly engaging actor and well-suited to the alternately conniving and tender-hearted character of Moll. The only problem is that the book takes Moll from teenage to her 60s, and there’s no attempt to youthen or age Kingston. The only indicator of time passing is some of the fashions changing, which looks a little odd more than anything. Still, the performances are wonderful, there’s romance, sex, humor, adventure, and really good costumes, so this Moll Flanders is the one to watch, no question!
Moll is supposed to be 18-years-old here. I don’t buy it. But I do love this early 17th-c. outfit with the lovely cap and tall hat.
Her first lover — basically, Moll’s foster brother, although she marries her other foster brother.
After husband #1 dies, Moll goes to London where things get shiny since husband #2 is a draper-gentleman. The cocktails & fabric shop scene is AWESOME.
In search of husband #3. Very smart how Kingston’s super-curly hair is done in historically accurate ringlets during this part of the series.
But she gets a couple clunky dresses when she marries husband #3. They’re not the worst, but not the best either. Also, this movie is definitely in the camp of “I don’t care if it’s historically accurate, I just want my tits out.”
Another clunky dress. At least the hair is done right.
Diana Rigg makes a guest appearance as Moll’s long-lost mother.
After ditching husband #3, we’re back to shiny clothes. Check out this faaaabulous stripey gown.
Confessing your many sins, while looking oh-so good.
When the love of your life is also a rouge (and also Daniel Craig).
Moll wears this stunning red gown before and after marrying husband #4 (Craig), but I couldn’t get a clear screencap because she’s always moving around. So we have to make do with this closeup.
When she marries the appropriately named Mr. Bland, Moll wears a nice, simple green dress. I’d peg this as 1670s, pretty much where all her outfits are post-husband #1.
But when Mr. Bland suddenly dies, Moll is wearing a 1690s-1700s gown, complete with a fontange-style cap. How much time has passed? She bore him two kids, but the oldest doesn’t look more than 6. They couldn’t have been together 20 years!
That last husband’s death leads Moll to thievery and … mid-18th-century clothing?
Moll’s pink stripey outfit is adorable, but it looks very 1760s at the earliest to me. And her landlady, center, has a 1980s poodle-perm. Her partner-in-crime, Lucy, right, has another adorable but very 18th-century pink dress.
Randomly, when Lucy gets caught and thrown in jail, she’s wearing a mid-18th-c. outfit, while Moll is back in a 1690s gown (with great embroidered cuffs tho’). Fashion timeline, um, wut?
Then when Moll is about to get caught and doesn’t give a fuck, she just lets her hair go all frizzy and wears this fantasy gown. IDK.
Because that gown will look better tattered up at her trial.
And yet, she gets one of her fancy 1670s dresses back for her hanging. Doesn’t make sense to me, but of course it looks nice for TV.
Are you a fan of Moll Flanders with Alex Kingston?