Anne Brontë’s novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, published in 1848, was underrated at the time, but has been realized since as an early feminist masterpiece. And this 1996 three-part BBC production is a fine realization of the work.
Tara Fitzgerald plays idealistic, pious Helen, a young woman who marries wealthy, rakish Arthur Huntingdon (Rupert Graves). She thinks her love can reform him, but she’s quickly proven wrong. However, she bears him a son, who Huntingdon is determined to corrupt in his own image, and this drives Helen to desperate measures.
The story is told in flashback, as Helen has escaped her husband to live some distance away at Wildfell Hall, which she rents from a Mr. Lawrence (James Purefoy). In town, she meets Gilbert Markham (Toby Stephens), who becomes smitten with the mysterious woman.
With this frock-flicky star-studded cast and costumes designed by the always-excellent Rosalind Ebbutt (The Buccaneers, Downton Abbey, Victoria), this is one is worth watching and rewatching! It’s currently available on Amazon Prime, so don’t miss it.
Have you read or watched The Tenant of Wildfell Hall?
I somehow missed this. Thanks.
Emily had just one book but Anne had two and Charlotte had four. I loved the costumes in Tenant of Wildfell Hall but I had a hard time watching it because of mycrush on Rupert Graves. It was very hard watching him be evil.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that – let’s blame the cold meds! (stupid post Costume College con crud, grrr)
Rupert Graves, Toby Stephens, AND James Purfoy in the same film — Pure viewing heaven. Helen’s hairstyle bugged me — I thought it was so ugly. I’m sure it’s period-correct, but ugh.
This! A thousand times this to all of this!!!
Awww, the baby faced Toby Stephens! I had a hard time with Helen’s hairstyles too. Though they may be period accurate, they do not flatter the actress at all.
That was a rather awful time for female hairstyles; you had to have really good bone structure to get away with all those little curls and what I think of as spaniel ears.
I remember seeing commercials for this on PBS back in the day. It was the first time I’d heard of Anne Bronte.
I think I originally watched this just after seeing the Ruth Wilson/Toby Stephens Jane Eyre, and I remember feeling weirded out because Rochester was romancing Aunt Reed. But it’s been years so I’m excited to give it a re-watch!
Oh yeah! I watched it around the same time and that is a bit…weird. But I had known Tara Fitzgerald from “Brassed Off” and “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain” so I was more surprised at her performance in Jane Eyre than this.
I remember watching this years ago when it was first shown on Masterpiece Theater. At one point, Tara Fitzgerald was in everything, The Woman in White, Tenant, and several other miniseries.
I loved this right from the first moment, and read the novel when I was a teenager. I live about 25 miles from Haworth and grew up with all the Bronte novels. You’re right, the costumes are wonderful, and I don’t have any problem with the hairstyles – I think they’re interesting and inventive.
It’s hard to think of 1996 being so long ago, but my first viewing experience shows how times have changed. I was visiting my sister and due to fly home the next day. They had let the VCR record it for later viewing, and the timing wasn’t quite right, so the last chapter or two of story were missing from the tape. So they downloaded the book from Project Gutenberg, overnight! and printed out the last couple chapters for me to read on the plane the next morning.
Thanks for the detailed appreciation of the costumes and hair, not something I would have been more than vaguely aware of in 1996, but which I’m sure added to my enjoyment. Must check out the DVD from the library to watch again.
Why aren’t they making them like that these days?
Big favorite of mine. I understand that there is an earlier adaptation of this story that aired on television in 1968. It starred Janet Munro, Bryan Marshall (of the 1971 version of “Persuasion”) and Corin Redgrave (1995’s “Persuasion”). Has anyone seen it?