Part Two

April 2002:

Note: these postings on the film were written 11 years ago and I've changed my mind about the film a lot. I've studied films and Davies's work carefully; also written professionally and blogged a great deal on film. I leave these there as a record of how I did once understand the mini-series and how the others who contributed to the threads understood the mini-series.

Re: David Yates & Andrew Davies' TWWLN: Part Two (I)

Although I watched Part Two this past Sunday I have not written anything about it because I have been so busy; among other things, my husband has been ill, but he is now on the mend and I think to myself I'll forget the damn film if I don't write about it this evening.

I liked Part Two very much. It developed further and in interesting ways the types that had been set before the viewer in Part One; it continued the use of grotesque comic and disjunctive images and allusions to other films. Once again there was a real attempt to convey to the modern audience a vision of society analogous to that Trollope meant to convey to his Victorian reader and to present Trollope's story and the events of that story and at least the names of the characters who acted out the story, but doing so in ways that depend upon modern assumptions and cinematic clichés for the viewer to pick up what's intended. (I'd call the shaping of familiar types, images, situations, clothing a use of clichés; it enables an audience to get the meaning quickly a "must" in popular cinema; what differentiates a film like Lancelot du Lac and Metropolitan from Hollywoodized films is as much a matter of not having stars and not using clichés so the viewer is left slowly to work out what these characters, situations and imagery stands for in an individual way.)

It is important both to divest your mind of Trollope's novel and to remember it indirectly. The development of the character of Paul Montague is a case in point. In Part Two Yates and Davies are concerned to differentiate him from the men at the Beargarten and the men on Melmotte's board. He is to be a positive figure we like despite his human failings and relative impotence against the mores and realities of his society. So the spotlight is strongly put on his objections to Melmotte at the meeting -- and there are many more people at the table than in Trollope's novel and Paul does much better in public; he is not seen gambling in the club. Paul (Cillian Murphy) does have sex with Mrs Hurtle (Mirando Otto) very definitely but the scene is done wittily. It's clear from Part One Paul is presented as somewhat kinky and there is an effeminate sly feel to him; it's appropriate therefore that the sex should be suggested by a scene where she is photographed as taller than he (she stands on a bed) and he is carefully unlacing her boot. Foot fetishism is amusing, but she is dominatrix here. In the scene between Roger Carbury (Douglas Hodge) and Paul, Roger does not cut Mrs Hurtle dead on account of her caste or sexual freedom; it occurs in a room, not on the beach; Hodge is given lines from a letter which occurs much later in the book, one Roger writes to Paul after Hetta has learnt that Paul went to Lowestoffe with Mrs Hurtle in which he calls Paul a scoundrel and rogue and berates him for his two-faced weak selfish behavior throughout. Douglas Hodge delivered those lines very well. We have had a very great change here, one which makes Hodge's anger acceptable to a modern audience.

Very importantly, unlike the book, Paul and not Melmotte offers to go to America to see if there is railway and Paul really goes and works hard there. We see him in a vast landscape in his shirtsleeves. This recalls what happens at the close of Andrew Davies's film adaptation of _Wives and Daughters_. In the novel Roger Hamley goes to Africa, but we never see him there; in the film not only Roger (Anthony Dowell) but our heroine, Molly Gibson (Justine Waddell are seen in the vast landscape -- very similarly photographed in both adaptations -- and hard at work in shirtsleeves and trousers like her man, the sweat on her brow apparent to the viewer). The 21st century viewer respects work; Trollope's idea is that a gentleman is worth while because he's a gentleman; he need do nothing but somehow embody his caste honorably.

Perhaps the weakest moments for Paul Montague in the film are those which occur with Hetta Carbury: they feel like old-fashioned Victorian melodrama, and contrast unfavorably with Felix Carbury (Matthew MacFayden) who actually looks somewhat better in his workman's clothes (not absurd the way Trollope meant to see his) and Carbury's indifferent way of courting Ruby (Maxine Peake) which to the 21st century viewer come across as utterly believable, every day courting as we know it -- at least in mood or feel.

I'll divide this posting up so it won't get too long.


Re: David Yates & Andrew Davies' TWWLN: Part Two (II)

One of the best studies of film adaptations of novels and short stories that exists is by Lester Asheim; it has yet to be published as a book, but can be bought as a dissertation from UMI. It was written in 1950; the man watched some 24 movies based on famous books and carefully counted how many scenes in the original book appeared in the movie; how many characters were added or subtracted; he compared screenplays to the texts of the original novels. He also watched less carefully some 100 further movies based on novels and read studies of these, He discovered that on average far fewer scenes from a book are taken into any movie and far more scenes invented (or taken from a few lines by a narrator) than viewers realize. On average 36% of a film's scenes (or 22 out of an average 58) had no corresponding scene in the novel, and while 87% of the films were told from an omniscient point of view only 37% of the novels were.

Part Two was filled with scenes which had no counterpart in Trollope's TWWLN but which could have been there. Among the most interesting were the exchanges between Georgiana Longestaffe (Anne-Marie Duff) and Auguste Melmotte (David Suchet) over breakfast. Melmotte was given lines Trollope's narrator tells us (very ironically) about Georgiana's pretensions, motives and real behavior.

I was a little surprized at how much prominence Yates and Davies gave Georgiana, but in retrospect it makes sense: she is not a melodramatic sentimental heroine given modern feminist lines (what a thankless role as Hetta has poor Paloma Baeza); Yates and Davies do not treat Georgiana half-mockingly the way Marie Melmotte (Shirley Henderson), as a girl who longed to grow up to be a Barbie Doll and has at least lighted on someone who resembles the beautiful Ken (Felix); Georgiana is given dignity and carries scenes over class and ethnic conflicts which would have resonance for a modern audience. I noticed Yates and Davies' Georgiana is not given the harsh ugly lines Trollope's Georgiana has (which would make her unacceptable today); they chose an actor to play Breghert (Jim Carter) who far from fat, ugly, and "greasy" was a tall, strapping man with a Roman kind of nose -- very handsome, dignified, and strong (in the US an actor who really looked like Trollope's imagined man would elicit protests of feeding into anti-semitism). I thought Suchet played those scenes with intelligent ironies, hard to do with the more grotesque and clownish kinds of moments he had to personify. The modern film-makers thoroughly detest the arrogant snobbish Lady Monogram. This is an easy one for Yates and Davies: who today would admit to having motives like Lady Monogram. It is also a weakness in the film: so many people do have such motives. So note how these minor scenes are put in.

Melmotte or Suchet again dominated the film -- perhaps even more strongly than in Part One, but as others have commented, Cheryl Campbell as Lady Carbury, the doting mother comes into her own in Part Two. I really thought Matthew MacFayden stole the show when he wasn't meant to until I looked up a couple of cast lists. He listed second to Suchet in the three I have found. MacFayden's scenes were among the most memorable and he was on the screen much more often than Melmotte. I tried to count but gave up, but as far as I got MacFayden seemed to have twice as many as Suchet and more than anyone else.

I'd like to agree that Campbell was portrayed sympathetically but my feeling is this film adaptation was as male-oriented as the 1970s Pallisers. In the 1970s Pallisers the actresses fell into submission and adoration after some vexation and misery, with the men as central players throughout, the exemplars of power, kindness, and those whose needs were seen to first and above all. We have gone 30 years further and lost the kindness of this older film, and are much more cynical and present meaner more sordid weaker characters. The women are simply not sympathized with truly; they are cogs in a machine who are variously foolish (Mrs Melmotte is not a crude fearful ex-prostitute but a child sucking candy when her husband is not looking) and ineffectual. Thus far only Mrs Hurtle is given any sense of power and independence -- and she is a kind of southern belle as male wet dream (Blanche Dubois in this week's sequence was not pathetic in the modern sense of the word). Yates and Davies have three central males and the most interesting as a character portrayal is their Felix. It's fascinating how the Trollope's total sleaze in a modern film remains a total sleaze but doesn't seem so bad any more. We are made to feel sorry for him as he gambles the night away. We are made to feel he is being grabbed at by these absurd women -- doll-like or not knowing their own mind (Ruby). One of the most human -- not grotesque -- moments of the film occurs when Felix manages to get himself home and crawls to the door, singing the familiar rhyme we sing to children, "Home again home again giggedy-jig." So to Yates and Davies Georgiana and Felix are those whose original conception in Trollope is still somewhat available for transposition into a modern film.

This is true of Ruby too -- only she is given much less space than the novel and only scattered moments here. Yates and Davies make sure we see her black-and-blue face. They don't let Melmotte beat Marie in the same way (Suchet is not really blackened -- he is what the world wants). I thought the scene in the railway between Marie and Didon and the policeman recalled the original illustration in Trollope's novel by Lionel Fawkes too.

Thus far on the whole this film adaptation of Trollope's TWWLN is a satisfying, entertaining and intelligent TV film. It has its flaws -- or inconsistencies of mood as here and there it lurches back into some sudden Victorian strain (such as the moment where the three women in Mrs Pipkins's house keep Felix from Ruby). It has its pandering -- Lady Monogram was an easy target which flatters the self-esteem of the viewer. It is Hollywoodized as we've said before. But on its own terms it stands up remarkably well.

And yet I admit to an ambivalent response: it is exhilarating to find that someone has the boldness to invent new types (I haven't been able to talk of Melmotte for the type is new to this kind of film), to depart from sentimental melodrama, to reach for grotesque comedies and modern cynicisms and scepticism and present the world as governed by clowns because most people don't mind in the least; at the same time to see the woman's emotion picture replaced by a mode which is implicitly derisory of the sensitive and intelligent, of the subjective intangible world (which Trollope did value) and especially of women is demoralizing. It is sometimes said that the 19th century in Western society saw some genuine progressiveness and improvement in general attitudes towards the powerless and vulnerable and certainly the abolition of slavery after countless centuries of acceptance is heartening. I suggest that the last 25 years have seen a movement which has gone swiftly backwards in many areas of life.

Ellen Moody

Date: Sat, 13 Apr 2002

Ellen, I agree with you regarding this recent broadcast...your comment:

"I was struck by the openly parodic nature of the piece: I gazed at a highly theatricalized scene, meaning the way the actors were blocked; in it over- or maybe it was self-consciously dressed up superrich late Victorians were moving about a set that announced itself as as phony."

Earlier this week, I posted this comment: "Last night was my first experience with the television broadcast. Was this a satirical rendition or is this how Trollope's work is perceived? The vulgarity of the Melmottes was comical. Couldn't this have been played less desperate and still conveyed Trollope's ideas?"

Ellen, what I found hard to believe was the way Marie Melmotte's character flitted from one person to an other. One moment she was sitting by her mother and then the next she was snuggling up to Felix. It had a comedic feel to it and I felt it showed Marie as vulgar as the rest of her family. The breakfast scene with Georgianne comes to mind.

In a Victorian scene, you expect to see decorum and stiffled emotion. Trollope's novel conveyed to me an unseen vulgarity on the part of the Melmottes. The notion was 'felt' versus 'seen', by the established gentry of London, that the Melmottes were outsiders, new money etc.

Also your comment:

"Trollope wants to make a strong distinction between money made from land and business and money made from speculative schemes, ....."

It is clear in the novel that Pickering Park indeed has value. Melmotte has purchased this home and already has mortgaged the property, pulling all available cash money from its value without putting any of his money into the property. A 'real' theft has occured here when we find out the additional information on how the sale was completed.

If you contrast this scheme with the railroad speculation, it is indeed a distinctly different mode of making money. One is based on actual real another on hot air....Melmotte's promotion of the enterprise.


Date: Wed, 3 Apr 2002

Did anyone watch on Monday night in the U.S. on public T.V.? Any feelings pro and/or con?

I think, on the whole, the production was good, but I do have some reservations in the casting especially of Lady Carbury. I did not picture her as chubby; I think she is thinner, more attractive and more sinister. Likewise, Felix should have been more amoral. He is too much in league with his mother's plan to "capture" Marie Melmotte. Marie, herself, was portrayed too aggressively, and her voice was so gravel-ly. Melmotte, in contrast, was perfect as was Hetta.

Doris White

Date: Wed, 3 Apr 2002

Doris said earlier this morning, Did anyone watch on Monday night in the U.S. on public T.V.? Any feelings pro and/or con?

I did.

I think, on the whole, the production was good, but I do have some reservations in the casting especially of Lady Carbury. I did not picture her as chubby; I think she is thinner, more attractive and more sinister.

I agree. I thought she would be more glamorous, maybe voluptuous, but certainly not chunky.

Likewise, Felix should have been more amoral. He is too much in league with his mother's plan to "capture" Marie Melmotte.

Actually, I think Felix is perfect, and when I saw his competitors, I could see why Marie would go for him.

Marie, herself, was portrayed too aggressively, and her voice was so gravelly.

I agree with that. Who thought of that yukky baby voice?

Melmotte, in contrast, was perfect as Hetta.

Here I agree, too.

I did find Winifred Hurtle's southern accent hard to believe. Wasn't she supposed to be from Oregon? I wonder if the British find southern accents sexy and alluring, and suited to Winifred Hurtle as a femme fatale.

With the Hetta Carbury/Paul Montague/Roger Carbury triangle I am reminded of Alice Vavasor/John Grey/George Vavosor triangle, where the woman finds the dangerous man more exciting than the dull but reliable man.

Dolly Longestaffe is just how I pictured him; blond, totally self-involved, indolent, not bad looking but no lady killer either. Georgina is no less self-involved, heedless of her father's financial difficulties, totally snobbish.

I loved the scene where Madame Melmotte danced with the Prince. I don't know that she comes across as stupid, just awkward, very much a fish out of water.

--Jill Spriggs

Date: Wed, 3 Apr 2002

Jill wrote:

Actually, I think Felix is perfect, and when I saw his competitors, I could see why Marie would go for him.

I also agree here, Felix was great but the voice of Marie is impossible.

I did find Winifred Hurtle's southern accent hard to believe. Wasn't she supposed to be from Oregon? I wonder if the British find southern accents sexy and alluring, and suited to Winifred Hurtle as a femme fatale.

I loved the southern accent of Mrs. Hurtle and particularly liked seeing her portrayed as a young woman. I changed my mind from the person portrayed in the book whom I disliked to a more sympathetic character. I remember when I first met Angela R. during my first visit to London, she was disappointed that I didn't have an accent. (I've lived in the south more than 20 years but still retain the fact that I come from New York.)

I found the production pretty good on the whole but too much drama in some of the scenes and not enough of the feeling I have of Trollope.


Date: Wed, 3 Apr 2002

Hi Group again--Winnifred Hurtle's character is fine. English actors do Southern accents well, because of closeness to English accents (e.g. Leslie Howard in GWTWind). Also, Oregon state had two major groups settling there, New England, and Southern--the latter fleeing the South after the Civil War.

TWWLNow is my favorite Trollope book (I've read all of them).
//Ms Theo Nassar, Seattle, Washington//

Date: Wed, 3 Apr 2002

Dear Readers,

My view on the adaption is its lack of being serious. Perhaps it is the way I read or the way I feel when read Trollope's work. I take his novels very much to my heart. His ability to show empathy as he sketches out his characters I have found in no other author.

Mr. Melmotte for example. Through part one of the movie I felt we are to view him as a joke. Yet in the novel I see him and his character and or character flaws in many different ways. I feel Trollope assumes we know he is a villain, but he uses his character to show us all the variations of this type of character defect.

Perhaps I will see things differently as the movie progresses. Still I would much rather read Trollope.

Patricia Stewart

Date: Fri, 10 May 2002
Subject: [Trollope-l] Yates and Davies's TWWLN: Costuming & Accents as Signs

n her recent lively email on Fanny Trollope's Domestic Manners Catherine referred to the conception of Mrs Hurtle in Yates and Davies's _TWWLN_:

"To my ears, she was evoking Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind, a film that is an American icon."

I agree.

In Part One the director/producer/costumer had Mirando Otto dressed with a neckband that recalled Vivien Leigh twice: the way she was dressed as Scarlett O'Hara in GWTW and the way she was dressed in the opening scene of A Streetcar Named Desire. The director of A Streetcar was alluding to GWTW. In Part Two, the witty bedroom scene had Mirando got up in an outfit that reminded me of the way Belle was dressed in the 1939 GWTW film.

It was quite deliberate. As I say sympathy, understanding, compassion, let alone identification was nowhere to be seen, but that the icon was intended is clear.

I did not pay enough attention to the way Hamilton Fiske (Michael Riley) was dressed in Part One and he did not appear in Part Two. I did have a sense of him as loud and relaxed (what the costume "signed" to us); I'll lay a bet they have him dressed as some archetypcal character from previous filmic costumes.


Now we go back in time and move forward:

Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001

I confess to have forgotten about Dolly Longstaffe. Certainly not villainous, the Oxford Reader's Companion to Trollope describes him as being "lazy, dim-witted and contrary", "devoted chiefly to playing cards and smoking cigars". I thought I remembered reading about him somewhere other than in TWWLN, and I found where, from the same source. Remember how, in The Duke's Children, he was one of a flock of young men enraptured by the American Isabel Boncassen?

While Dolly Longstaffe was anything but villainous, remember that he caused the downfall of Melmotte not through altruism, but because Dolly, better than his father, suspected Melmotte would not come through with the cash. Couldn't this portrait of an indolent man, dependent on parental largess, be another jab at AT's favored older brother? Jill Spriggs

Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001

I am afraid that the second episode of The Way We Live Now was a grave disappointment. It looked more like soap opera than a serious BBC classic serial. Marie Melmotte is being portrayed as a nymphomaniac teenager, and Mrs Hurtle's behaviour is explained as that of a jealous woman, passionately in love with Paul Montague, which he seems unable to cope with. Incidentally, I wonder what Americans makes of her accent. It seems extraordinary to me, although I don't claim to be any sort of an expert. Finally, Felix's affair with Ruby Ruggles resembles nothing so much as an episode from East Enders, a most popular but awful British soap opera. I shall go on watching, but with a much reduced expectation.

Concerning Jill's query, I think that she will find Adolphus, better known as Dolly, Longstaffe in TWWLN falls into the category of non-villainous Adolphuses. It is his stand against the sale of the family property to Melmotte which finally brings the swindler and crook down.

Regards, Howard

Re: Film Adaptations of Novels and the BBC TWWLN, Part Two

Since May I have been busy working on an essay-review I was invited to write for a Victorian journal. One of my topics involved George Eliot and historical fiction. A second was -- and is -- film adaptations of novels.

I have been watching films galore since May and reading books on these things and have become convinced that the evaluative standard of "faithfulness" is erstaz: the people who make these movies know that. They are operating in a different medium and exploiting a different kind of plot (one intended to give rise to occasions for catalyst scenes) and, most importantly of all, dramatizing character types or functions who may have the same names and indeed do the same acts as in the story of the same name by the author, but their emotional feel and function in the story is quite different. There are also favorite types for movies and if the type is not in the novel he is added to the film; if the type is only marginal in the novel, he is given a major role; conversely, types who don't do well in film adaptations because they lack a real function are dropped.

Dolly Longestaffe is fascinating from the point of view of adaptation. He appears in at least two of Trollope's novels: The Way We Live Now & The Duke's Children. I have a vague memory he is spoken of in The Claverings but never appears. I have been patiently watching the older film adaptation of The Pallisers. I find it very disappointing when I think about the books, but if I dismiss the books from my mind, I find it intriguing and a success. It's a modern work, a 1970s work. It opens with Dolly; he is brought in repeatedly; his personality as suggestively begun by Trollope is developed into a type frequently found in late 20th century film adaptations: the louche amoral cynic who is supposed to amuse us. Trollope did not have quite this archetype in mind: he made a believable sleazy character who really does care about his property and rank, is nasty to his sister, is selfish, cold, more immoral than amoral, and not a cynic more a conscious hypocrite. Trollope kept him in the margins of his fictions. The film adaptations bring him forward: according to folklorists whose types are the best thing I know to understand the figures we see in movies he is a subtype: Propp, a Russian folklorist finds Odysseus is the first one to correspond to this: the person who is "in the know", has the "street view", is calculating, successful and usually comes out on top. Movies need him to fill the audience in on what's happening and provide an ironic "take" which amuses their own amorality.

It's revealing to know which actors play which parts. The same actor will be repeatedly called upon to play the same type: Ronald Colman and then Dirk Bogarde after him were "victim- heroes who are central helper figures in the film-story (Sydney Carton, it's a far far better thing and so on). Ralph Fiennes is Heathcliff and a fierce amoral type in The English Patient. The man who played Dolly in the 1970s is too old now, but he even looks like the man who played Addison in All About Eve which used this type (it doesn't matter if the film adaptation is of a 19th or 20th century novel). I will be interested to see who plays the part when the film comes to the US. I am hoping it will; not all BBC productions do and as I wrote yesterday this one is not "pulling them" in. One columnist said the time schedule has TWWLN beginning five minutes earlier than its competition, but that ploy is not working.

It's "bad news" for those who want to see good film adaptations of stories taken from Trollope's novels -- note I don't say visual or film equivalents of these. There is no such thing. If it fails, the producers will blame Trollope's material when it has been their own lack of intelligence, courage and willingness to respect their audience and present material genuinely relevant to that audience.

Cheers to all,

Duffy Pratt had protested.

Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001

Dear Duffy and Everyone,

It doesn't always hold true that the twentieth century novel provides the sort of story, a form of story-telling, and characters that are readily adaptable -- or transferrable -- to moving pictures. Apparently it is rare that story-telling through moving pictures can come across well by using voice-over or flashback. Thus the kind of novel -- very common -- where the subjective memory of the protagonist provides continual flashbacks or the whole book is wound around flashback memories -- is very difficult to adapt. Yet adapt they do and transform the material. A case in point is The English Patient: what was marginal in the book moves into the center in the movie; what was in the center in the book moves to the periphery in the movie.

This suggest to me that the choice of what to adapt centers on the "events" of the story which are malleable enough to turn into cinema subgenres -- of which there are a number. One of these is the woman's "emotion picture" (an industry term) to which many, perhaps most of these adaptations of 19th century novels belong. Women's is derogatory: women are as yet secondary creatures in our society. Men go to these and watch Masterpiece and Mystery Theatre in huge numbers: the material has been made by respectable because of the attachment to the 19th century "classic" or high status book.

The Way We Live Now is a high status book. Now I've no idea if the subgenre is woman's "emotion picture" -- Andrew Davies's screenplay and the adaptation of Wives and Daughters was and it is a really wonderful movie. At the same time it is not Gaskell's book.

I wonder if people would be willing to do this: I would love to hear what you think is the very best film adaptation of a 19th century novel you have ever seen, and what you think is the very best film adaptation of a 20th century novel you have seen.

Off the top of my head, I'll opine at least what I found profoundly enjoyable and have watched several times:

19th century: the 1995 Miramax Sense and Sensibility, screenplay Emma Thompson, starring herself, with a fine & important supporting performance by Alan Rickman

20th century: Granada TV's Brideshead Revisited, screenplay John Mortimer, starring Jeremy Irons, with a fine performance by Anthony Andrews as Sebastian Flyte.

One cannot translate plays into films straight: I really was taken by Vanya on 42nd Street for the way it turned a great play into a great movie.

Anyone else have favorite film adaptations of novels or plays?


i don't have much expertise in this subject anymore, but in my mind the best adaptation of novel to film was Pinter's adaptation of The French Lieutenant's Woman.


Favorite Film Adaptations

I enjoyed the following immensely, have watched the first two several times each, and intend to watch the two C20 ones again.

19th century: I thought the (fairly) recent film of Persuasion with Amanda Root as Anne was as good as it could be - with the exception of the kiss in the street almost at the end, and the ship sailing into a blood-red sunset. But they're minor compared with the rest of the movie; for realistic portrayal of the period it's hard to beat.

The BBC (?) adaptation of the Barchester Chronicles is also compelling viewing with wonderful performances by Alan Rickman as a perfectly odious Mr Slope, Donald Pleasance as Mr. Harding, and Nigel Hawthorne as Archdeacon Grantly.

20th century: BBC (?) adaptation of Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time, and Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy; both seen here fairly recently, but I don't have details of producers or actors at the moment.

Elizabeth in Australia

I thought, like Ellen, that Brideshead was one of the all time greats, especially Claire Bloom (I think) as Lady Marchmain, I also thought that A Dance to the Music of Time was a great achievment.

As for the 19th century, I have very fond memories of the BBC War and Peace, with Anthony Hopkins as Pierre but it was a long time ago I saw it so I am not sure how it would compare nowadays.


(Who has just borrowed from a friend and watched for the first time The Barchester Chronicles, which I though was overacted, although very enjoyable)

Re: Film Adaptations of 19th Century Novels

Dear Everyone, It's very easy to know just about every detail that you'd want to know -- and far more -- about any particular movie. Like most people I usually remember a movie by who starred in it, after that who directed it; nowadays I know how important the screenplay is, and I make an attempt to find out. It's not always possible since only recently did the screenplay writers insist (in the most recent contract that at long last their names be put on the credits visibly); but you can find out. Just go to: Year, name of movie, who acted and what was the role, director, producer: an extraordinary cornucopia of information and all (as long as you are online and have access to the World Wide Web) for free.

When I quoted the year for Brideshead Revisited, I looked it up there.

One of the most frustrating things in studying films is how hard it is to get a screenplay. The reasons are commercial: something like over 70% of all films are based on published stories; the agents for the writers don't want another version of the story available and in competition with the novel: it'll probably be easier to read, and if this became a regular thing business interests would soon accompany the text with pictures. In the case of the Jane Austen films, that's what has happened. The words "Jane Austen" sell so screenplays are part of the paraphernalia sold around each of the film adaptations as part of the hype.

Sometimes also the filmmakers don't want the work disseminated. There is as yet no market for these things: you have to create markets. To print the text makes plagiarism easier. It's very hard to get any of the BBC screenplays apart from the Jane Austen films.

Every once in a while there has been attempt on the part of someone proud of a production and wanting to buck this vise -- Kenneth Branagh published a splendid book of the screenplay for the 1994 Mary Shelley's Frankenstein -- but it never seems to last. I now own three huge books filled with screenplays from the 1940s, some very great ones. These things are as much literature as anything else: the screenplay by Ben Hecht for the 1939 Wuthering Heights (starring Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, director William Wyler) is what many people remember when they think they are remembering Bronte's book. The screenplay has much poetry not in Bronte, especially when it comes to what Heathcliff says. You can get the screenplay for Martin Scorcese's Age of Innocence; Antony Minghella's screenplay The English Patient, infinitely easier to read than the novel by Onjaatje (spelling).

But it doesn't last, mainly because it's not in anyone but the screenplay writer's commercial interests to see the play published and only would be in his or hers were it to be advertised so it would sell.

I can tell Elizabeth who loves the BBC 1995 Persuasion that you can buy the screenplay; it comes with photographs and it's a way of renewing the experience. I have the screenplay by Emma Thompson for Miramax's 1995 S&S I talked about.

I was disappointed by the 1997 Dance to the Music of Time (I just looked it up at the above address and discovered the year, screenplay writer is Anthony Powell III). It was just too truncated; it should have had 12 episodes like Brideshead. I've never seen The Barchester Chronicles (imdb says that's 1984). I saw the Pinter French Lieutenant's Woman; I remember best Jeremy Irons.

An actor's voice counts so much: Irons's voice is why we love him on screen: I have been listening to a recording of Burton doing "How to Handle a Woman" and the other songs of Camelot: it's his voice, its timbre and register we fall in love with. It was the key to Ronald Colman's success. For actresses it's not that important: the look on their faces is central there. Julia Roberts has a transparently vulnerable face. Bette Davis's, Katherine Hepburn's were all charged with emotion, different ones but the particular emotion is not the point

I'll bet others have favorites. We tend to remember the last we have seen, the latest, so I was much taken by BBC's 2000 Wives and Daughters, really loved it.

How about favorite movies? Most movies, as I've said are film adaptations of published stories (novels and non-fiction).

Every term I've screened it my students have been mesmerized by Boorman's Excalibur (also 1981 -- now on DVD). It has everything: Wagner, Carmina Burana, stills like paintings, grand sweep.

I'm trying to think what's my favorite movie of all time. Like Roger, I have experience rewatching a movie I once loved and found its technology or mores are now obsolete, and it doesn't "work" the way it once did. This happened with 1963 The Servant (Dirk Bogarde, James Fox); it was still fascinating, but not this shattering experience any more. You have to have patience with the old films and approach them something like you do a 19th century novel; lend yourself to it and enter into it. Having done that I'd say the 1939 Wuthering Heights was very great; yet to tell the truth, how much easier was it to respond to the 1992 Wuthering Heights with Ralph Fiennes and Juliet Brioche. It's the rare film that doesn't go obsolete, if only because the music which is usually pop and the way sex and sentiment are presented: this latter changes so after around 1970.

I can't think of a favorite movie as such any more, just a favorite of this type or that.

How about others?


Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2001
From: Patrick Scott
Subject: Simon Raven and TWWLN

After Ellen Moody's difficulty in finding published reference to Simon Raven's The Way We Live Now, after I blithely inserted it in her thread, I had a brief spasm of "my memory has finally gone and I am hopelessly muddled," relieved by finding it briefly discussed (though as a harbinger of the Pallisers, which the reviewer doesn't like) by Jonathan Keate at

Raven died this year, offering ample opportunity for the obituarists to strut their stuff, and the Telegraph gives the date of the TWWLN adaptation as 1969:

Patrick Scott

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