My Reviews

1934

Jane Eyre 1934

Starring: Virginia Bruce and Colin Clive

This is the first talkie version of "Jane Eyre" and I think has the rather unfortunate timing to have come out during the Great Depression. For that is the only reason I can think of for making the story so cheery and sweet. Gone are moral ambiguities and dilemmas. Adele is Rochester's niece, and Rochester is in the process of divorcing his mild-mannered and slightly mad first wife. Even Mr. Rochester is charming and affable (and quite obviously in love with Jane from the start); you don't have to work hard to like him.

Jane herself is quite spunky and has no trouble expressing anything she is feeling. I find it funny how she calls out Mr. Rochester on everything. No wonder he is pretty straightforward with her. And Jane is acknowledged to be young and pretty in the movie- interesting since so many adaptations in later years get beautiful actresses to play Jane and then pretend they are plain.

I think because this version lightens the story so much, one can't take it too seriously as an adaptation of "Jane Eyre".

1944

Jane Eyre 1943

Starring: Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles

There's a much better attempt to adapt the actual novel in this version (as compared to the 1934 film version) which makes for an interesting transition from light to dark. The 1934 film being a little too happy and this version being a little too dark. Orson Welles plays the role of Rochester with such an intensity that makes him a little intimidating. No wonder Joan Fontaine's Jane looks like a deer caught in headlights most of the time.

The script has some interesting changes to the story that perpetuates through several movie adaptations to follow. Helen Burns has her hair cut at Lowood instead of Julia Severn in the novel, and Jane heroically demands to have her hair cut as well. Jane is more directly the cause of Mr. Rochester falling off his horse as he looms up on her and she is unfortunately in the way instead of standing quietly by the side of the road. Jane also feels she has to defend Adele and asks Rochester to treat her more kindly- something Jane never does in the novel.

Other interesting innovations to the story include a St. John Rivers who is the Doctor for Lowood, and who provides Jane with lessons of morality instead of Helen Burns. Overall, this film is fantastically moody and quite romantic, and a very good film if you aren't too concerned about fidelity to the novel.

1949

Jane Eyre 1949

Starring: Mary Sinclair and Charlton Heston

Studio One produced this hour long episode and it was apparently filmed live, so they had one big set for the whole program. Consequently the script centers on the Thornfield section, although it does show Jane leaving Lowood. The house party consisted of just Blanche (with Jane having to play piano for their amusement!)

Mary Sinclair as Jane does not bring much to the role. She says her lines and acts smitten as needed. Charlton Heston is an aggressive and overly masculine Rochester, and he doesn’t really capture the character very well either. It doesn’t help that he tended to over do the emotion somewhat.

The story is very chopped up, obviously, and everything moves very quickly. There really isn’t much to recommend this, unless you are a big fan of the novel, and you like old movies.

1952

Jane Eyre 1952

Starring: Katharine Bard and Kevin McCarthy

This episode was also produced by Studio One and is very similar in script and features a similar set. They seemed to have a little more money in the budget though because the staging and sets were a little better. And Mr. Rochester was able to have a larger house party, that reflected the book more.

Katharine Bard was also not very memorable as Jane. She said her lines and was just there. Kevin McCarthy had this interesting nicer vibe to him. He seemed more friendly and sweet, while also being demanding sometimes. It’s still not a great characterization though.

Again, I would not really recommend this version unless you are set on watching all adaptations (and that’s a great idea!)

1957

Jane Eyre 1957

Starring: Joan Elam and Patrick MacNee

This adaptation is much fun. It's just... so weird. The interpretation of the novel is so bad, it's like the writer was making fun of "Jane Eyre." Jane is preachy and spiritual to the extreme. She doesn't have a care for herself but just wants to help Mr. Rochester in any way she can. Which Mr. Rochester must be glad of since she excuses his lecherous advances on her because he drinks (alot apparently) and because he has had a troubled past. But after Rochester has tried to take advantage of Jane, he does fall in love with her and it's cute how much attention he pays to her during his house party. Which gives Blanche a chance to be ridiculously catty.

Mason also gets interesting things to do in this adaptation. He doesn't get quietly stabbed and bitten on the third floor- no he crashes down some stairs during the house party, bleeding and terrified. A supremely Gothic moment. And when Jane agrees to marry Rochester, Mason sort of slides into view and is all 'I don't think so.' Mason has some attitude. The script for the adaptation is just over the top- down to little Adele scrabbling in the ashes for a toy when Jane finds her in the end after (a really quick) fire.

For an "interesting" way of looking at the story of "Jane Eyre", this adaptation scores high marks.

1957

Jane Eyre 1957 (Italian)

Starring: Ilaria Occhini and Raf Vallone

This adaptation is in Italian, and the copy I have has no subtitles, so I'm reviewing this with only the acting and the gist of the scenes to go by.

This is a 5 part adaptation (oddly each episode is not quite the same length) and it begins with Jane meeting Mr. Rochester by felling his horse. From there, Jane's childhood is told through some flashbacks. Some of the more interesting adaptation choices this version makes is to have Jane much older when she finally leaves the Reeds house. And a new sort of character is introduced - by the name of Jack Lloyd. He seems to be a combination of John Reed and St. John, in that he is Jane's cousin on the Reed's side (maybe?) and is in love with Jane from the beginning. While the first episode mostly deals with Jane's childhood, we still get scenes in the next three episodes to what the Reeds are doing and especially Jack Lloyd. Jack also turns up at Thornfield to take Jane away to visit sick Mrs. Reed. I was very entertained by what seemed to be Mr. Rochester's jealousy over Jack! Another interesting thing about this script is that Mr. Rochester hires a gypsy and listens in on the readings she gives (just like in the 2006 miniseries). And then, he comes out to comfort Jane because she has become distressed.

The feel of this adaptation is very dramatic, there is an emphasis on Gothic elements (forbidden rooms, screams, portentous secretive glances) and the audience sees things from Bertha's point of view a couple times, as she wanders Thornfield's halls. Jane and Rochester are smitten with each other very quickly. I found it funny how often they stare at each other as if there was no one else in the room. (Sometimes there was.) Jane can seem a bit moony, and Mr. Rochester has a few mood swings. He can seem really nice one minute and then suddenly speak very sharply. This adaptation is a bit slow, and takes some interesting liberties with the story, but I found it very entertaining and romantic. And Mr. Rochester regains his sight in a dramatic moment in the end during the wedding. A nice dramatic wrap-up.

1961

Jane Eyre 1961

Starring: Sally Ann Howes and Zachary Scott

This one-hour television production for "Family Classics" was introduced by Joan Fontaine which was a nice surprise. Opening credits start with Grace Poole getting herself some alcohol. Mr. Rochester's entrance is not quite as dramatic- he is sitting in a chair in the darkened library when Jane goes down to get a book and he startles her when he speaks. I actually really liked this adaptation. Sally Ann Howes was again serviceable as Jane, nothing special in her interpretation. Zachary Scott as Rochester brought something different to the role as compared to the previous American hour-long television productions. His Rochester was more aristocratic in ways, he sometimes- and very vaguely!- put me in mind of Dracula. Not that he was vampiric, just in the way he carried himself. And maybe because he was dark and thin.

The script manages to include a "Rivers" section where Jane actually gets a proposal from St. John- something that hasn't happened in the previous film adaptations I have seen. And St. John is rather egregious and plump- not very like the Apollo of the book. And if I'm not mistaken, this is also the first time they flash back to Thornfield burning down while Jane is away- breaking up the Rivers section with a scene with Rochester.

If I had to pick the best of the American hour-long productions, I would pick this one. Which is viewable free at the Paley Center in Los Angeles and New York.

1970

Jane Eyre 1970

Starring: Susannah York and George C. Scott

I feel that this version is the first to approach the story of "Jane Eyre" as it is, rather than as a dramatic rendering. It's somber and dreamy and pretty straightforward in portraying the scenes. Not that the characterizations are all correct. Susannah York's Jane is mature- reflective of the actress's age undoubtedly, and George C. Scott is curiously cold and dry most of the time. St. John Rivers is surprisingly passionate and eager to marry Jane even though he still doesn't love her.

The production benefits from location shooting (first version to shoot on the moors?), and wonderful music which goes a long way to filling in the passion and romance that is lacking in the actors. Much attention is paid to the character of Helen Burns here which is a plus- the audience really gets to see how Helen helped Jane to grow. The script in itself is okay, until the blundering line of Rochester's "But I loved her once, as I love you now." when Rochester has shown Bertha to Jane and the wedding party. I find that line basically undermines Rochester's love for Jane. It is important to understand that Rochester did not love Bertha at all so then Rochester doesn't seem so much like a jerk.

Well. This version has some issues, but to see it after the previous versions, it is a breath of fresh air because it comes closer to recreating the novel proper.

1972

Jane Eyre 1972 (Czech)

Starring: Marta Vancurova and Jan Kačer

I have not gotten a chance to re-watch this version, so this review will be in the old "bite-sized" format:

A friend was able to find this rather obscure adaptation made in 1972 Czechoslovakia. The copy she found is in Czech with no subtitles, so I can't understand a word of it. However, I will comment on the overall tone that I received from the four hour adaptation- melancholy and artsy (perhaps reflective of a low budget). Not as much passion to certain scenes as one would expect, but I did enjoy this adaptation and they did a good job with condensing the material. Except for the Lowood portion of the story, which they cut out.

1973

Jane Eyre 1973

Starring: Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston

This is the best version of Jane Eyre to date. I wouldn't say there was an overall tone for the miniseries- it comes off as a straightforward interpretation of the novel. Production values are lacking in that set design and blocking are less than inspired, but it does have great costumes and outdoor sets. There are really just two reasons why this is the best version in my opinion. Script and characterization. The script uses much of the novel's dialogue (finally!!), and sometimes brings out interesting elements of humor that one might not have noticed before. And I feel like Jane Eyre has many funny moments or comments that are mostly overlooked in other adaptations. And in condensing the material they kept so much of the story intact it's surprising. I am only disappointed by how they shortened the Gypsy scene by having Jane discover Rochester too quickly. But every other important scene is done beautifully.

As for the actors, I am only disappointed in Juliet Whaley's Young Jane, whose acting is stilted sometimes, but she was young. Sorcha Cusack portrays a nice blend of shyness and independence and Michael Jayston is superb as Rochester. His performance is nuanced and mesmerizing. Stephanie Beacham is probably the best Blanche I have ever seen as well- she comes off as snobbish and selfish but I can see how she might be captivating and charming to men.

There is not much else I can say about this, my favorite adaptation. I think every one who is a fan of the novel should see this version.

1983

Jane Eyre 1983

Starring: Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton

Another mini-series adaptation, this version had a bigger budget it seems than the 1973 version. Set design and lighting are improved, and the show even got it's own theme! The show was also 30 minutes long per episode which gave a different, more leisurely pace to the scenes. It seems like they wanted to make sure each episode ended on a little cliff-hanger. But with the pace slower, it sometimes felt like the actors were speaking too slow. There were long (introspective?) pauses and they even broke up scenes with time lapses and set changes. The proposal scene for instance starts in the library and Jane runs out to be alone in the garden.

As an adaptation of the novel, this is the second best film version because it has so much time to give to telling the story. Zelah Clarke as Jane is a little monotone sometimes, but she does a good job showing Jane's spirited side. Timothy Dalton's Rochester is imperious and masterly, and very charming. The script has a proper charades scene and Rosamond Oliver makes her first appearance in this adaptation. They also show an older Eliza and Georgiana which is another first.

Overall, this version is very good and is only ranked behind Jane Eyre 1973 because of dialogue/script changes and characterization.

1996

Jane Eyre 1996

Starring: Charlotte Gainsboroug and William Hurt

This version takes a fresh look at the novel. The flow of the narrative is different- much faster in pace, so that some scenes happen quickly right after the other- giving time no doubt to show the more leisurely and melancholy scenes of Jane and Rochester alone. During Brocklehurt's first visit to the Reeds, he immediately takes Jane away to Lowood, and there is a quick transition from Helen Burns dying to older Jane by her graveside then walking to take the coach to Thornfield. And as soon as Jane flees from Rochester and a bigamous marriage, Thornfield is on fire and the audience knows that Rochester has been injured before we know what has happened to Jane.

The overall tone of the movie emphasizes Jane and Rochester's loneliness, which makes the film very poignant. Any "supernatural" elements to the story is minimized- Mr. Rochester does not loom up on Jane, but passes her by and then slips on ice (like in the book), and Bertha's madness has a touch more realism and sympathy when she pushes Grace Poole to her death and then jumps after her. And again, Jane does not hear Mr. Rochester's voice calling to her (though there is that one instance where maybe you could hear him whispering her name on the winds?) but instead she looks into her heart and knows she must go back and find out what happened to him. Even the Rivers aren't her cousins, but just happened to be taking care of Mrs. Reed, and eventually of her effects.

This is a beautiful film- great sets, locations, vistas. The music is beautiful and haunting. Despite the truncated adaptation and the one-sided portrayal of Rochester, I really enjoyed this film. Especially for the pathos of Jane and Rochester's romance.

1997

Jane Eyre 1997

Starring: Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds

Truthfully, I dislike this version. It makes me laugh though, because I don't understand how they could have gotten so many things wrong. The script is awful, Ciaran Hinds is horrible as Rochester, and Samantha Morton is a little annoying. Though that is probably the script. So let's start there. We have your average truncated adaptation which makes sense- they cut things that most shorter film adaptations cut, but the dialogue! It's too modern and direct. Jane addresses Rochester in a way that is not in keeping with her sense of propriety. Of course Rochester doesn't hold much with formal conversations with Jane in the book, but his conversation in this film has none of the poetic prose of the novel. It's all very cliched and off-putting.

Since Grace Poole is made a much bigger mystery in this version than in previous ones- Jane's eagerness to rehabilitate her make sense, but is an unnecessary addition to the plot. Especially as Jane keeps harping on what Grace Poole is doing. Ciaran Hinds as Rochester is shouty and brutish and especially distasteful after the failed wedding. He throws Jane's luggage down to the first floor and drags her to the garden, blaming her for not loving him enough to be his mistress. The only time I liked Samantha and Ciaran's chemistry was after the fire in Rochester's bedroom, when he took her hand. After that it was too much panting and open-mouthed kissing. Yikes.

The only scene that was enjoyable was when Jane comes back from visiting Mrs. Reed (curious how they lead up to that scene, but did not show her with Mrs. Reed at all) and Mr. Rochester is happy/annoyed at seeing Jane walking into Thornfield. It was a cute scene. Other than that, I wouldn't really recommend this if you wanted a romantic version.

2006

Jane Eyre 2006

Starring: Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens

Another BBC mini-series of which I always expect alot. In some ways this adaptation delivered and in others it fell short. Production values were excellent of course. Ruth Wilson as Jane was a revelation. I've always thought it was hard to portray Jane's inner emotions as detailed in the novel but Ruth manages to make her thoughts visible facially. Voiceovers were really not necessary. She's just so good and so nuanced, well-rounded, I loved her portrayal of Jane. There are a couple of scenes in this version that have never been previously adapted. Namely the "carriage scene" when Rochester takes Jane to Millcote to buy dresses. The carriage scene dialogue with Adele in tow is so cute and playful and shows a wonderful side to all three characters. There is also the scene where Jane runs out in the rain to catch up to Mr. Rochester the night before their wedding. The dream sequence also makes it in- with Jane holding a baby while being kept away from Rochester. All scenes that I very much enjoyed watching.

Disappointingly, the script in general didn't quite capture "Jane Eyre" in my opinion. The dialogue and changes to Mr. Rochester's character specifically did not feel right. And of course there is THAT scene on the bed that really felt out of place for the story and for Jane's principles. And why does Mr. Rochester hire a gypsy to trick Jane? It seems like there's an attempt to minimize some theatrical elements (Rochester cross-dressing, the voice across the moors- now scientifically explained!) to maximize on other theatrical elements (dream sequences, Rochester's bed on fire- which looked like a pyre, and the terrifying secret in the attic). There really doesn't seem to be much point to emphasizing one and not the other.

Mr. Rochester often seemed a little immature, too boyish maybe, in his eagerness to collect dead insects maybe? I never really felt that Toby Stephens captured Mr. Rochester's sophistication. The efforts to increase the sexual tension did not improve my opinion of Rochester, because Rochester getting Jane into bed was just a low blow. For the most part, I'd watch this version for Ruth Wilson and some of the humor and playfulness they put into the story.

2011

Jane Eyre 2011

Starring: Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender

This version is a complete and refreshing surprise. Judging from the trailer, I thought it would be melodramatic in the extreme with an emphasis on the darker Gothic elements, but nothing could be further from the truth. The set design, lighting, and camera choices could be seen as dark, but they are also realistic to the times and what seems to be the vision of the director, Cary Fukunaga. Which appears to be to present the story of Jane as she lived it, completely tuned in to her thoughts and feelings. A very refreshing idea. Many versions have added or filmed sequences of the story in which Jane did not participate- for example, Thornfield burning down or scenes between Blanche and Rochester, but the story stays with Jane practically the whole way through, with camera angles highlighting that the audience is experiencing everything through Jane. This really changed the experience of viewing the movie- it felt real and not like a spectacle.

The script helps alot in this, it condenses the story but stays true to every part of it. Even with the narrative structure changed, it still hit all the important scenes, and stayed true to even the lesser characters in the story. It is surprising what scenes are not included in the movie- for instance the tearing of the veil- so that the focus of the story is more on Jane and Rochester's relationship but even with that the more Gothic elements are not completely marginalized. There is still a sense of things not being quite right.

Mia Wasikowska as Jane is excellent; strong and intelligent, and fantastic at conveying her inner emotions through body language. One of the many things I loved in this version are all the shots of Jane walking/pacing restlessly. Mia somehow conveys that there is "a vivid, restless, resolute captive" inside of her. Michael Fassbender is commanding and sardonic and tender and teasing, sometimes all at once and sometimes flipping between the emotions at will- quite amazing to watch. He can be so intense that you are a little afraid of him and then so pleading and desperate that your heart breaks for him.

The movie was understated and simple and more powerfully emotional because of it. Personally, this would be my second favorite adaptation after the 1973 mini-series. Despite the inevitable condensing of the story, and an ending that felt a bit abrupt, it was so refreshing to watch a version that did not overplay the story and kept the focus on Jane.

2013

The Autobiography of Jane Eyre 2013-2014

Starring: Alysson Hall and Adam J. Wright

This web series has Jane, a 21 year old university student, working as a nanny for Mr. Rochester's daughter Adele. She vlogs about her life, and through the videos we get to meet all the people in her life.

I was really impressed by how close they stuck to the novel - adapting scenes that are often disregarded in other adaptations (granted they have a lot more time with this series) but also to make some scenes from the book modern must have been a great challenge. And I was really mostly happy with how they managed to make everything fit in their world.

I do have some issues with this as an adaptation though. Sometimes I lose focus on what some episodes are trying to adapt from the novel - it doesn't always flow well for me, and I had an issue with Jane taping people in the beginning without their consent. I mean she can accidentally leave the camera on, but she doesn't have to post it. But the reason why that bothers me is because Jane is supposed to have better sense than that. She can be a bit naive, but she always knows what's right and wrong. But then again, it is difficult to adapt this kind of story! The audience would want to see these people!

The actors were all really excellent in their parts. Jane of course was so endearing and quirky - definitely different from Jane in the book, but believably the modern version. Mr. Rochester had a wonderful sense of humor and it was evident from the beginning how much he cared about Jane. Their romance was so sweet and developed very well throughout the videos. The Rivers were also believable surprisingly - I mean especially when it came to the St. John character - now called Simon. St. John in the book would be very difficult to modernize I think - because he's so zealous and religious, selfless but selfish. They made Simon a little bit too dorky and cute, but he was also stubborn and unsympathetic to others which fit. There were some changes made when it comes to Grace that made the story work very well, and a new character - Suzana - would often steal the show with her sassiness.

It is disappointing that towards the end they had to recast the actor who played Rochester which leads to a sort of rushed and incomplete ending. I think they did the best they could, but for a series that has done such a wonderful job bringing so much of Jane Eyre to life, it's unfortunate they left out so much of the ending.

This adaptation had it's ups and downs for me, but I always felt there was a lot of love for this book in every episode, and the writing and the story planning was often exceptional in adapting the book. I was always happy to get a new episode and it was such a great experience getting a little dose of Jane's story every week.

2000

Jane Eyre the Musical 2000

Starring: Marla Schaffel and James Barbour

Okay, the musical. This is the Paul Gordon version. I've seen SO MANY comments bashing the musical by people who have never really listened to it just because it's "Jane Eyre" with singing, and "Jane Eyre" shouldn't be a musical (OMG!). I have to say I was never a fan of musicals before listening to this version. (Except for "The Sound of Music" which...is a little bit like "Jane Eyre" isn't it?) At any rate, it took awhile for me to come to grips with all the singing, so I can understand where people may come from but I hope that at least some of the people who turn their backs on this musical might actually like it if they really listened to it.

I do love this musical. I think adding music to the already lyrical text heightens the emotion of the story and can very easily put you into the mindset of each of the characters. The ability of Paul Gordon to work in actual text from the novel into the lyrics is amazing as well (something I come to realize even more as I listen to other Jane Eyre muscials). In terms of condensing the story, all the major scenes are there for the most part, and without too many additions. I love that they even have Rochester as the Gypsy which is rarely done in Janian adaptations. The tone of the whole show is somber- in set design and music, but there are moments of humour- with Mrs. Fairfax most often bringing in the comic relief.

Marla Schaffel is marvelously grounded as Jane- her characterization is balanced between propriety and passion- something that is hard to do in a straight production, but when Jane can sing in privacy, it can all come out. :) James Barbour is commanding as Rochester (and not only because of his voice, which is a glorious baritone). His performance is more layered than many Rochesters I have seen, having a certain finesse or gracefulness while also being gruff and abrupt. The other characters are mostly spot on with the exception of Mrs. Fairfax (played by Mary Stout) who plays her good-natured but a bit doddering. And St. John Rivers is not quite the jerk he is in the novel. Though he still doesn't love Jane when he asks her to marry him.

1952

Sangdil 1952

Starring: Madhubala and Dilip Kumar

I have not gotten a chance to re-watch this version, so this review will be in the old "bite-sized" format:

An Indian film released in 1952. Whether or not this film is an adaptation of the novel is perhaps debatable. The setting is completely changed to India and there are changes to the story reflecting Indian culture. Yet, the basic story of Jane Eyre is there and many scenes are taken from the novel- notably the Gypsy scene (with Shakur impersonating a male astrologer) In my opinion this is a very enjoyable representation of the novel. Kamal is played with a strong moral sense, shyness and innocence. Shankar is admirably played with much angst and playfulness.