I been on a Jane Eyre kick for several months.
I made it a quest to watch every copy of the movie I could get my hands on and to re-read the book. Don't ask me how many times I have read it. I couldn't count. Well Actually I have only "Read it" once, just now but I have listened to it at least 50 times on tape. I have a nasty reading disability that makes reading rather difficult but not attainable. So, my clever mother figured this out very early in the game and invested I don't know how much money in books on tame at least 30 years ago. She knew that my appetite for literature was way beyond my actual ability. (see she has the same problem and knew what a struggle it was for me and my siblings). So as I plodded my way through Dick and Jane she would dangle the carrot of a fabulous book on tape for me. I remember in third grade that if I read a chapter in Dick and Jane each day, she would let me then have unlimited time the rest of the day to listen to any book I wanted. So that summer I listened to Robinson Crusoe, The Three Musketeers, The Sea Wolf (my favorite by far), Heidi, Swiss Family Robinson, and so many more. I would drink up the books. I am an auditory learner and I just was the happiest kid from then on. Being a clever mother and educator she knew that if she could set my heart of good literature that the desire to read would be there and that I would keep struggling at it till I could become proficient. When I was in Junior High, she bought Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I was in ecstasy. I listened to them over and over again. I practically had them memorized. I simply fell in love with Jane. Who doesn't? She was the perfect 19th century model of a heroine. She is strong willed but not self centered. She know who she is and doesn't waver. She loves God and knows that he loves her and that this knowledge gives her the strength to do what she knows is right no matter how hard the task. I wanted to be her so bad. She is smart, funny, and humble. I also really enjoyed Mr Rochester. I really loved the fact that they hero and heroine weren't "pretty". I was a little plain myself and could identify with Jane.
If you haven't read the book, do it! You will love it. I have an extra copy now that I just finished and would love to pass it on to someone else to read now. Don't get too excited. It is just a cheap copy I picked up at Wal-mart a million years ago but it has the whole story there and that is what matters.
I spent about 2 months collecting copies of all the movies made of Jane Eyre that I could find. I wanted to share them with you and maybe you will enjoy them too. I always find something to enjoy in each of them. They all catch some part of the book that just makes my heart sing.
If you haven't read the book, Stop here and read it first. The story is so fabulous it is worth the read and difficult language to feel the story for the first time. In reading it as an adult I really wished it had been my first time. It is such an emotional book and I really get into that. I love being transported to someone else's dilemmas and struggles. I wish I hadn't know what was coming next because it would have made the read so much more exiting and gripping. It was still fabulous and Bryan got me the book on CD so you know what I will be listening to over and over as I sew this spring.
Here are the movie versions I could get my hands on and how well I liked each of them.
The Oldest version I could get my hands on was the 1934 film starring Colin Clive as Rochester and Virginia Bruce as Jane. It was an interesting interpretation. Jane finds out about the wife fairly quickly and is pretty upset with Edward and leaves him to work in a soup kitchen. Interesting. He divorces his wife and everyone lives happily ever after. As far as following the story, this one only uses the names but they story is not the same. It was interesting to see. The young Jane is a real pill and the older Jane is a 1930's spit fire. She has enough attitude to spare for all. It was pretty funny to see such a sassy Jane. I wouldn't buy this one but if you have Netflix you can rent it.
The next one I saw the the 1944 version with Orson Wells and Joan Fontaine. I have always liked this version. The girl playing young Jane is simply fabulous. You can't help but love her. I actually like Wells as Rochester. I love to watch his face. Fontaine is not my favorite. She makes Jane always look so pathetic and so much the martyr. Jane had more spunk than Fontain seems to be able to muster. It is worth the watching just because the the filming. The photography in this film is fabulous.
Then I found the 1970 version with George C Scott and Susannah York. I enjoyed this one. I like the interactions between Jane and Rochester. Scott is just a little too old though and York looks really old. She should be 18 and she looks 35. Scott is a very harsh Rochester. I have noticed that problem with a lot of Scott's characters but he does look the part.
The 1973 BBC version with Michael Jayston and Sorcha Cusack was very disappointing. It was really drawn out but not with the story. There is a lot of Rochester brooding and her is really cruel in this version. Not really what you get from the book. I don't recommend this one. I have no desire to ever see it again.
I really love the 1983 version with Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke. This is the first version I owned. I love Zelah's portrayal of Jane. I really identified with Jane as a teen and loved the strength portrayed by Zelah. I really enjoyed Dalton's Rochester also. He is a little mean but much better than most. The Bertha Mason on this film is really nasty. She really fits the description from the book. I love it. I really recommend watching this one.
Then comes the 1996 version with Anna Paquin and William Hurt. I love this version too. It is very short but I love to watch Hurt portray Rochester. Rochester has a really tender side. After all, Nature intended him to be a good man and you see that in his performance. I wish this one was longer.
Then next year Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds starred in a version of the movie. This one is really short. I was so excited to see that Hinds would play Rochester because he is such an interesting actor and really isn't that good looking at times. I hoped he would be fabulous but I am afraid not. He is volatile and abusive and just totally misses the mark. It left me feeling kinda creepy about the whole story. Morton kinda looks scared through the whole thing. It brings out a very unhealthy relationship between Jane and Rochester that just really wasn't the case. There are some really great aspects of this film but all in all it is very disappointing. Rochester actually throws a fit when Jane leaves him. Not cool.
I have to admit that the last version, 2006 with Toby Stephens Ruth Wilson is my favorite. I love the young Jane, the aunt Reed is fabulously nasty, and Jane is divine. She is the best Jane in MHO. She captures Jane's spirit, her great faith, her sweetness and her strength. I like this Rochester too. You really see his struggle with himself and his battle over what to do. I love the portrayal of the Rivers' home. You don't always get to seem St John, Mary, Diana, and Hannah. They are delightful. We even get Miss Oliver which is even more rare. This version is a real treat. A little racy but a real treat. There are some suggestive scenes when Jan is thinking about Rochester while teaching at Morton. In reading the book it makes me wonder if that is a memory or a dream. In the book she dreams of scenes like that and wakes alone and devastated. One think I didn't like so much was the Bertha Character. She is just plain too good looking and not near crazy enough. In the book Rochester is disgusted by her nasty character and crude behavior before she is completely mad. This version kinda makes you wonder about her. I do love Adele and Mrs Fairfax. They both do a fabulous job and it is great to see Bessy too. I hate it when they leave her out.
I would love to hear from you and what you think of the versions you have seen. I know I have missed a few but I couldn't get my hands on them. Apparently there is a Charlton Heston version in from the 1940's. Holy cow. I would love to see that one. There is also a musical version. I had no idea. (yes I live in a bubble I guess). I don't have access to that one and am not sure I could deal with them all singing. I would love to hear what you think.
I will pick one of my commenters on Friday night and I will pass along my copy of the book for someone else to read.