I consider myself lucky since I've been able to  watch this old but precious production recently, a 5-part miniseries,  THE BRONTES OF HOWARTH dating back to1973. Limited budget apart, and old fashioned acting style, it has a very good script and good performances of all the main characters. I was unfamiliar with the cast , except Barbara Leigh-Hunt , who played Mrs. Gaskell and the narrator of the story, and  Benjamin Whitrow , who played Arthur Bell Nicholls, Charlotte Bronte’s husband, and whom I remember as a memorable Mr Bennet in Pride and Prejudice 1995

The series is at least partially based on the book `The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857)` by Elizabeth Gaskell.

The story is captivating and the atmosphere of the mini series suits the personalities of these writers to perfection. The characters really come to life in this in depth look at their secluded lives at Howarth.
The use of  restrained stage actors who knew how to convey character and emotion for close-up TV work, the genuine locations (filmed at the Bronte Parsonage ; at the small quarry just above Haworth; and the waterfall and Pennine moors west of Haworth), the accurate interior shots, make it really special.
The sensation you get is just that of an extraordinary family , one who produced three world class writers. This series tries to explain the mystery of how so much talent blossomed in that little village thanks to an extraordinary set of women. It also sheds light on their tragedies that led to early deaths for all three girls and their brother. A must for any Brontë devotee.

It is especially focused on Branwell Bronte  , portrayed as the fragile, oversensitive, spoilt heir of the family. Deeply loved by all his sisters and his father, he was a poet and a painter. But he was less strong-willed than his talented sisters and became an alcohol and opium addict. His tragic tale ends in episode 4.

Charlotte, Emily and Anne had to work in their lives. They were governesses and teachers in private houses, schools and even abroad (in Belgium - Charlotte and Emily). Their dream was running a private boarding school for young ladies in their home which never came true. We can read about these experiences in Charlotte's The Professor and Villette but also in Ann's Agnes Grey.
This episode focuses on how difficult it was, especially for Emily (who didn't fit the task due to  her poor health)  and even Charlotte at the beginning. Anne started later on  but always bore it better and more bravely.

Both love and writing career provided strong delusions to the young Brontes. Branwell had an affair with Mrs Robinson, the lady whose children he and Ann were tutoring at home. It ended with Branwell's dismission and a worsening of his health conditions. Ann loved a young curate,  William Weightman who died of cholera in 1842 . Charlotte was in love with M. Heger who ran the school she was studying and  working  at in  Brussels with his wife.

The three sisters's wish to see their works published becomes reality: after several refusals first Emily saw her poems printed then, Charlotte's Jane Eyre as well as Emily's Wuthering Heights and Anne's Agnes Grey  were published in 1847. They signed their novels with male pseudonyms: Currer,  Ellis and Acton Bell .

One of the characters in this final episode in the series is Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell  , Charlotte's friend and  first biographer who  helped create the myth of a doomed family living in romantic solitude. After a series of tragic events in her life (Branwell's, then Emily's and, finally, Ann's death) Charlotte sees the possibility to get some  peace and joy in Reverend Nicholls's marriage proposal, which was opposed by her father. The two got married eventually but Charlotte died at the age of 38 in 1855 - after a short illness , possibly related to her pregnancy -  after less than a year since their marriage.

I've watched and reviewed this TV series as part of my All About the Brontes Challenge hosted at Laura's Reviews. I have three tasks yet to go. I really hope I'll make it by the end of June! Currently reading Villette . 


Judy said...

As a big fan of the Brontes I'd say this sounds like a great series and I love the stills you have posted - it's often hard to get to see 1970s series, so I'm glad you were able to see this one, Maria. Also hope you are enjoying Villette - one of my favourite novels.:)

Luciana said...

Their stories are so sad!No wonder that was reflected on their work.

JaneGS said...

I watched this mini-series a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. I agree that the mini-series format was ideal for telling the Bronte family story. I thought the casting, sets, direction, acting, and screenplay were all wonderful. Maybe it was because I had just read Gaskell's bio of Charlotte Bronte, but it felt so accurate and right to me. Gaskell and this mini-series have somewhat jaded me against the recent romanticized fictional views of Charlotte Bronte. I also loved how Emily Bronte was portrayed in the mini-series.

Great review.

Anne said...

Great review. I think this is the best program about the Brontes yet filmed. Thanks to the amazing cast and writing ...