Jane Eyre is an orphan who was raised by her aunt until she came to Thornfield Hall as governess to the young ward of Edward Rochester. But Jane is attracted by the intelligent and energetic Sir Rochester, a man of almost twice her age. But just when Sir Rochester seems to pay attention to her, he invites the beautiful and wealthy Blanche Ingram to stay at his house. Written by
Jane Eyre is my favorite novel. I have read Charlotte Bronte's classic story many times over the past 30 years. The original story has many spiritual aspects that appeal to me, beautiful inner and outward dialogue, an intriguing plot, complex characters, and other fine qualities no longer appreciated by a large segment of the reading public in the modern world.
I bought the DVD for this ancient film dinosaur with Virginia Bruce and Colin Clive (Dr. Frankenstein! no less) because I suspected it would be good for a laugh. But this film version is so bad I was more shocked than amused.
They ominously started the film on the wrong foot by misquoting the first line of the novel; they removed the character of Helen Burns altogether; they gave Grace Poole a husband who was a servant in the house who warns Jane "I like you, so I'm going to tell you: lock your door at night!"; they have Jane screaming at Mr. Brocklehurst and calling him names, so she is fired from her job as teacher there. In the book Jane isn't fired; she leaves to find a governess position to escape from Lowood Institution (here called an orphanage, even though in the novel not all the children were orphans - Lowood in the book was a charity institution, not an orphanage); in this film Adele is not French, her origins in the house are not even discussed; she calls Rochester "Uncle Edward", and he fawns over her and spoils her rotten, something that didn't happen in the book at all.
They make Blanche ugly and older, and Jane Eyre a platinum blonde with Mary Pickford curls. Hello? Jane was supposed to be plain, and Blanche was supposed to be gorgeous. They turn it all around in this monstrosity. In the scene where Jane saves Rochester from the fire the possible reason for that fire is not even discussed between them; he kisses her hands and she promptly leaves the room like she was leaving a garden party, seemingly unaffected by his passion.
The worst liberty they took with the classic novel was having Edward Rochester apparently trying to have his marriage to his first wife "annulled", which made no sense, since Rochester was not Catholic. There is no Mr. Mason in this version; there is no attempted wedding scene. The "insane" wife just walks into a room at Thornfield in which Jane, Rochester, and the minister are standing and announces she wants to see her husband. The servants spirit her away and she protests in a totally normal voice: "I want to see my husband!" LOL! Why didn't they LET HER SEE HER HUSBAND??? I was starting to think that everyone in the house was insane, and Bertha was the only normal one!
There's more that I can say about this sad state of affairs (like having Jane singing to Rochester, which DID send me into fits of laughter) but I won't bore you, and will simply conclude with this statement: do NOT show this version to anyone who has not read the book first. This is NOT "Jane Eyre"; this is some other story!
The best, most faithful version of Jane was the 1982-3 BBC version with Timothy Dalton. Why the Timothy Dalton version has not been put on DVD yet, and this 1934 Monogram Colin Clive fiasco has been, is totally beyond my comprehension. Hopefully this sad state of affairs will be attended to and corrected shortly.
A classic becomes a classic for very specific reasons. When film companies approach a story like Jane Eyre with disrespect, and feel they can change anything and everything about it to their heart's content, then the very spirit of that classic is destroyed. When will they ever learn?
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