A Woman of Substance (1984)

TV Mini-Series  |   |  Drama, Romance
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A Woman of Substance charts the life of Emma Harte, from kitchen maid at the beginning of the 20th Century, to respected business woman and Grandmother in the 1980's. From humble beginnings... See full summary »

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Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. See more awards »



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Series cast summary:
 Young Emma Harte (3 episodes, 1985)
 Maj. Paul McGill (3 episodes, 1985)
 Emma Harte (3 episodes, 1985)
 Laura O'Neill (3 episodes, 1985)
 Edwin Fairley (3 episodes, 1985)
John Duttine ...
 Joe Lowther (3 episodes, 1985)
 Adam Fairley (3 episodes, 1985)
Mick Ford ...
 Frank Harte (3 episodes, 1985)
Christopher Gable ...
 Arthur Ainsley (3 episodes, 1985)
Christopher Guard ...
 Gerald Fairley (3 episodes, 1985)
 Winston Harte (3 episodes, 1985)
Del Henney ...
 Jack Harte (3 episodes, 1985)
 Olivia Wainwright (3 episodes, 1985)
 Murgatroyd (3 episodes, 1985)
 Blackie O'Neill (3 episodes, 1985)
Nicola Pagett ...
 Adele Fairley (3 episodes, 1985)
 Paula McGill Amory (3 episodes, 1985)
Joris Stuyck ...
 David Kallinski (3 episodes, 1985)
Meg Wynn Owen ...
 Elizabeth Harte (3 episodes, 1985)
 Bruce McGill (3 episodes, 1985)
Megs Jenkins ...
 Mrs. Turner (3 episodes, 1985)
Harry Landis ...
 Abraham Kallinski (3 episodes, 1985)
 Henry Rossiter (3 episodes, 1985)


A Woman of Substance charts the life of Emma Harte, from kitchen maid at the beginning of the 20th Century, to respected business woman and Grandmother in the 1980's. From humble beginnings Emma Harte starts her business with a small shop, but over the next twenty years she expands her stores and invests in the growing textile industry in Leeds. By the time of World War 2, Emma is the head of a major retail and manufacturing empire, but she has struggled all her life to find love. After an illegitimate daughter and two marriages, she finally meets the love of her life, Paul McGill, but their affair is cut short by a tragic accident, leaving Emma with his daughter. In the 1980's Emma faces one of her biggest tests - her childrens attempt to remove her as head of her company, but Emma is far from the senile old woman they think she is - she is determined to stop them at all costs. Written by Stacey Mitchell

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


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Release Date:

25 November 1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Des Lebens bittere Süße  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(5 episodes) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The store in London which is supposed to be "Harte's" is actually the real Harrods London. Harrods allowed the producers to film the actual store with a "Harte's" sign in place of the Harrods sign, both in green with gold lettering, and even in the same style of lettering. Interestingly, Harrods does not include an apostrophe on its famous sign, but the sign for "Harte's" does have an apostrophe. Harrods also gave permission for scenes to be filmed in the interior of the famous London store. See more »


The transatlantic liner Queen Elizabeth on which Paul McGill says he is booked to go to the USA in 1939 was not completed until 1940 and did not enter commercial service until after WW2, about 1946. He may have meant the Queen Mary. See more »


Young Emma Harte: [to Gerald, after he has attempted to rape her early in the film] I mean to ruin you... all of you. The entire Fairley family.
See more »


Followed by To Be the Best (1992) See more »

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User Reviews

Great Stuff !
17 August 2003 | by (Ile-de-France / Paris Region, France) – See all my reviews

This has just become available on DVD for a very modest price in the UK and I would highly recommend it to all those who love "Family Sagas". There is a sequel "Hold the Dream" but it is useless to watch this if you haven't first watched "A Woman of Substance". The whole show, almost ten hours viewing in all will keep you glued to your armchair, and as there are some sad moments along the way, it's better to have your supply of kleenex beside you before starting to view !

The main actors in the series are magnificent, I have always adored Deborah Kerr, notably in "An Affair to Remember", and "The Innocents" and here she plays out the very believable rôle of the Old Lady. Her diction and facial expressions are magnificent, and here performance here just adds more confirmation to the fact that she is a great actress.

Jenny Seagrove, strangely beautiful, acts out the young Emma Harte with great conviction and Liam Neeson, very handsome, puts in a magnificent performance as Blackie. Despite the story being very long, the fact that there are so many twists and turns, and the fact that is is filmed mostly in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, one doesn't get bored for an instant.........

Naturally, a story of this length is bound to have some inconsistencies for example, Jenny Seagrove's accent seems to vary from Yorkshire to Posh Southern England and back on several occasions ! We see heavy rain falling from a bright blue sky ! Because the film spans so many years, some people grow up too quickly and towards the end, it gets a little confusing. But there is no point in dwelling inordinately upon these defects. The general impression is one of great satisfaction.

I can only hope this film will be available in all countries with corresponding language tracks and subtitles so that all will be able to appreciate it. It is said to be a "woman's film" as it shows a woman's struggle from "rags to riches" but I, as a man, certainly enjoyed it !!!

11 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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