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Having previously seen the 2004 series and reading the novel, I feel I can't really judge this mini-series on its own merit.
It is true to the spirit of the novel and follows pretty closely the major plot lines. It was, naturally, missing some things that I loved in the novel. And it didn't quite have the character or plot development as the 2004 series.
However, the acting was very strong throughout. Stewart makes a great John Thornton. He seems strong even as he's clearly longing for Margaret. Shanks is pretty effective as Margaret. She's very expressive in her face although I felt her Margaret was lacking some subtle feisty-ness. The supporting cast was excellent -- I particularly liked Byron as Mrs. Thornton. (What a great character Mrs. Thornton is in both series!) The only weakness I noticed was Bessy Higgins but they hardly gave the actress anything to work with. The Bessy-Margaret relationship was particularly well-done in the 2004 series. In the 1975 series Bessy is just a caricature.
Ultimately, this series suffers most from the staging and production quality. The first part seems very claustrophobic with most scenes taking place in small drawing rooms. Most of the sets are small and much of production seemed "stagey." I understand that back then they usually didn't put much money into TV mini-series.
I was happy to see that this production had an ending closer to the novel than the 2004 series.
This series will likely only be of interest to fans of the novel and those wanting to compare it to the 2004 series.
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