Tuesday, 16 April 2013

North and South (1975) finally comes to DVD.

The BBC's 1975 version of North and South, staring Starring Patrick Stewart and Rosalie Shanks, will be released on DVD this July! 

From the website:

Based on the novel of the same name by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Margaret Hale, 19, has her life turned upside down when her father, the pastor, leaves the Church of England and settles with his wife and daughter in the Black Country.  A textile-producing region, it is engaged in cotton-manufacturing and is smack in the middle of the industrial revolution where masters and workers clash in the first organized strikes.

Margaret finds the bustling, smoky town of Milton harsh and strange and she is upset by the poverty all around and by her meetings with a Mr Thornton (Patrick Stewart).  From the outset, Margaret and Thornton are at odds with each other: she sees him as coarse and unfeeling; he sees her as haughty. But he is attracted to her beauty and self-assurance and she begins to admire how he has lifted himself out of poverty.

Starring Patrick Stewart and Rosalie Shanks
Dramatised by David Turner
Produced by Martin Lisemore
Directed by Rodney Bennett

I think as well as comparing Mr Thornton's, I'm most looking forward to seeing Tim Piggot-Smith as Margaret' brother, Frederick. 

You can preorder now for £17.99. On news on a Region 1 (USA) dvd release yet.

More images from the production at the website 

Friday, 16 March 2012

Who Else Could Play John Thornton?

When it comes to Mr Darcy, we have plenty of performances to compare and contrast but Mr Thornton only has one actor's rendition available for your viewing pleasure. In this whimsical piece, I wonder who else might be suited to the role, and what each of them might bring to the character. 

Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart as John Thornton
While he has already played Thornton in the 1975 mini-series, I do not know of anyone who remembers this version.

However, I think he would he great. He should play Thornton just like he played Jean Luc Picard, a tough and strong leader who is fair but brooks no fools. Occasionally Picard let his emotional side out, falling in love and he could play that side of Thornton, especially the heartbroken aspects, with a typical British stiff upper lip masking his deeper misery.

Tastes have changed since the 70's however and while I'm certain that he could play Thornton very well, I'm not sure how well the script and production values would match up to modern sensibilities.

John Simm

John Simm can play anything and be believable, from the insane Master on Dr Who, to time travelling Sam Tyler in Life on Mars, to driven Cal MaCaffery in State of Play.

My only reservation would be that his roles don't usually require an air of authority, which is an integral part of Thornton's character. 

Robert Downey Jr

There is no doubt that Downey excels at playing Tony Stark-esk roles, the flippant playboy type.

I honestly wouldn't care of he turned Thornton into Stark, it's RDJ for God's sake!

Seriously though, if you haven't seen his performance in Chaplin, do so; it really does show that he's more than just a pretty face and charming personality. This guy has some serious acting chops and now that he's clean and sober, I think he could really do Thornton justice. Plus he's already mastered the British accent to play Chaplin. I wonder what his northern accent would be like?

Colin Firth

Thornton has often been compared to Darcy so why not have Darcy playing Thornton?

While both characters are stern however, Thornton doesn't have the same learning curve to go through that Darcy does. Thornton's character essentially doesn't change, other than he learns to follow his heart and broaden his ideas. Even when it comes to his workers, Thornton is always the best of the mill Masters and his later attempts to help are merely a logical extension of his good business sense.

Firth could pull Thornton off, though his version would likely be more dour than stern and more angry than heartbroken.

Nathan Fillion

Nathan would bring a refreshingly flippant air to Thornton!

When Margaret found him beating up Stephens, he wouldn't order her out, he'd ask if she liked what she saw and throw her a wink. His Thornton would be a wordsmith, cracking jokes and puns and not afraid of telling Margaret how he felt about her “up tight” airs and graces. Underneath that superficial charm though, would beat a heart of solid gold and he would solve all of Milton's problems with a MacGyver-esk plan that involved unearthing the capitalist conspiracy to keep the proletariat in their place.

David Tennant

Well he'd get in his TARIS, fly back to the start of the industrial revolution, correct the social problems before they started and take Margaret off on an adventure throughout the universe!

OK, assuming he isn't playing Thornton as the 10th Doctor, Tannant has proven that he can play emotional roles, not only during Doctor Who but also in such drama's as Single Father. He could play Thornton's stoic heartbreak with relative ease.

Having said that, I don't think stern comes easily to him. His face is friendly and his nature more suited to comedy than to 'hard' characters. Even when threatening to wipe out entire species as the 10th Doctor, he just didn't seem than menacing.

Tennant's Thornton would be a more emotional and vulnerable character, and whether ot not that would work would depend largely on your own tastes.

Benedict Cumberbatch

There is no doubt that Benedict has the acting chops to play Thornton but I'm just not sure he could be believable as a rough and ready mill master. Benedict is upper class though and through, but it would be interesting to see him a little rough around the edges and hear him try to do a northern accent.

Perhaps someone more familiar with his body of work can tell us if he's attempted any such roles in the past?

Justin Beiber!

Imagine it - Thornton: The Early Years!

Okay, seriously, I don't know much about Bieber, but I did see his stint on CSI and he wasn't a bad actor at all (though I did hear unpleasant things about his manners on set).

Could he pull off a 16 year old boy who is dragged from school to support his family? Well hasn't Bieber been his families sole earner for years now? He certainly has some experience there that he can draw on, I'm sure.

Would it be a success? Well Bieber Fever would probably ensure that.

Would it be any good? You decide!

Thomas Dekker 
Honestly though, if we're talking the early years I'd like to see Thomas Dekker give it a try. I remember him playing a 14 year old faith healer on House a few years ago and even at that age, he could believably portray strength, charisma and vulnerability. He's wasted on the Secret Circle.

Give this guy a real challenge, like a young John Thornton!

Christopher Eccleston

An often sadly overlooked English actor (sometimes by his own choice, I think) Eccleston has the talent to give Thornton both the gravitas he needs and the vulnerability we observe when he is rejected.

I believe he would portray Thornton as more 'working class boy made good' than 'middle class boy who had a tough start'. His accent and mannerisms would probably be less refined but there is no doubt in my mind that he could breath life into Thornton and make us love him.

Plus, no disrespect to either Mr Eccleston or Mr Armitage, Thornton in the book is described as unremarkable and it is his personality we are supposed to be attracted to. Mr Armitage had both looks and the acting chops but Mr Eccleston would (sadly) have to win us over with only his performance, just as Thornton in the book won Margaret.

So who would you like to see play Thornton and what do you think they would they bring to the role? 

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Wednesday, 14 March 2012

What I Love About John

It's safe to say that I was not impressed with John the first time I met him. I thought him rather rough and uncouth. In truth, I had never had any exposure to the manufacturing classes before and I was content not to think of him at all. When I did, I thought him the type of man who puts profit before people, who worships cold, hard cash and who has little appreciation for things like compassion or charity.

Fortunately for me, I was unable to ignore John since his association with my father regularly brought us into the same company, and slowly I began to see the man behind the manufacturer. I realised that I had been horribly unfair and prejudiced against him. 

I came to see that he was not arrogant but rather, was proud of his achievements (and rightly so).

He did his best for his mill and his workers, even when he didn't know how best to help them.

I came to see that he was a man who was open to new ideas and ways of thinking, he was progressive and welcomed change.

Falling for him was a gradual process and it wasn't until he had seen me with Frederick and then caught me in a lie, that I realised just how very much I wanted him to think well of me. That's when I began to realise that my feelings for him had changed.

I had been so cruel and callous towards him for so long, especially when I rejected his proposal of marriage, that I assumed that he would no longer share my feelings and I thought that I was destined to be alone.

I sometimes wonder if Mr Bell knew more about my feelings then he let on. Did he have any idea that his gift to me would not only offer me security, but bring me to the man I loved? He was a shrewd man and he knew Thornton rather better than I did at the time, so I think it likley that he knew exactly what he was doing. I only hope that wherever he is now, he can see us and how very happy we are together.

Margaret X

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Monday, 12 March 2012

What I Love About Margaret

The first time I saw Margaret I thought that she had a frank dignity about her. Her dress and shawl were simple but she wore them with the same poise as the queen, when she wears her regalia. She was a creature unlike any other I had encountered before and I was captivated by her.
I worried that I did not make any such favourable impression; more a rough hewn, taciturn manufacturer.

My opinion of her grew as different facets of her personality were shown to me.

First I saw her softer side and playfulness as she allowed her father to use her fingers as sugar tongues.

Next I saw her compassion as she continued to help the strikers. I also witnessed her courage to continue helping those in need, despite scorn from others in our society.

Finally I saw her bravery as she stepped between me and the rioters, risking her life to save mine. The fact that she was indifferent to me at that time only made the gesture even more profound, for who risks danger for one they do not like?

It's impossible to pick one single reason for why I love her but it's safe to say that the moment we first touched, as she handed me a cup and saucer, was the moment that I knew my heart belonged to her.

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Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Who else could play John Thornton?

Richard Armitage as John Thornton

We all know what a good job Mr Richard Armitage did of portraying me, John Thornton, on film.

You may or may not know that there is also a 1975 version of North & South with Patrick Stewart playing John Thornton but this clip (see below) of Margaret and Mr Hale is all that is available.

Miss Winchester has often expressed a desire to view that mini-series so that she might compare performances (I believe she is also a closet trekkie, though I'm not quite sure what that means).

Out of curiosity, I was wondering if there is anyone else whom you think capable of playing Mr John Thornton, if only for the chance to compare and contrast how different actors handle the role.

Please comment with your suggestions. Suggestions will then be put to you in the form of a poll during the Fanstravaganza in March.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

A Celebration of North & South!

Feb 13-24

Next week Melanie is starting a two week celebration of North and South, the story of my and Margaret's meeting.

Please stop by her blog, Melanie's Musings, and share your love for Gaskell's classic novel, the BBC adaptation or simply to drool over Mr Richard Armitage, who did a very fine job portraying me!

She will have lots of guest blogs and giveaways so mark it in your diaries, February 13th to the 24th!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A Family Is Not Complete Without A Dog

A drawing Margaret made of Bill

At least that's what Margaret says. She never had any pets as she was growing up, so I blame Bill for this change of heart.

Who is Bill? Bill was our first dog, a large, black bitch (yes, that's right, Bill was female) that Margaret found while walking the hills around our house one afternoon. It was hard to say what breed she was but she seemed to have some wolfhound in her.

Margaret didn't consult me over the dog and I was rather surprised to get home one evening and find her sitting in my chair! Bessy and Margaret lover her though and while I grumbled for a while, I would never have made them get rid of her.

Friday, 23 December 2011

A Merry Little Christmas (Complete)

A Merry Little Christmas
A short story designed to be a companion to Northern Light, the sequel to North and South 
although it can also be read as a stand-alone story.
Chapter One
Given how lavish Victorian dinner parties and balls are, you are probably thinking that my and Margaret's first Christmas was a lavish affair with a nine course dinner and weeks of parties leading up to the big day. However on this occasion, you would be wrong.

A Merry Little Christmas, Part Four

Previous Chapters: Part one | Part two | Part three

A little later that afternoon we ventured down to the kitchen once more for some more of Cook's excellent Christmas pudding with brandy cream and mulled wine, which we took into the rear parlour and sat on the window seat to watch the snow falling.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

A Merry Little Christmas, Part three

Previous chapters: Part one | Part two.

The next morning I believe we both felt that we'd had our share of being idle and although we took our time in rousing ourselves, we decided to actually get dressed and take a turn around the town. Margaret cooked breakfast this morning, bacon, eggs and fried bread (to hide the fact that it was now a little stale) which we ate at the kitchen table again. Then we decided to take a stroll to the Mitre Hotel for afternoon tea.
“We're going to be far too early,” Margaret said as she wrapped her scarf around her neck and pulled her winter coat on.
“Then we had best make it a slow walk.”
We headed to the park first, taking our time and enjoying the scenery around us. While many people had returned to work today, most of the shops seemed closed, clearly taking advantage of an extra day off.
Everyone we passed, even those who seemed to be working, had a ready smile and a warm “Good morning” for us.
At we neared the top of the hill in the park, Margaret noted that the park and indeed the whole town, looked magical under its fresh covering of snow. Many of the mill chimneys were active again since many businesses don't recognise Boxing Day as a holiday but today the smoke only added to the festive look of the town.
There were a few people milling around in the park. Some children were making snowmen, as we had yesterday and another group were having a snowball fight. The adults seemed to be enjoying the view of the town for none of them seemed in a rush to get to their destinations and most kept glancing back over the town.
Margaret began rubbing her gloved hands together so I looked around to make sure that we were unobserved, then pulled Margaret behind a large tree nearby. Opening my coat, I placed her hands around me so that the heat from my back could warm her hands. My chest would have done just as well but this way I also got to embrace her.
We stole a few kisses while hidden back there but when Margaret's hands had warmed sufficiently, we continued on our way.
Though we had missed the morning service, we stopped in at the local church so that Margaret could say her prayers.
I offered my own silent prayer, thanking Him for my good fortune of late and, feeling the Christmas spirit myself, slipped a generous amount into the pauper's box on our way out.
With that done we continued to the hotel, pausing to look in some of the shop windows we passed since it seemed that many had gone out of their way to make their windows look festive. Many shops had miniature, hand made nativity scenes on display and it was interesting to see how each one differed from its neighbour. Paper chains and ivy garlands were draped around most windows and wreaths adorned almost every door we passed.
We stopped in at the bakers, one of the few open shops, and bought some fresh bread. The baker greeted us with a hearty smile and threw in two free gingerbread men that had been iced to look like snowmen. We thanked him and continued on our way.
“I still find it hard to believe that there was a time when people didn't celebrate Christmas,” Margaret said as we walked. “This is all so lovely that I don't understand why anyone would want to miss it.”
“Perhaps they didn't know what they were missing,” I reasoned.
“If that's true, it really would be a shame,” she said, tightening her grip on my arm and resting her head briefly on my shoulder.
Those passing us who might usually look upon such a public display of affection with distaste, today only smiled at us, perhaps understanding the need to show love at this time of year.
As we entered the town square it seemed that we had interrupted a snowball fight among some of the local children and as one hit me square in the chest, the boy who had thrown it paused in fright for a moment. Then obviously deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, he turned tail and ran, his friends hot on his heels.
I was angry and about to shout after them (what if they had hit Margaret instead of me!) when Margaret's laugher caught my attention. It seems that she found both my predicament and my annoyance amusing.
“They're only having fun,” she said as she brushed the snow from my coat.
“You call that fun?” I asked. “They could hurt someone.”
“Yes, well you thought it was rather fun yesterday, if I recall correctly.”
She had me there, but I wasn't giving in that easily.
“You started that,” I reminded her. “And besides, we were in the safety of our garden, not hurling missiles at random strangers in the street.”
Margaret smiled indulgently then reached up and kissed me softly, causing the last of my anger to evaporate.
“Come on,” she said, slipping her arm through mine again. “I don't know about you but I'm ready for a nice pot of hot tea.”
We continued to the hotel which was not far from the square and arrived just in time for afternoon tea. They seated us by a window and we enjoyed watching the world pass us by as the people outside laughed, joked and enjoyed the snow and festive season.
“I wish we could do this every year,” she said. “I've loved these two days on our own.”
“And I, love.”
We both knew that we would not be this lucky every year but a part of me hoped that we could recreate this feeling of solitude some time soon. We had not even had the luxury of a honeymoon after our wedding and now that I knew what time alone with Margaret could be like, I was more sorry than ever for that fact.
The mill would be running as normal in another few months so I began to wonder about the possibility of us taking a late honeymoon, perhaps visiting Margaret's brother. It was too soon to voice such ideas to Margaret in case I could not be spared from the mill but I was determined to do my best and secure us a holiday in the coming year. Preferably sooner rather than later.
When the tea, sandwiches and cakes were finished, we paid the bill and set about reapplying all the layers of clothing that we had removed when we entered. Bundled up once more, we headed out onto the street.
The snow was falling again, large fluffy white flakes drifting gently to the ground. Margaret put her hand out in front of her, palm up and watched as the flakes landed there and melted.
“Let's hail a cab,” I suggested. Snow is very pretty to watch but I didn't much fancy the idea of walking all the way home in it. “I find that I am somewhat eager to curl up in front of a nice, warm fire with you once again.”
Margaret put her hand down and nodded her agreement. I hailed the first passing cab and after telling the driver our address, we climbed into the carriage. Thankfully it was enclosed and we were somewhat sheltered from the biting cold.
Though most surely shocking to anyone who might have seen, I couldn't resist Margaret any longer and removed my hat before I leaned over and kissed her. She responded with equal ardour and by the time the cab slowed to a stop, we were both slightly breathless and her lips were quite red and swollen.
After I had paid the driver, we headed inside and although all I wanted to do was have my way with Margaret, I knew that the fires needed tending first.
I had built them up this morning so none had died out but the range in the kitchen was on its last legs. I stoked up the rear parlour fire also in case we spent any time in that room, then I headed up to our bedroom to find that Margaret had already taken care of the fire in there.
She was lying under the eiderdown by the fire and as far as I could tell, not wearing a single stitch of clothing. She had taken her hair out of its bun so it lay fanned out around her head and I paused for a moment to admire her.
“Come and join me,” she pleaded.
'How is a man meant to resist a request like that,' I asked myself? The answer was simple; 'he isn't.'

To be continued...
© Catherine Winchester 2011. All rights reserved.