Great Books Made Into Great Films: FilmRise’s Classics Collection Presents Two Versions Of “Jane Eyre”

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November 17, 2015 — Jane Eyre is a classic novel that filmmakers return to again and again. By 1926 it had been made into at least 8 different movies (not all used the original title). There have been at least 9 English-speaking versions in addition and there have been numerous foreign versions as well.

The 1847 novel by Charlotte Brontë is the story of an unfortunate orphan girl who makes her own way despite the efforts of Victorian society to destroy her. It has tempted many actresses as well, although the leading man of the book, Mr. Rochester, is probably the more intriguing character. The brooding, enigmatic Mr. Rochester is so deeply flawed, he could easily be a modern character.

The 1934 filmed version of Jane Eyre with Virginia Bruce (The Great Ziegfeld, The Night Has a Thousand Eyes) as Jane and Colin Clive (best known for his role as as Dr. Frankenstein in the 1931 classic film) as Rochester was the first sound version of the novel. The film is not a close adaptation of the novel — the 1930s film censors were actually far stricter than the Victorians in what they would permit the general public to see. Nonetheless, the film is a piece of movie history.

Our second version of Jane Eyre was filmed in 1970, with Susannah York (A Man for All Seasons, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?) and George C. Scott (Dr. Strangelove, Patton,  The Hustler)  and is a truer adaptation of Brontë’s famous story  — with a score by John Williams.

Watch the two on FilmRise and see which one better serves the Gothic novel and the spirit of Charlotte Brontë.

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