So, today, I’m going to “review” (I use that term very loosely) the 1949 version of Jane Eyre. I had other plans for today, actually, but I wasn’t feeling well enough to do any of them so I watched this instead. This version aired on US Television as part of a series called Studio One. I downloaded it from The Internet Archive, where you can also watch streaming video. The video has the commercials from the broadcast intact, which are actually pretty neat!
This adaptation is only one hour long, seriously. Actually, including the commercials and everything, it would technically be even less than that! So, as you can probably guess, A LOT was cut. And I really mean a lot. Several key scenes and characters from the book are missing. And what we do have is, honestly, not that great, either. The acting is just not very good- some tried a fakey British accent, others didn’t even bother. The costumes are nothing to look at and not really historically accurate. The set design? Well, the front room at Thornfield is where nearly all of the scenes actually take place. I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the low budget and time constraints. The result is unintentionally funny, more than anything.
We begin with an adult Jane leaving Lowood. Yup, no Gateshead or any scenes of Jane as a child at all. Her teacher berates her for leaving and says she will be punished, but Jane tells the teacher off, saying she will instead be punished.
Mary Sinclair as Jane Eyre
Of course, as usual, she is beautiful. She is quite outspoken and happy to be at Thornfield right away. She has no relatives in this- no Reeds, no Eyres, no Riverses. She apparently grew up at Lowood. Mary Sinclair did not even attempt to hide her accent. On Jane’s first night at Thornfield, she hears maniacal laughter and screaming coming from Bertha’s room. She goes to find Grace Poole, who warns her away.
There is no scene of Rochester falling from his horse when coming upon Jane out on the road. Instead, she is called in to meet him in, of course, the front room. For the first few minutes, we don’t see his face- just his hands playing with his stick like that. It made him seem kind of menacing, actually! I don’t know what they were going for with that.
Charlton Heston as Edward Rochester
Yes, Charlton Heston is Rochester. Of course, like Jane, he is good-looking and it is silly to have them call each other plain and not handsome. Really? Audiences are not blind! He is quite kind to Adele in this version and she calls him “Papa” even though he is adamant to Jane that he is not her father. Great.
Bertha setting fire to Rochester
Instead of setting fire to Rochester’s room, it happens in (no surprise) the front room, where he has fallen asleep in front of a chair. We actually see a crazy old Bertha come in and mischievously light the fire with her candle- on either the rug or Rochester’s chair, it looks like? There is actually no fire shown, only smoke. Bertha looks old enough to be Rochester’s mother, and she seems to be happy and sneaky about what she’s doing.
Rochester is not injured at all by the fire and does not wake up. Somehow, Jane hears Bertha laughing and sees her candle outside Jane’s door. This leads her to know to go downstairs, apparently? I guess when her room is technically the only other room in the house, she knows there’s only one place to go! Despite the smoke filling the entire room, she and Rochester are able to easily able to put out the fire with a couple swats with pillows. Rochester says it was the coals from the fireplace that did it….despite there never having been a fire in the grate. Right.
The house party consists of only Blanche and Lady Ingram. No expenses spared! Hee hee. I think Blanche is decent-looking at least, but that may be because you never really see her face up close. Rochester makes Jane play the spinet for them. What a jerk! Afterwards, she cries and confides her love for Rochester to Mrs. Fairfax! After Rochester sees her going to bed crying, he tells Blanche right there his story about losing his fortune.
The next day, Jane is already packing to leave for Ireland, hoping to do so before Rochester returns from taking the Ingrams home. How did she already find this position to go to? Rochester comes back early and they have their love confession.
We cut to the wedding, which looks like it’s the next day, since there’s no indication time has passed. But apparently, it is sometime later, as Mason and his solicitor have somehow heard about the wedding and came to meet with Grace Poole for some reason. The wedding itself does not take place at church, but rather on the patio just outside the main room at Thornfield. At least it wasn’t in the room!
All the while, Bertha is watching from her window, which happens to be right above the patio. I’m still not sure how Mason and Briggs found out about the wedding, but okay…
Jane in the Wilderness
After Jane leaves, the next we see of her is the above scene. She is somewhere out in the wilderness, debating with herself whether she should go back to Rochester. She suddenly hears his voice calling her and decides to go back to Thornfield. Okay…WTF? How much time has passed, here? Has Jane been living outside this whole time? How did she survive? No answers as to any of the above.
Thornfield appears to be intact when Jane returns. We find out from Mrs. Fairfax that only the west wing was burned. For some reason, Rochester was not awakened during the fire until all of the servants got outside. Nice one. Like most adaptations, he did not lose his eye or hand. His and Jane’s reunion takes place on the patio outside the front room. They hug, and that’s it.
Yeah, so, not a good adaptation! I laughed several times while viewing, but not at anything that was intentionally funny. It wouldn’t hurt to check it out, just for a chuckle, but don’t expect anything good or faithful!
My Rating: 4/10 (for the laughs)