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Thread: Bleak House TV and film adaptions

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Bleak House TV and film adaptions

    I have been watching the BBC 1985 adaption of Bleak House. I liked the look of it more than the 2005 version, because I thought Diana Rigg would make a better Lady Dedlock than Gillian Anderson. It is pretty good. I was not sure about Denholm Elliot as John Jarndyce, but he won me over. The actors who played Tulkinghorn, Lady Dedlock, John Jarndyce, Esther Summerson, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone are all excellent. The only actor I do not like is the one who plays my favourite character, William Guppy. In the book, Mr Guppy is a comic character. He is not a particularly good man, but neither is he a bad man. In the 1985 TV series, he is sinister and not at all funny.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Finished it. It was pretty good and very well acted. I thought Peter Vaughan was particularly good as Tulkinghorn. I have seen him in quite a few TV shows, but I had no idea he was so good an actor. Some of the dull, straight characters came across better than in the book, in particular Ada Clare and Allan Woodcourt. The only portrayal I did not like was that of Mr Guppy.

    Did anyone watch the 2005 adaption? If so, what did you think?

    Interestingly, there was another BBC adaption in 1959. According to Wikipedia, it still exists, but I have not been able to find it online.
    Last edited by kev67; 10-31-2014 at 07:38 PM.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    Haven't watched either, but Gillian Anderson is a tremendous actress. I'd watch both her version and Diana Rigg's just to compare the two.
    You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Mahatma Gandhi

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    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    I've had trouble finding the 1985 version. Diana Rigg sounds like a natural for Lady Dedlock, though. I hold a minority view that Gillian Anderson's performance was somewhat overdone in the 2005 version. An actor can sometimes get away with that in a Dickens story because so many of the characters are so over the top as written. I thought the over-the-top performances for Turveydrop, Smallweed, and the self-igniting Krook in the 2005 version were all right on target (not to mention my favorite character, the apocalyptic courtroom bag lady Miss Flite); but for me, Lady Dedlock is too complex and tragic a character to do quite as much caricature as Anderson did. I have to add, though, that most people I've talked to think that I am dead wrong and that she was the best part of the production.

    Oh and a the idea of sinister Guppy (in the 1985 version) sounds ridiculous. Perhaps it was meant to soften Dickens' snobbery (or self-loathing?) at the character's shabby middle class social status and grubbing law clerk job (or maybe Esther's snubbing him). But a menacing Guppy? How could anyone keep from laughing at him?
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 11-03-2014 at 10:24 PM.
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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    The 1985 version was a little tricky to find. It is on YouTube, no doubt illegally uploaded. Not many people appear to have viewed it. I searched for 'Bleakhouse 01', 'Bleakhouse 02', etc, with no space between 'Bleak' and 'house'.

    For a little while I thought Guppy was up to no good when I was reading the book, but not for long. In the '85 series, it eventually becomes clear he is not a bad guy, but he is still not as entertaining as in the book.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I have started watching the 2005 version of Bleak House. It is generally well cast. I prefer the actor who plays Mr Guppy, although he is not exactly as I imagined him. I like Johnny Vegas as Krook and Pauline Collins as Miss Flite. I like the actor who plays Skimpole too, although he is younger than I imagined him. However, I am not keen on Gillian Anderson's portrayal of Lady Dedlock. She seems to be in a permanent state of depression and languor.

    This version seems to spell out the plot to the viewers and uses fewer of Dickens' own lines.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    delete
    Last edited by kev67; 06-16-2019 at 06:17 PM. Reason: That was Robert Helpmann
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    However, I am not keen on Gillian Anderson's portrayal of Lady Dedlock. She seems to be in a permanent state of depression and languor.
    I agree. Lady Deadlock's character is highly important to the plot. She has to be more than just a Bleak House whack job (as wonderful as Bleak House whack jobs are). I remember liking the interpretation of Esther in this production. Her constant self-depreciations have a sense that this is simply what would have been socially expected of a young woman in her position. For me, this made her less irritating and more sympathetic. There were some other good performances, too.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I have been watching the 1959 series. I thought it was a little creaky at first, but now I am getting into it. This version is a lot more about Richard Carstone than the other series. The acting is good on the whole. There are only two actors that I recognise: Colin Jeavons as Richard Carstone and Wilf Bramble as Krook. Colin Jeavons seemed to be in everything when I was a boy. I always found him slightly creepy. No doubt that is why he played Uriah Heep in another Dickens adaption. He is very good as Rick. Wilf Bramble would later become famous in Steptoe and Son, which was a sort of tragi-comic sitcom. He was better in that than he was in this.
    Last edited by kev67; 06-19-2019 at 07:21 AM. Reason: typo
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Mr Guppy is my favourite character in Bleak House. Whenever I see him in the TV serials, he is not as I imagined him, but maybe that is because I imagine him wrong. In the 2005 series he was played by Burn Gorman. I like his schtick; I have seen him play it in another thing I thought was good, but it was not exactly as I imagined. He does hangdog very well, but Guppy did not come across as hangdog to me. In the 1985 series, he was played by Jonathan Moore. I did not think he was very good. He came over a bit sinister and not at all comical. In the 1959 version he was played by Timothy Bateson. TBF, his version is probably the closest to the book. He comes across as rather lower middle class, so much so, I wonder how he got a job at a firm like Kenge and Carboy. He drops his aitches. He stands no chance with Esther Summerson, who in this series is gorgeous. It made me wonder how far up the social scale you had to be to get a position as an articled clerk at a firm of solicitors. Charles Dickens himself was somewhat lower middle class himself, but he got a job as a clerk in a law office. I doubt he dropped his aitches though. Mark Twain went to one of his readings. He said he was very British and pronounced 'Steerforth' as 'Stairforth'.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    I wrote a little about this above in what I think was one of my first LitNet posts. Burn Gorman's Guppy is hilarious and brilliant. Guppy has to be funny or he's just not worth considering. I can't imagine a sinister Guppy. There is an ugly side to the character, though. Guppy is a middle class shabby figure. So was Dickens before becoming a literary celebrity--something he was personally ashamed of. Guppy is a law clerk, which was far from an elite position in Dickens time. I think Dickens did the same work when he was young (maybe when he got free of the blacking factory?). Dickens treats Guppy with disdain because he wishes to distance himself from Guppy's shabby middle class world. That's why Guppy's not even fit for the lowly Esther Summerson. He is one of Dickens funniest characters, but he is also one of his least generous--arguably even one of his cruelest.

    All of this is a good example of why Bleak House's characters are better than its plot. Guppy is a truly memorable as a person (or a puppet, as Thackeray would put it). But he's really just a way to show Esther's (supposed) inner virtue. True, she has no social station and nasty small pox scars, but she would never sell herself to the likes of Guppy (or was Guppy before the small pox?). No, she will abide a homely virgin because she knows she will never merit the affections of her "true love the doctor". And what could be more virtuous than sacrificing her happiness for her true love? All of which goes to my other point about Esther being an irritating dope, but that's another subject.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 06-21-2019 at 06:58 PM.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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