Jane, George and me
It has been over a month since the last post, so I thought perhaps I would start the year out doing something productive – if blogging can be considered productive. I swore the first thing I’d do when I got back from the trip to back to NYC to see Alan Rickman in Seminar would be to chronicle the experience. But a whirlwind of Christmas and family and work and business came at me as I stepped off the plane and rather took the oomph out of my sails. And since I am at heart undisciplined (sounds so much nicer than “lazy” which is what I truly am), I have yet to tackle the Seminar/Rickman/New York at Christmas post, but I will … soon … really … but first …. I feel compelled to write about something else. Please don’t feel obligated to read the rest of this post, particularly if you have never read Jane Eyre and/or were not a dorky teenager in the early ‘70s with a crush on George C. Scott. That’s right, you read it right, George C. Scott – save the mockery for later please…
I first read Jane Eyre at about 14 years of age, maybe 13. I was obsessed with the book and the story. I came to it in a roundabout way – I saw the made for television version starring George C. Scott and Susannah York and was enthralled. I’ve always tended towards the gothy side (yes, I too, like Messrs. Depp and Burton, ran home to catch Dark Shadows on the telly). And my lord, Mr. Rochester, as portrayed by George C. sent my proto-goth head spinning. Off I staggered to the library upon seeing this to get the “whole” story. The book proved to be much more beautifully angsty than the television movie (obviously) and Bronte’s prose style was completely new to my 1970’s teenage sensibilities. Dear reader, I was hooked. I didn’t come up for air until I finished it (altho’ I will admit to a tiny bit of skimming on the “SintJin” parts).
[Flashforward] On the airplane coming back from NY, surprisingly not really interested in watching “Our Idiot Brother,” I started reading passages from Jane Eyre that I had downloaded to the iPad. The attic door was cracked opened but as I said, when I stepped off the plane, life came at me and I had little time for reading – until Christmas night when I picked up the book once more and then it all swooped in on me from out of the past. I found myself right back to the darkened hall, lit by my spluttering candle, listening to the screams and waiting for Mr. Rochester. I will spare you my analysis of the book (for now), but I did come to realize, under all the emotion and turmoil that drew me to the book, Jane Eyre was a great role model for a young girl. She stuck to her beliefs, she didn’t back down and she made her own way in the world. There is one exchange in the book and I’m paraphrasing ’cause I’m too lazy to go find the passage or uh, undisciplined that’s the word I meant to use, … anyway, Rochester is trying to basically convince Jane to live with him in sin or as near an approximation of sin as they had at the time, that no one would care or know, and she states, “But I would.” Good girl Jane – frankly then and now, I would be throwing my few belongings in a bag and following him out the door. Along with being lazy, I have no moral fortitude.
Still with me? Wow – I thought you would have given up reading this way up there at the “SintJin” part. Okay, continuing then….
The book also took me back to the burly arms of Mr. Scott. I had not seen the movie in many, many years. Since I was already on the iPad I googled the movie and found it to be available in I believe 9 easy segments on YouTube. Well, while I still love George C. as Edward Rochester – he was the first so therefore my definitive Rochester – I couldn’t say the same about the production. Susannah York was way, way way too old to be playing Jane and had a little too much worldly confidence. The ending was so anticlimactic I’m sure something must be missing from this version. So, obsessive/compulsive as I am, off I started to view (insert fanfare) – every Jane Eyre/Mr. Rochester combination available on YouTube to see which was truly the best version of this book. Do you have any idea how many versions of this book have been staged cinematically? I skipped Orson Welles’ version – I’d seen that long ago and while a good movie it was not Jane Eyre. I went through several BBC mini series versions, one with Toby Stephens, another with Tim Dalton and the new movie with Fassbender that just came out. I know, I know, a little obsessive. While I liked all the different Rochester’s for different reasons, I still liked Mr. Scott’s portrayal the best. But as to the best rendition of the book, I’d have to say it was the Timothy Dalton 1983 version that seemed the most accurate (altho’ I really didn’t care for Jane in that one). The most romantic was the 2006 version – zowie, but not faithful to the book. And one does want Jane Eyre to be faithful does one not?
Okay – I’m rambling at this point because I seriously doubt you followed me to the depths of this post so the rest is for me. Should you read this, don’t repeat it – I still love George C. Scott; his smile makes me happy. Watching him in Jane Eyre made me remember him in Beauty and the Beast, another movie that does not stand up to memory but his performance was exceptional and then that took me to “They Might Be Giants” (the movie, not the band). (All conveniently available on YouTube.) They Might Be Giants is a flawed movie but George C. Scott’s and Joanne Woodward’s abilities shine through to make you care about their Holmes and Watson. Scott was no pretty boy, but he had a manly charisma and the ability that all actors should have, that of embodying their character wholeheartedly. What I have referenced is admittedly not Scott’s best work – Dr. Strangelove, Patton, The Hospital, etc. are his best work. But his work in these films inspired me and took me into hallways where I never expected to find myself.
Thats it for now, but be warned, this blog may be visited soon by more analysis of Jane Eyre, the book, and Jane Eyre on film and perhaps a smidge more on George just cause I don’t think I’ve gotten all this out of my system yet.