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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Public Domain Jane Eyre 1934

Ever wanted to see the first talkie of Jane Eyre but could never find a copy? Well, if your computer can handle it, you can now download the entire film from www.publicdomaintorrents.com

The version available for download (or purchase for $5.00) stars Virginia Bruce as a very blond, very un-quakerish Jane Eyre, and Colin Clive as the meek, soft spoken master of Thornfield- you know? Mr Rochester?

Just about everyone I've talked to about this film hates it, but I find it cute and very interesting. I think it is not so much a film adaptation of the novel as a film adaptation of plays of the novel! When I've read a few more of these plays I will return to this idea to see if it is really supported by the texts.

I won't ruin the pleasure of being surprised by all of the changes, but I would like to point out one thing that alone redeems this production from being a 'guilty pleasure.' I have seen all but one of the extant versions of Jane Eyre- and several that are not supposed to exist. This film, with 1934 talkie before you, is the only film version in which Jane extinguishes the fire in Mr Rochester's room by herself as in the novel. The only other time this happens is in the Gordon/Caird musical- but this film is closer to the text in this regard. Mr Rochester doesn't wake up until the flames are fully extinguished (you can see this scene in one of the frames above- third frame from left, 3rd row from the bottom). Here's a brief run down of the history of this scene- as I remember it:

1934- Jane tears down the burning curtains and smothers the flames with her feet, then she wakes Mr Rochester.
1944- Jane wakes Mr Rochester who vigorously smothers the flames while Jane rushes in with water.
1956- I'm waiting to see, but I hear that the flames and smoke are never shown in the same shot as the actors...
[I don't know if the two 1960s versions are extant- ask the BBC]
1970- Rochester puts out the flames.
1973- The fire is still burning at "Is there a flood?" Jane and Rochester are shown putting the rest of the flames out together.
1983- Mr Rochester puts out the flames while Jane stands by looking scared.
1996- The fire is still burning at "Is there a flood?" Mr Rochester puts the flames out himself, but Jane has cut her hands on roses from a vase she emptied.
1997- Mr Rochester puts out the flames.
2000- (the musical) Mr Rochester wakes up just in time to see the flames go out. Jane smothers some flames on her nightdress hem.

I'm finding it hard to visualise the 1997 and 1970 versions, so I'll have to check them now. ;)

ETA: 1970- Mr Rochester and Jane put out the flames, but Rochester is shown for most of this scene with Jane getting a few shots.
1997- Jane wakes Rochester then watches him put out the flames.


ThisbeCiel said...

Hmm, do you want to know about '52? :) It is probably the worst in terms of fidelity cause it doesn't even take place in Mr. R's bedroom...

Brontëana said...

Certainly I would!

...If I can look away from your icon of Michael Jayston as Demetrius wringling his nose. ha!

ThisbeCiel said...

LOL, it's not as cute as actually seeing it in the movie! But it will do for now.

In '52, Rochester falls asleep in the library. Enter Bertha who takes up a candle, and you see a candle applied to the lacy curtains. Exit Bertha, and Jane hears her pass, sees the candle on the floor and goes all the way downstairs. Jane shouts for Rochest to wake up and practically pushes Rochester out of his chair. He pulls down the smoky curtains and stomps on them. That's about it!

Brontëana said...

Ha! I love that. the quick cut away. I think you can catch that in the 1934 film too. There's a bit of a jump when Bertha lights the hangings.

They probably had to make room for the television commercial between acts and the bed would have taken up too much stage space ;)