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Monday, June 26, 2006

Jane Eyre 1963 Steps out of the Shadows

Well, this is surprising. I was looking for some images of a theatre production when I came across this. I had finished my search and thought that I would see what might turn up. This is an image from the BBC's 1963 mini-series of Jane Eyre. This is Richard Leech as Mr Rochester and Ann Bell as Jane Eyre. All the information available on this production can be fit into this post: It had a run time of 6 episodes (at 25 minutes each?)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Directed byRex Tucker

Writing credits (in alphabetical order)
Charlotte Brontë

novel adaptation Constance Cox

Cast (in credits order)
Ann Bell.... Jane Eyre
Richard Leech.... Mr. Rochester
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Elsie Arnold.... Mrs. Fairfax
Rachel Clay.... Jane Eyre (as a child)
Justine Lord.... Blanche Ingram
Nan Marriott-Watson.... Grace Poole
Jane Merrow
Elaine Pratt.... Adele
William Russell.... St. John Rivers

Produced byDouglas Allen

Original Music byTristram Cary

The specifications on the image provide hope for new material as well:

Caption:Actor Richard Leech as Mr Rochester and actress Ann Bell in the title roll [sic] of Jane Eyre being serialised by the BBC at the Television Centre, Shepherds Bush.
By/Title:Harry Todd/Stringer
Date Created:29 Mar 1963 12:00 AM
Collection: Hulton Archive
Source: Hulton Archive
Date Submitted: 27 Oct 2003 08:46 PM
Object Name:98n/52/huty/13073/58
Release Information:No release.

More information, at the time of the production Richard Leech was 41, and Ann Bell was 23, making their difference in age almost match that of the book- in the book Mr Rochester is 20 years older (here he is 18 years older).
Some more trivia about the cast. Richard Leech was a practicing doctor, and his children had Noel Coward and Alec Guiness for godfathers. The actor playing St.John played Ian Chesterton, the 'companion' of the First Doctor in the original Dr.Who. While Ann Bell played Doris in Fahrenheit 451.


siansaksa said...

Has anyone seen this adaptation? It would be interesting to read the thoughts on it. Here is a link with Richard Leech's photo:

siansaksa said...

What about the '56 BBC miniseries of JE? Any other links beside this?

Aidan Brack said...

William Russell is a fabulous actor with dark hair - reasonably tall and he was very handsome (he still is for a man in his mid-80s). http://www.shillpages.com/dw/story/d1/st--1k05.jpg shows him on the right of the picture from a production later that year (or maybe the middle of the following).

If it's the BBC though I would have to question whether it still exists. They junked a lot of the material from this period. Still, if it does exist one of the BBC's projects is to put its entire back catalogue online at some point in the next 10 years so maybe we will get the chance to see it? :)

Brontëana said...

to siansaska:

This post contains everything I know about the production. I have never heard from anyone who has seen it. I have nothing to add to the imdb info on the '56 version either, except that 'people say' it is good.

Brontëana said...

to Aidanbrack:

I was hoping at least for more publicity photos such as this, from this 'Huton Archive.' I have little hope that the tapes survived the archive purge, but it is worth looking into.

Richard Leech was also on Dr.Who.

Aidan Brack said...

I'd forgotten but having looked him up I remember Richard Leech was very good on Doctor Who in a comedic story in the mid-70s satirising income tax officials.

You are unlikely sadly to be able to find out whether it survives or not (you could see if there's an e-mail address for the BBC archives and maybe they could tell you but that's about the only thing I can think of). :/

I hope it still exists - as a fan of William Russell I'd hope that it might. I can try making an enquiry on a Doctor Who board though I suspect that there won't be anybody forthcoming. :(

Liz said...

That is a nice photo. Regarding all these old BBC series, I enquired about the 1970 version of Villette and the BBC came back to me with a nice letter. Apparently it it not commercially available (which would seem to suggest there is still nonetheless a copy somewhere) and to ask for it to be released, you have to write to BBC Worldwide. The address is Commissioning Editor, BBC Worldwide Ltd, Woodlands, 80 Wood Lane, London, W12 0TT.

Brontëana said...

to aidan brack:

biedroneczka came across a list of JE productions from a site for the archives (I'm not sure which site). In my travels I stumbled on mentions of BBC adaptations from the 1940s but these are not on the BBC list. I suppose, and if the 1940s adaptations are real and not just the result of a faulty memory- perhaps the BBC list is of those versions extant. I am hoping so! The list includes only the 1956 and '63 versions along side '73 and '83.

Georgina said...


I was reading your blog about the 1963 Jane Eyre the other day. I remember seeing it when I was 8 years old believe it or not. It was my first introduction to Jane Eyre and I thought it was fabulous.I hardly remember any details except I really liked Mr Rochester! I've a feeling it was quite true to the book. Anyway it inspired me to read it soon afterwards and I've loved it ever since.I would love to see it again if it ever emerged from the depths of the BBC archives.

Anonymous said...

I saw it when I was very young, probably 9 or 10; it made a lasting impression upon me, the intensity and passion, especially in the final scene, where he was blind - I still recall it vividly even now. It was very passionately played. It would be such a shame if it has not been preserved, let's all write and see if it can't be unearthed from the archives!

tudordi said...

I googled 'ann bell jane eyre' and arrived here after seeing the latest film this afternoon. Although I liked it, I had been talking in car all way home about this version. I must have been 12 or 13 when this series was on, but I still remember scenes very vividly. All the cast were wonderful, especially Jane, Rochester, Helen Burns, and StJohn Rivers. I am sure that there must have been either more episodes or longer episodes because the story was told fully (unlike the film). Hope you find it hidden away somewhere.

mjudit said...


It might be interesting for you to know, but this BBC serial reached Hungary as well sometimes in the early seventies. I have seen it with Hungarian dubbing when I was about 20 years old, liked it very much and should be very glad to see it again.

Anonymous said...

I saw this when I was 11 -it went out at tea time on Sunday and the later episodes carried a warning ''Not suitable for viewers of a nervous disposition '' . Ha! Imagine if they applied such strict criteria nowadays .I loved the scene where they show Bertha dancing on the roof amidst the flames -I would love to see this version again .