Under the Radar Lit Adaptations: The Making of a Lady

from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/9724851/TheMaking-of-a-Lady-ITV1-costume-drama-meets-the-macabre.html

On Sunday night my three-year-old was so tuckered out that he was actually happy to sit on the couch with me while I flipped through TV channels. (I was tuckered out too.) Often we watch Three’s Company, but tonight I stopped at PBS, on the 2012 ITV adaptation of The Making of a Lady. It’s not really suitable viewing for a preschooler, but he went to bed shortly thereafter, and I could watch.

And I wanted to. I’d seen bits of this one before, but never the full 90-minute movie. And I was interested to watch it because a) it was an adaptation of a book I’d never heard of, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and b) it starred Linus Roache, one of my favorite Brit actors. (He’s British, born in Manchester, but is perhaps best known for his role on the American TV show Law & Order. The years he and Jeremy Sisto were on Law & Order together? Those were very good years for Law & Order, in my opinion.)

The story is this: a bright but impoverished girl, Emily Fox-Seton (Lydia Wilson), is working as a secretary to a rich old lady (played by Joanna Lumley), hoping to be taken on in a permanent position. In this position she is introduced to Lord Walderhurst, a marquis, and the rich old lady’s nephew, who is back from leading his regiment in India and is clearly (according to his aunt) in need of a wife, specifically so he can produce an heir. He doesn’t seem too keen on any of the rich/suitable young things he’s introduced to in society, but he clearly feels he can get along with the intelligent Miss Fox-Seton, and proposes a marriage of convenience for both of them: she will be settled comfortably, and he can get everyone off his back while also sharing the company of a competent and bright person. So they marry, and he installs her in his country estate, but is soon off to India again.

At this point the story takes its gothic turn. Walderhurst’s ne’er-do-well nephew and his wife show up soon after he leaves for India, and Emily is so hungry for company that she invites them to stay. To make a long(ish) story short: the pair are nothing short of bounders and contrive to get Emily (and her unborn child) out of the way. And I don’t just mean relocated or divorced. I mean OUT OF THE WAY.

I’m not going to tell you any more; it’s only 90 minutes long so you should just watch it. Viewers on IMDB certainly don’t seem to be fans (it’s only got 6.7 out of 10 stars) but I thought it was an interesting adaptation, with good casting. I’d kind of like to get the original book and read that, just to see how much story the writer (Kate Brooke, who also wrote two episodes of The Forsyte Saga) had to adapt/pack into a fairly succinct program.

So what about you? What “under the radar” Brit TV lit adaptations have you enjoyed?

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