Hosted by Joan Evans on the Mutual Network, this Family Theater radio adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre was first broadcast 25 October 1950 and stars Donna Reed and Vincent Price. When I’m doing these posts and look for images of the stars, I can’t help but be amazed at how beautiful all the actresses were. Donna Reed is another stunning woman!
The show has a runtime just short of half an hour (29:56) and starts with a preachy message of how families should pray together, because “families that pray together, stay together.” The Brontës would probably have approved. Not that it helped their family stay together (for other reasons), but such is life.
Three months after coming to Thornfield, young governess Jane Eyre meets a Mr. Rochester on the road (he introduces himself there and then, Dramatic Music). This is the beginning. Both Gateshead and Lowood are completely left out, and there’s no explanation as to what “Lowood” is when Jane mentions she was there before coming to Thornfield. If we didn’t already know, we’d be as confused as HP6 moviegoers who hadn’t read the books (“So how come Snape is the Half-blood Prince?”).
I can’t help but like this adaptation. Price is an excellent Rochester; he’s philosophical, romantic, has a sense of humour and a glint in his
eye voice and my only problem with Reed is her American accent. The music is dramatic, of course, but not quite as dramatic as it’s been before in other radio adaptations. For cramping a 600+ pages long story into slightly less than half an hour, they’ve done really well. It’s surprisingly detailed. It even has the gypsy scene! I can’t remember if I’ve heard the gypsy scene in any of the other radio adaptations yet (at least not the ones I’ve listened to recently).
One thing I thought was a little confusing, and that’s the proposal scene. It starts off with Jane confessing to Rochester that “wherever you are is my home” and stuff along those lines, basically proclaiming her love for him. Then, he goes on to talk about how he’s found her a place in Ireland and she says it’s a barrier. A barrier from what? “It’s a barrier from you.” Surely, if she’s already just about said “I love you”, surely he shouldn’t be wondering to what the sea would be a barrier between?
Mason shows up to interrupt at church and there’s no real resistance from Rochester – he confesses immediately. However, they don’t go back to the house to see Bertha. “May God be my judge!” he says in a seriously melodramatic way, Dramatic Music!
No explanation is given to what Jane does in the year she spends away from Thornfield. When she returns, she meets Mrs. Poole, who keeps on blaming herself for the house burning down. She really goes on about how she fell asleep and it’s all her fault and how she’s to blame. She says Rochester is staying at Ferndean – only to have him show up moments later, because he felt like he had to come back for some reason. They reunite, marry and have babies and he partially regains his sight and The End.
The bit after the show has finished goes back to being preachy about showing kindness to one another and that everyone should be doing family prayers, because of course, “families who pray together, stay together.” Catchy slogan, don’t you think?
All in all, I’m positive about this adaptation. While it has some strange points to it, I’m impressed at what they’ve managed to fit into half an hour. While they’ve skipped the Reeds, the Rivers, Brocklehurst, Helen Burns and Lowood altogether, they’ve managed to put in most other things, even if it’s in a shortened or paraphrased form.