Anthony Trollope by Samuel Laurence, 1864
It’s time I started posting once again about the 1974 BBC 26 part film adaptation of Trollope’s six Palliser or Parliamentary novels, written by Simon Raven. The last time I posted I wrote an essay on Anthony Trollope as a political novelist and how the Palliser films are only partly presented as about parliamentary politics.
Tonight to start us (or myself) off again, I thought I’d put a filmography of adaptations of Trollope’s novels. In reading general books on film adaptations this week I came across errors about how many, when and what has been adapted. It seemed to me the author guessed Trollope should have some, but didn’t go to the trouble of researching the question any.
I have, using mostly IMDB, corrected and produced a truer list than I’ve seen anywhere else. Another source has been Robert Giddings’s The Classic Serial on Televison and Radio; and I’ve kept information from stray comments here and there on essays on early BBC adaptations.
It is repeatedly said the first film adaptation on BBC (and TV) in a mini-series form of a novel was Trollope’s The Warden. This is not quite true; quite apart from adaptations of popular and other high status older novels, there were earlier ones of Austen’s novels. Starting with radio adaptations (important in themselves and as influencing the early TV adaptations), in 1938 (that early), a “serial reading of Trollope’s Barchester Towers was broadcast on the London regional programme in the summer of 1938″ (p. 9). Trollope’s novels have not dominated the mini-series terrain, but they have always been part of it, and a couple of times major productions have been mounted (with much expense and solid actors and writers).
From Pallisers, 10:20, The Duchess (Susan Hampshire) and Mrs Marie Finn (aka Madame Max Goesler, Barbara Murray) talking of the Duchess’s ambitions as the wife of the Prime Minister
In 1943, in the same year as an early landmark production of Dickens on radio, David Copperfield with Ralph Richardson as Micawber, Trollope’s Barchester Towers was again adapted for radio, this time by H. Oldfield Box, and in ten parts (p. 12). In 1945 it was Dr Thorne, which became a radio mini-series. There have been more recent radio adaptations too, and broadcasts of the older ones.
Here is a list of the TV adaptations as far as my knowledge goes. There has been no movie made for theatres as yet.
- 1951 BBC, The Warden. It is described as the very first BBC serial of a novel; it was done in 6 episode parts; the screenplay for this first Warden was by Cedric Willis, Kerr, 14. Other adaptations of high status novels had been done before (1938, 55 minute P&P; 1948 105 minute Emma, Kerr and Papill; 1950 one hour American Philco Theatre, live S&S)
- 1958 BBC The Eustace Diamonds (I know nothing more)
- 1959 BBC The Last Chronicle of Barset (ditto)
- 1960 BBC The Small House at Allington (ditto)
- 1969 a first BBC2 The Way We Live Now (5 episodes of 45 minutes) screenplay Simon Raven, directed James Cellan Jones, and actors include Colin Blakely, Rachel Gurney, Angharad Rees (as Marie Melmotte, made a central character as she was in the later series)
- 1974 a BBC The Pallisers, (26 50 minute episodes or 22 episodes) directed by Hugh David, Ronald Wilson, screenplays, Simon Raven, actors include Susan Hampshire, Philip Latham &c;
- 1974 Penrith, Malachi’s Cove, directed and written by Henry Herbert, starring Donald Pleasaunce, Malachi, and Veronica Quilligan, Malachi’s daughter, Mally. Single 90 minute episode from the short story of that name. This was shown in movie theaters in Britain in 1977 under the title The Seaweed Children.
- 1982 a BBC Barchester Chronicles (7 episodes of 55 minutes), directed by David Giles, screenplay Alan Pater, actors include Donald and Angela Pleasance, Nigel Hawthorne, Geraldine McEwan, Janet Maw, Alan Rickman &c
- 2001 BBC The Way We Live Now (300 minutes) directed by David Yates, Andrew Davies, actors include David Suchet, Shirley Henderson, Matthew Macfayden, Mirando Otto, Paloma Baeza, Cheryl Campbell.
- 2004 1 hour, BBC documentary, The Two Loves of Anthony Trollope, directed by Richard Downes, no attribution for a writer, with Stephen Frye as narrator.
- 2004 BBC He Knew He Was Right 4 parts (240 minutes) directed Tom Vaughn, screenplay Andrew Davies, actors Oliver Dimsdale, Laura Fraser, Bill Nighy, Anna Massey &c
It might have stuck in Trollope’s craw to see ED adapted so early on, but it would not have surprized him. In his Autobiography he wrote how it beat out his finer political novel, The Prime Minister, and a brilliant moving original novel, Nina Balatka, about cultural and psychological conflicts at a deep level in two individuals, one a Jewish outsider, the other a Christian girl, who considers suicide. She almost throws herself into the Charles River:
Recent photo of Charles River, Prague
It would also not have surprised him to see the novel most often adapted thus far is Barchester Towers. He said of it that was the one book by him by the time he wrote his Autobiography which people felt called upon to read. He also said this was reinforced by his writing further Barsetshire books.
There are far fewer of these movies for Trollope than for Austen and a few other Victorian novelists (Dickens, Gaskell, Elliot, Hardy). There is no Companion for Film Adaptations of Trollope. It might be that the number of readers of his novels is not as high as John Letts used to believe (see his preface to my book, Trollope on the Net).
I have recently had an experience which may be the result of a lack of academic interest in Trollope for himself. I was just then reviewing for a respected academic periodical on Victorian Studies to review : The Politics of Gender in Anthony Trollope’s Novels: New Readings for the Twenty-First Century, edd. Margaret Markwick, Deborah Denenholz Morse, and Regina Gagnier (Ashgate, 2009, 978-7546-6389-8, $99.96 listed price).
I proposed to an editor also to write about what this volume hopes for: a change in Trollope studies. It was striking at the conference how different the subjects and tone taken towards Trollope from the last conference (admittedly 25 years ago) and also how different from what is often found in the Trollope society (though not always).
What I’d been noticing in the latest Victorian Studies, is how Trollope’s famous novels today (different from those favored say 25 years ago) embody attitudes or agendas that belong to the author’s book or agenda of the book as a whole, but how he is not assessed in his own right. I was bothered by that, and over the past couple of years going to the MLA I have listened to a number of papers on him, but always as embodying this or that attitude, apart from himself. He is not the focus nor Trollope studies as such. The only recent book I have and know of which does this beyond Durey’s Trollope and the Church of England (filled with information, a little encyclopedia about the church at the time but wrong about seeing Trollope as a centrally religious man) is Mark W Turner’s Trollope and the Magazines (who was invited to give a key lecture at the conference but didn’t show); there are newer books with chapters on Trollope (where he is used to prove another agenda about the age or political-sociological insight of the author)
This new collection brings him forward as a force to deal with in his own right engaging in subjects of interest today. I do know from having been at the conference that there was as much interest in him from a post-colonialist perspective as a gender one. I can see this reflected in the titles advertised in the Ashgate brochure. I would use the book as jump-off place.
I have not heard back: I gave a paper Trollope’s Comfort Romances for Men in the conference which was on gender studies and much praised, and which was put on the Victorian website.
As this already long enough and has enough content for one blog, I’ll save a list of the few articles that have been written on film adaptations of Trollope for a future blog. Sarah Cardwell (who has published the excellent and indispensable Andrew Davies and Film Adaptations Revisited has given a paper which I gather is not that well known and I will summarize it (as she was kind enough to send me a copy).
If anyone knows of another radio, TV, or film adaptation, please to let me know and I’ll add it to the above. If there is any error in the above list, ditto.