Cranford concludes …
Episode three aired on Masterpiece Classic on Sunday and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Even though it was a primarily a woman’s movie, with a very strong female cast of seasoned and accomplished actresses; Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Eileen Atkins, Francesca Annis, the men had their place in the storyline, and a few of the performances stood out in my mind from episode three.
Captain Brown (Jim Carter) adds stability and common sense to the community of spinsters and widows that populate Cranford. He is a retired military man on half pay, and unfortunately speaks too openly about his reduced finances for the propriety of Miss Deborah who is the bench mark of Cranford’s social dictum. He also upsets the community by breaking the news of the approaching railroad, which threatens the serenity of their rural village. A widower, he is totally clueless about the happiness of his daughter Jessie, unaware that she has declined two proposals of marriage by Major Gordon because she feels responsible for her sister and father in their mother’s absence.
These seem like heavy faults indeed, so why do we like him so? I credit Jim Carter’s performance for softening Captain Brown’s shortcomings. Captain Brown is so sincere and unaffected that when he reveals more than ought, takes a job with the big bad railroad, or is oblivious to his older daughter’s romance, it all seems so seamless and natural. It will take the ‘spinster power’ of Cranford to straighten him out, but he eventually gets there.
Jim Carter has had an accomplished acting career in television and film and was recently seen in The Golden Compass with Hattie Morahan (Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility 2008), Cassandra’s Dream with Ewan McGregor (Frank Churchill in Emma 1996), Hayley Atwell (Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park 2007), Sally Hawkins (Anne Elliot in Persuasion 2007), and Tom Wilkinson (Henry Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility 1995), and The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton with Anna Chancellor (Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice 1995), JJ Feild (Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey 2007), and Anna Madeley (Lucy Steel in Sense and Sensibility 2008). We can look forward to his performance in the upcoming Burlesque Fairytales with Charity Wakefield (Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility 2008) and Barbara Flynn (Mrs. Jamieson in Cranford) which in currently in production. Jim Carter has been married to Imelda Staunton (Miss Pole) his co-star in Cranford since 1985.
Jem Hearne (Andrew Buchan) is the hard working and respectable carpenter of Cranford who is Martha’s, Miss Deborah and Matty’s maid, secret follower (love interest). He seems a very accommodating fellow, building doors and gates, volunteering to be a giant dancing tree for the May Day pageant, and climbing trees to prune limbs and in turn falling and breaking his own. We know he has a heart of gold when after discovering he has a windfall inheritance of five pounds, his first thought is to buy a shawl for his sweetheart Martha! Wow, all women should be so lucky to be a man’s first thought! Most working class men of this era would have headed for the pub.
The ladies of Cranford all admire him and I chuckled when the widow Mrs. Forrester commented on his striking height of 6’ 2” in his stocking feet. The author Elizabeth Gaskell adds another solid male character to balance some of the silly garrulous spinsters who tend to bustle about and gossip quite a bit; - all in good spirit mind you. Actor Andrew Buchan gives us a Jem that is so charming and solid that he would be a great catch for any working class lass in Cranford.
Andrew Buchan is currently starring as Johnny Mercer in the UK television contemporary crime drama The Fixer. His role as a paid assassin is a far cry from the gentle soul of Jem Hearne, but this versatile young actor is drawing rave reviews. He also was in Jane Eyre with Francesca Annis (Lady Ludlow in Cranford 2007).
Sir Charles Maulver (Greg Wise) was not in episode three of Cranford, but well deserves mention from his short appearance in episode one which I neglected to mention in my first posting. Sir Charles is a local aristocrat and magistrate who brings his military friend Captain Brown who saved his life while serving in the army to Cranford to work with him on the planning of the railroad expansion.
Greg Wise is most remembered by Janeites in his role as John Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility (1995) with his future wife Emma Thompson (Elinor Dashwood), Imelda Staunton (Charlotte Palmer and Miss Pole in Cranford 2007), and Robert Hardy (Sir John Middleton and General Tilney in Northanger Abbey 1986).
His career includes other period dramas such as The Buccaneers (1995) and Madame Bovary (2000) with Frances O’Connor (Fanny Price in Mansfield Park 1999), Hugh Bonneville (Rev. Bridges in Miss Austen Regrets 2008), Eileen Atkins (Deborah Jenkyns in Cranford 2007), and Hugh Dancy (Grigg Harris in The Jane Austen Book Club 2007). His future projects include Morris: A Life with Bells with his sister-in-law Sophie Thompson (Miss Bates in Emma 1996 and Mary Musgrove in Persuasion 1995) and Harriet Walter (Fanny Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility 1995).
Here is a new interview of Greg that is both enlightening and revealing.
Posted by Laurel Ann, Austenprose