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Thursday, February 19

The Women of Oliver Twist

The second installment of Oliver Twist will air on PBS Masterpiece Classic this Sunday at 9:00 PM EST. While most of the tale centers on the male of the species - Oliver, the Artful Dodger, Bill Sikes, Fagin, Mr. Brumble, and Mr. Monks - the women also play a prominent role. They are in no order of importance:

Mrs. Corney, Sarah Lancashire

You last saw her as the never aging Nelly Dean in Wuthering Heights, and now as the coldly calculating and unfeeling Mrs. Corney in Oliver Twist. Her portrayal as the avaricious workhouse matron who looks out for her own benefit is spot on. Born in 1964, Sarah shot to stardom as Coronation Street's popular Raquel Watts. After leaving the role in 1996, she starred in Clocking Off, Rose and Maloney, the BBC TWO drama The Rotters' Club and as a guest star in the fourth series of Doctor Who.

Learn more about Sarah at this link.

Nancy, Sophie Okonedo

Sophie was unforgettable in Hotel Rwanda and won an Oscar nomination for her portrayal as Tatiana. In Oliver Twist she plays Nancy with an unromantic and realistic bent. The prostitute with a heart of gold, she is conflicted between her loyalty/love for Bill Sikes and her sympathy for Oliver, which puts her life in danger. Nigerian-Jewish actress Sophie Okonedo has enjoyed a splendid and versatile career. Born in 1969, she trained at RADA after attending Cambridge. Her most recent theatrical films were The Secret Life of Bees, Skin, and Father and Son. Read about her career in IMBd and more about her in aProfile and Interview with Sophie

Rose Maylie, Morven Christie

Morven Christie made a big splash as Jane Bennet in Lost in Austen. She was born in 1979 in Glasgow and trained at the Drama Centre in London, where she graduated in 2003. Morven's career is so new, very little information about her sits online. After working as a ski instructor, her work on stage, and in film and television drama since 2003 has become more varied, and has included an increasing number of leading roles. She will play the lead in ITV's Monday Monday, and a supporting role in The Young Victoria. Morven is currently part of the first Bridge Project company, playing Anya in Tom Stoppard's new adaptation of The Cherry Orchard, and Perdita in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. The productions will play in repertory at The Old Vic in London from June 2009, after an international tour. Her movies include The Flying Scotsman and House of 9.

Mrs. Bedwin, Anna Massey

We last saw Anna Massey's familiar face in Tess of the D'Urbervilles as Mrs. D'Urbervilles, the blind woman who loved her canaries more than her son. It was a minor role, as is her role as Mrs. Bedwin. One of Britain's most respected actresses, Anna has been in the business for over 50 years. She has won an Olivier award, a Bafta, two RTS awards and she is also a CBE. It is too bad that actresses of her age are given such short shrift in films. This role as Mr. Brownlow's housekeeper is almost non existent and does little to move the story forward. Nevertheless, she plays the part beautifully. Anna is the daughter of famed actor Raymond Massey. She made her film debut in 1958, appearing in Michael Powell's Peeping Tom in 1959 and in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy in 1972. Read more about her in this link.
Posted by Vic, Jane Austen's World


Lynn said...

I just love Anna Massey. The first time I saw her was as Lady Laura in "The Pallisers" miniseries. She is a delight to watch no matter what she's in.

Sarah O. said...

I thought that the writer/director made the Mrs. Bedwin meatier than it needed to be. I felt that by showing her as a counterpart to Mrs. Corney, the role became more than "let's get a distinguished actress to play a sweet old lady." I agree she doesn't move the plot forward much, but she provides the exposition necessary to piece together the story. I also thought she got more screen time than the Artful Dodger, but I may be mistaken. Anyway, for my first introduction to this actress, I didn't feel she was wasted.

Anonymous said...

And do not forget that Ms. Massey has appeared in an Austen adaptation, since she was no less than Mrs. Norris in the Mansfield Park miniseries (1983), and she keeps being the best Mrs. Norris we have ever seen.


Lynn said...

I'm with you on that too Cinthia !

Vic said...

I agree, Cinthia, Anna Massey was the perfect Mrs. Norris. No one has played her better. But that BBC film adaptation was made over a quarter of a century ago. The last time I saw Anna play a substantial role, one that was really integral to the plot, was as Miss Prism in 2002's The Importance of Being Earnest. There are so few good meaty parts for talented older actresses like Anna Massey. Most seem to be gobbled up by Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, and Judi Dench.

Sara O, I haven't read Oliver Twist since college, so I forgot Mrs. Bedwin's true role in the novel. I am sure it was more modest and that the housekeeper's story line was beefed up for this fine actress.