Volume 2: Filmography

 

JANE EYRE

 

May 6, 1910 (Friday)

Length: 1,000 feet

Character: Drama

Scenario: From Charlotte Brontë's novel of the same name

Cast: Marie Eline (Jane Eyre as a young girl), Gloria Gallop (Georginia Reed), Frank H. Crane (Lord Rochester), Martin Faust (Uncle Reed), Charles Compton (John Reed), Amelia Barleon (the insane Mrs. Rochester), Irma Taylor, Alphonse Ethier, William Garwood

Notes: 1. Marie Eline was designated as "Marie Flynn" in a notice in Moving Picture World, and Amelia Barleon was designated as Amelia "Barton." 2. In the book from which the film was adapted, a character's name was Mr. Rochester, not Lord Rochester. 3. Several other film companies subsequently dramatized Jane Eyre for the screen, including Garrison Film (1914), IMP (1914), and American Biograph (1915).

 

BACKGROUND OF THE SCENARIO: Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855), daughter of the Irish Patrick Brontë, a clergyman of Yorkshire, was one of several literary Brontës in a family of four children, which included sisters Emily (Wuthering Heights) and Anne. Her mother died in 1821, and Charlotte and her siblings were placed in the care of their aunt, Elizabeth Branwell. The Brontë girls were then sent to a school for daughters of the clergy at Cowan Bridge, where they were treated so badly that Charlotte would later name it as the cause of death of her two eldest sisters in 1825, and the reason for her own poor constitution. The surviving children educated themselves at home in a rich fantasy life fed by the incredible quantity of books they read and the stories and magazines they circulated among themselves.

In 1831 and 1832 Charlotte attended Miss Woolers' school at Roe Head, to which Charlotte would return a few years later as a teacher. In 1839 she was appointed governess of the Sidgwick family, and in 1841 she secured the same position with the White family. In 1842 Charlotte and her sister Emily went abroad to study languages in Brussels, but were called back by the death of their aunt. Charlotte returned to Brussels alone afterwards. In 1845, at the age of 29, Charlotte had a collection of the girls' poetry published under the names of Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily), and Acton (Anne) Bell. The collection received scarcely a notice at the time.

After a first novel was unsuccessful, Charlotte returned to writing more determined than ever and produced the immediately successful Jane Eyre in 1847. In 1848 the rising fame of the so-called Bell brothers brought prying eyes to the real authors behind them, and after an obscure publisher claimed them all to be the work of one author, the sisters were forced publicly to rectify the situation. Charlotte was unable to enjoy her success, however, as in the next year she lost three sisters, leaving her alone. Despite public knowledge of her identity, she continued to publish under the pseudonym of Currer. She married her father's curate in 1854 and died a few months later in what were probably pregnancy complications.

Jane Eyre is the story of a poor orphan who grows up in a boarding school, in a situation modeled after that in Charlotte's life. The story continues with her marriage aborted when she discovers her groom to be already secretly married, to a mentally sick woman. Jane flees and is rescued from death on the moors by a clergyman and his two sisters, who turn out to be Jane's cousins. The four come into an inheritance, just like every penniless orphan in a stereotype 18th century novel, and Jane returns to visit her ex-fiancé to find him half-blinded by a fire which also killed his wife. The two marry and his sight slowly begins to regenerate. By the time that Thanhouser filmed Jane Eyre in 1910 it had been a famous classic for many decades.

 

ARTICLE, The New York Dramatic Mirror, May 7, 1910:

"JANE EYRE SAID TO BE FINE. Jane Eyre, which is to be released Friday of this week by the Thanhouser Company, will prove, it is confidently expected, the best release the Thanhouser people have yet made. Unusual pains were taken in its preparation, and with the experience this new firm is gaining in the production of motion pictures it may be that it will turn out a notable film of which any company might be proud."

 

SYNOPSIS, The Billboard, May 7, 1910:

"Jane Eyre, an orphan, is adopted by an uncle, who treats her kindly. Her uncle's kin, however, are unfeeling, and when the uncle dies they send Jane to an orphan asylum. Five years later she leaves to accept a position as governess to Lord Rochester's little niece. Rochester falls in love with her, and obtains her consent to marriage, much to the chagrin of Jane's unfeeling cousin, who aspired to win Rochester's hand and fortune."

 

SYNOPSIS-ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, April 30, 1910:

"The Thanhouser Company have completed their production of Jane Eyre and announce it for release on Friday May 6th. The subject is one of the most ambitious efforts made by an Independent manufacturer to date, and the Thanhouser people say that it will surpass their St. Elmo film of a month ago in that it has been produced under better studio conditions and should show the advantages accruing from improved facilities....

"Jane Eyre is left an orphan and penniless at the age of 14. She is adopted by her uncle, who has ample means of providing for her, and who also loves her dearly. Her uncle's kin, however, consider her adoption as an intrusion, do all in their power to prevent her becoming a member of the family. But her uncle insists on her remaining, and during his lifetime she receives some degree of kindness and consideration. Unfortunately, Uncle Reed dies and leaves Jane without a friend in the world. She is sent to an orphan asylum by her unfeeling aunt. Five years later she leaves the asylum to except the position of governess to Lord Rochester's little niece. The child is the daughter of Rochester's dead brother. Her mother has become insane and is living in Lord Rochester's home, under his protection.

"Jane is engaged by Lord Rochester's housekeeper, during his absence from home, and her first meeting with her employer is both exciting and romantic. She is sitting by the edge of the road reading when Lord Rochester rides up to his ancestral home. The sight of his huge dog, coming upon her suddenly, so startles Jane that she jumps to her feet, causing Lord Rochester's horse to shy and throw its rider. He injures his ankle, and has to be assisted to remount by 'the little witch,' as he calls her, who is the cause of his accident. One evening the maniac escapes from her nurse and sets fire to the room in which Lord Rochester has fallen asleep. He is saved from a horrible death by Jane. When next Jane's haughty aunt and cousins call upon Lord Rochester, they are just in time to be introduced to his bride, who is none other than the despised Jane Eyre."

Note: Virtually identical synopses were printed in The Moving Picture World, May 7, 1910, and The Moving Picture News, April 23, 1910.

 

REVIEW, The Morning Telegraph, May 8, 1910:

"The story of Jane Eyre is another popular story which has been dramatized by this company. The photography in the entire film is as good as any film ever shown; the story is told in a direct manner, with nothing which would weaken the story. Only in one section of the film was action lagging. That is when the uncle of Jane Eyre dies and the members of the family of the dead man do not show the proper emotion at their loss. Otherwise the subject is excellent."

 

REVIEW, The Moving Picture World, May 7, 1910:

"The clever work of the latest American Independent manufacturer has been a subject of general comment. We referred last week to the filming of a popular novel by the Thanhouser Company, and this week we were invited to view an advance copy of the film Jane Eyre.

"The story is very clearly told and is acted with a degree of perfection that would do credit to many older concerns. All except one scene in particular, which is supposed to show us a fall from a horse. This could have been suggested far better than it has been reproduced, which looks simply like a clumsy dismount. But apart from this trivial blemish the film is very good. There is an ailment known as caput augmenti which sometimes attacks grownups as well as precocious youngsters, and if more praise is bestowed on Mr. Thanhouser he may succumb to flattery, and be satisfied with the progress that he has made. But, after all, there are many earmarks of inexperience in even his best work, and only time and careful attention to details will round out the quality of his product. This, we know, it is his ambition to do."

 

ADDITIONAL REVIEW, The Moving Picture World, May 21, 1910:

"An excellent dramatization of the main points of Charlotte Brontë's famous story. For two or more generations it has been one of the world's famous novels, and today it is one of the steady sellers in bookstores. The character Jane is supposed to be in some degree autobiographical, which adds materially to the interest of the story. In dramatic qualities the players have succeeded in producing a satisfactory rendition. The most salient features of the book have been taken and these have been so well reproduced that one scarcely misses the rest of the story. The acting is sympathetic and earnest, while the photographic qualities aren't quite up to the standards set in previous films of the same type from this house. Its reproductions of novels have been more than ordinarily successful and one cannot help believing that apart from the amusement thus afforded the company is performing a distinct literary service for its patrons and so graphically and forcefully reproducing these excellent novels."

 

REVIEW, The New York Dramatic Mirror, May 14, 1910:

"This is the best thing the Thanhouser people have yet produced, showing that this young company is continuing to make steady progress towards film perfection. Any novel or play is difficult to arrange and produce in films, and Jane Eyre is probably as hard a job in this line as could have been selected. And yet the Thanhouser producers have presented it, clearly and intelligently, in a way that brings out the vital points of the story with admirable strength and feeling.

"As told in the film, we see Jane Eyre adopted by her uncle, the hatred of her relations, the death of her uncle, her expulsion from the house and consignment to an orphan asylum, her entrance into the household of Lord Rochester as governess, the visit of her relatives, the insane sister-in-law and the fire she causes; the rescue of Rochester by Jane, and the surprise of the relatives when they see Jane safely married to Rochester. The acting is excellent. In one particular, however, it might be improved. The players make too much effort to keep faces to the front - so much so that they sometimes appear to be inattentive to the business at hand."

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Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.