Radio Times 22-28 September 1973

Michael Jayston as Rochester and Sorcha Cusack as Jane

A new dramatisation of Charlotte Bronte's most famous novel. Set in the mid-19th century England, the moving story of an unwanted orphan girl; of her spirited fight against adversity and her search for love and happiness in a harsh class-ridden society.

Sorcha Cusack, who plays Jane, by Bronte Cottages, Cowan Bridge, once a school attended by four of the Bronte sisters. "Though the cottages haven't been a school for a long time, I was very surprised they were so pleasant and cheerful looking. Jane is externally submissive, saying "Yes sir, no Sir" but mentally she never relinquishes her ideas. She plays her role, but she makes sure that Rochester knows her mind."

Michael Jayston, who plays Rochester, in front of Norton Conyers, near Ripon; it may have been the model of Thornfield Hall. "I'd love to live in a place like this. It's much easier to imagine a fire burning in Renishaw, which we actually used for the filming. There there would be no escape; here you could jump out of even the top windows. Rochester is all women's ideal of a man; arrogant yet strangely vulnerable."

The Stage and Television, October 4, 1973 "Jane Eyre"

FAMILIARITY breeds respect might be a new adage following BBC's well cast and well written first part of Charlotte Bronte's unfailing story, Jane Eyre.

Joan Craft, the director, in company with Robin Chapman who has dramatised the piece, are obviously in no hurry to rush the storyline and have wisely contented themselves to let the atmosphere grow round their central character as we see her bloom from childhood to womanhood in the last ten minutes of their first act.

Certainly the job of all good story-telling in episodes is to lead us somewhere where we can indulge our own brinkmanship as we patiently wait for the next event. The Forsytes got us into the habit and serialisation has gone on its stylish if sometimes mundane way ever since, pulling down the classics and giving them a good dusting plus some excellent illustrations. If may not be the stuff of which dreams are made but when it comes to sitting in your armchair you can't beat a good Bronte.

With so much concentration on the childhood of young Jane I feared the worst but found in Juliet Waley a tough spirit beneath the pudgy charm. Combining the child Jane's face with the remembrances of the novel read Sorcha Cusack, who was thus always hovering at a comforting distance, proved in no way distracting. It was simple and effective. Yet always the story lived on the edge of climax with each new moment of the poor Jane Eyre struggling with her fortune and absorbing the charisma of others.

The manners of a selfish middle-class family dealing with snobbery and general 19th century beastliness to a child that has been foisted on them was adroitly handled. The scene in which Jane speaks her mind to the hypocritical Mrs. Reed gave Jean Harvey a chance to show the disintegration from smugness to uncertainty beneath the truthful eyes of a victim who is clearly seeing her benefactor for what she truly is. And of course, to support the insupportable Mrs. Reed, we have the classic schoolmaster, bible-punching arch hypocrite himself - Mr. Brocklehurst, who is written and recalled with relish both by Bronte and Chapman.

One can't really miss the target with these outsize pompous gentlemen who always seem to be on the verge of eating an enormous dinner at the end of every sentence. John Phillips brings of a fine study within that period convention; perhaps it could have done with slightly deeper self-realisation to avoid the trap of over commenting on the character. But all was saved in the final moment when his greed and neglect earned their reward of fortune with an outbreak of typhus at his wretched charitable institution. At the gentlemen investigators left with no doubt about the blame, John Phillip's face was in ever sense "a picture."

The removal of Jane Eyre from the Reeds' home in order to go to Mr. Brocklehurst's establishment allowed for some nice travelling shots of the bleak Yorkshire moors and a tinge of the troubles in store. Jane one felt was getting an experience, a dramatic factor some serials could learn to effect. Progress is not just moving on to something else.

Inside the Institution the teaching and the under-nourishment of pupils' was given economic treatment culminating in the fearful ordeal of Jane being named a liar before everyone. The dastardly Brocklehurst was soon to be laid low but not before we had the chance of a splendid study of Helen Burns from Tina Heath who is later to die of consumption. Such deaths are always bothering because romance will have them so clean and tidy; but Bronte couldn't have made her point in a mess.

The tempo changed quickly with the death of Helen and at last we came to Sorcha Cusack complete in the bonnet and cloak of all traditional Janes.

Things are looking promising from these last few moments with Megs Jenkins, warm as a hot water bottle in the part of Mrs. Fairfax as she takes Jane round Mr. Rochester's imposing Thornfield Hall. In her room Jane hears the strange laugh echoing down the corridors for the first time; a fact Sorcha Cusack stepped over lightly (thank goodness) and out in the night Jane Eyre's fancy and fear is suddenly arrested by the arrival of Mr. Rochester (Michael Jayston himself to the life) as she sees him fall cursing his horse, and runs to his side. In the last shot of them together there was that satisfying notion that Jane Eyre was really going to work - but then it always does.

Adrian Rendle

The Guardian, October 29, 1973 "The actors never had a chance..."


'The actors never had a chance... What one complains of is not lack of literary fidelity to a great pulp novel but lack of imagination'

AS I SAID last Friday week (that may sound like a touch of the Harold Wilsons but I vow it's just the humiliating awareness that you don't all memorise every word I cast before you): "Let us for today be charitable and leave BBC-2's production of 'Jane Eyre' to plod towards whatever climactic conflagration it can manage by rubbing two wooden actors together."

Lud, what rustling of petticoats followed! Unfair, cried one of this newspaper's women-about-the-world, cursing the car that had failed to get her from the airport in time for episode four. Unfair, reproved some handful of readers, moved to pre-emptive letter bombs by the mere anticipation of what onslaught might be instore. Unfair- well, just a bit, old chap- opined even our esteemed film critic, who agreed the production was not what it might be but thought I was shaping to be a bit hard on the two principals.

And that, gentle reader, is the nearest to recognition of the other fellow's point of view you'll get out of me this day. It is not for want of trying. Indeed, there is a point on the descending scale from dull through inept and misconceived to downright horrid, at which the viewer is forced to ask himself whether he is not the one who is wrong; surely some inability to get on the right wavelength, to see the aim of the creators and not just his own preconceptions, stands between him and true appreciation. The only hypothesis this line produced, however, was that the producer, John McRae, the director, Joan Craft, and all who drowned under them, being impressed perhaps with Mr. Brook's playing of "Midsummer Night's Dream" in a white squase court, or Dr. Miller's Edwardian-bourgeois "Merchant of Venice," could see some special merit in playing "Jane Eyre" in the manner of a weekly rep with the actor-manager fallen ill.

On the whole that seemed unlikely. The charade presented weekly before us for the last five weeks was probably caused more by a series of interlocking errors than any grand design. Since no Wolfit-figure had planned it all round his own Rochester, we can only say that Michael Jayston, admirable on many other occasions, was miscast: even had script and direction allowed it, there was no glimmer of the magnetic disregarder of conventions in him, nor even the physical sense of a man forty-ish, twice Jane's age, from all of which the book draws its central sexual dynamic.

That gone, the script itself and the style of direction were left to carry a weight for which they were quite unfitted. It is a difficult task. Miss Bronte is much given to dialogue of this sort:

"Cruel, cruel deserter!" Oh, Jane, what did I feel when I discovered you had fled from Thornfield, and when I could nowhere find you: and, after examining your apartment, ascertained that you had taken no money, nor anything which could serve as an equivalent!"

What did he feel, indeed! That anyone who gets that far into what is undeniably one of the most enduring of schoolgirl romances (albeit for an audience far wider than schoolgirls) senses precisely what Mr. Rochester felt is a tribute to the novelist's ability to build a world of the imagination, not to her ear for speech. To dramatise it, give it someone else's flesh, is to take a huge risk. Robin Chapman's version stayed faithful to the word as written, but, by relying heavily on an off-screen narrator limiting the scope for extended scenes, put the snatches of dialogue into even more naked exposure.

The actors never had a chance to find a convincing style for speaking the stuff and Joan Craft's direction taking fright at an early stage and flitting irrelevantly just as a French's acting edition seeks every chance to make someone move, compounded the damage. In a story in which intensity of feeling is everything, the characters never made contact.

Yet, paradoxically, what one complains of is not lack of literal fidelity, to what is in some eyes a great pulp novel of mainly historical interest and certainly not Charlotte's best, but lack of imagination. Before the four hours were more than half through one was willing to argue that Hollywood, rewrites, burning houses, flashback cliches, and all, would have caught the spirit of the thing better, shorter.

And, as if by way of proof, and reproof, there on the other channel was "The Brontes of Haworth," Christopher Fry's four-part biographical drama. There was a moment early in that when Charlotte, announcing to her sisters that she had begun a novel too, sat demurely at her desk before a blank piece of paper, and with great care inscribed ... "Jane ... Eyre." Pure Hollywood, of course, sending treasured memories scampering but more emotionally resonant than anything in the tele-version of the book itself.

The parallel is more precise than might appear at first glance because the story of the Brontes, their confined lives, frustration, privations, and early deaths packs as powerful a punch to the sympathetic system as any of the girls' expressions of it. You might say it couldn't go wrong. In a recent BBC-2 series on writers' homes Margaret Drabble walked us round Haworth, pointed out pictures, memorabilia, and was spell-binding.

Both, too, were creative fictions, approximations to their sources: "Jane Eyre" in putting actors to a novel. "The Brontes" in inventing lives for real people, both compromising through limitations of time.

Yet "The Brontes," less trapped seemed indisputably more truthful. Marc Miller's production and Fry's work used words sparely, pictures beautifully, even music more than is the British habit. The work behind it was always evident, producing fine performances from every principal, the Brontes for our time.

Women's Realm, October 1973 "Man of History"

Excerpt from an interview with Michael Jayston
When we met, Michael had just fnished playing, by way of a change, one of the most famous fictional characters in English literature, Mr. Rochester, in the BBC's new serialization of Jane Eyre. "It was marvellous stuff to do, a part you can really get your teeth into. I played it once before at drama school, though obviously I was much too young. It was when the film version, with Orson Welles as Rochester, came out, and I thought he was dreadful! He looked magnificent, but I don't think American actors can cope with period dialogue."

Lecturas, 25 June 1976
"Jane Eyre" again on Television

Originally in Spanish with the title ""JANE EYRE", DE NUEVO EN LA PEQUENA PANTALLA"

The new adaptation star Sorcha Cusack who portrays the heroine of the story and Michael Jayston –the star of such productions as "Cromwell", "Nicholas and Alexandra", - the aristocrat who falls in love with Jane.

The distribution of the amazing series "Forsyte Saga" all over the world has brought a more than deserved international prestige to the British channel BBC for the literary adaptations for the television, fame that has built itself afterwards with some other international triumphs of the British public television as: "The Six Wives of Henry VIII", "Elizabeth R", "War and Peace", all these productions (having been) broadcasted by the Spanish RTV. Now a new BBC production is coming to Spain , a new adaptation of a classical work which, like the other series, has been made with the biggest stringency and quality which can already be considered as the brand of the house. It is about the greatest adaptation of "Jane Eyre", Charlotte Bronte's immortal novel which was written by Robin Chapman, a veteran and brilliant collaborator of the BBC who has changed his role partly at least in some of the most popular earlier mentioned productions.

The series "Jane Eyre" gathers in its five episodes of almost one hour each, the story of an orphan girl of modest origin who spends her adolescence in a charitable establishment with no good future prospectives till, as an answer to her application, she is employed in the sumptuous residence of Thornfield Hall as a servant. Jane believes she is living a dream when Mr. Rochester confesses his love for her and his wish to make her his wife. But everything seems to be real and it is a beautiful reality which Jane’s illusions revive in after so many years of misery and unhappy life. At the end though, everything collapses when a little after the beginning of the wedding ceremony, when Jane would have became Mrs. Rochester, his present wife, a mad woman appears to put a definitive end to the hope of happiness of the young and poor heroine. Bronte's novel which has engendered numerous radio and television as well as theatrical and for cinema adaptations is a marvelous work of the descriptions and of the narrative style. It is about a theme and a statement which will never lose their importance with the pass of the years and constantly is the source of other new adaptations. A few years ago "Jane Eyre" was adapted for the screen for the North American audience where it was broadcasted with a great success than the producers has decided to distribute it all over the world through the commercial circuits. The actress Susannah York and the famous George C. Scott were encharged to bring to life the main characters of the story. Scott made an excellent Rochester and he received an "Emmy" for his interpretation.

In this series, the main characters of the novel are performed by two actors well known in England but almost unknown in Spain . Jane is played by Sorcha Cusack, a young actress who has accomplished a great career on the British stage and who has become one of the most popular actresses on British television especially by means of her interpretation from this series which was broadcasted on the Channel 2 from the BBC. Her activity as an actress is still unknown to us but her acting talent is granted with an undisputable respect knowing the fact that Sorcha is the elder daughter of the one of the most admired actors of the British cinema and theatre: Cyril Cusack , a professional master among the actors. Our readers must remember his acting among many others productions, in movies such as "Farenheit 451" by Truffaut and more recently in “Galileo Galilei” by Liliana Cavani. Sorcha has decided to follow her father’s career as her sister has done it too, the lovely Sinead Cusack who also has been accomplishing a brilliant career as an actress.

Rochester ’s character is played by another exceptional British actor, Michael Jayston who has gained his experience in theatre and has practically performed all of classic and whose popularity in theatre and cinema is an established fact. Curiously, Michael Jayston is closely attached to our country because it is here where he realized his debut in cinema playing one of the main characters in "Cromwell" on Spanish ground. He knows now an international acknowledgement due to “Nicholas and Alexandra” which was broadcasted in Spain by the producer Sam Spiegel.

After that, Jayston has performed in many remarkable movies such as: “Bequest to the Nation” where he played with Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch, "Follow Me!" with Topol and Mia Farrow and recently “Internecine Project’’ with James Corburn. Jayston who is trying to always alternate in the best way his activity in theatre, television and cinema, has just finished a season with the National British Company and he is preparing to play in another television series "Quiller" , a series inspired by the movie with the same name, a part played some years ago by the popular North American actor George Segal.

Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston, are two young and famous actors who revive the immortal and well known characters with a praiseworthy stringency than this new series can be an example of how it should be realized as a television adaptation after a classical work of the universal literature, a work which remains forever present because, after all, the human passions don’t know different fashions and Charlotte Bronte knew to show this in a such a remarkable way in her novel.

The Washington Post July 21, 1982, Wednesday, Final Edition
TV Brings 'Jane Eyre' to Life

By Henry Mitchell:

Women, as I understand it, are endlessly impressed by jerks and bounders, especially if called on to be the means of reform and general salvation."I saw it in your eyes," the fellow commonly says, "that you would be the means of my return to something more noble, more innocent, zub, zub, zub."

At this point the lady swoons away, taking care to collapse in the general direction of the cad's arms.

Now whether this is the usual case in real life I hardly know, but it certainly works well enough in Victorian fiction by Charlotte Bronte ,notably in her masterpiece, "Jane Eyre," which came out in 1847 and has been a tremendous favorite of the gentle gender ever since. I well remember hearing girls talk about it when I was in school, and always wondered what or who the hell Jane Eyre was. Then many of us heard it read aloud at one point on public radio, with great effect. Bronte is a gripping writer, always luring the reader along with the promise (adequately fulfilled) of something new going on.

At 8 tonight you may see the story dramatized on Channel 26, the first of four hour-long segments [This is obviously the truncated version. there are 5 episodes but the first one was cut from American airings] produced by the British Broadcasting Corp. in living, as they say, color that allows the hero to sing the praises of a cold gray house (before us in warm tawny Ham stone, I would guess) and a steel sky that looked fairly suitable for bluebirds.

But the audience for which Miss Bronte wrote has never been known to care a fried fandango whether a house is gray or scarlet as long as the love story moves with all deliberate speed; and (allowing for 1847) it certainly does. Jane is played by Sorcha Cusack, a young woman of dandy articulation and considerable beauty. It is an odd sort of beauty, suggesting the Mona Lisa touched with Orphan Annie and this may be the place to say the owner's hound is far too handsome to be left outdoors all the time. Jane is an orphan--though I do not think that is why Orphan Annie came to mind--who for some years has attended a charity school and has wound up as governess for the the young ward of a Mr. Rochester. All this goes on in Yorkshire in a grim-looking house with a fine fire place worth admiring.The hero, this Mr. Rochester, frequently drops broad hints of a previously dissolute life, the main feature of which (thus far) was a fling with aParisian opera girl. Perhaps that is the same as an opera singer? No matter, she lured good English gold out of Mr. Rochester's honest English breeches,which the actor, Michael Jayston, calls breaches as in breaches of faith.

It is known that the Brits, especially in their lower reaches, are impossible to understand; nevertheless, every word of the hour is beautifully delivered and comprehensible, a rare thing on television."Is there a flood?" cries Mr. Rochester, waking suddenly in his bedroom as Miss Eyre throws a bucket of water on him."No, but there is a fire," she cries and sure enough, the bed hangings are ablaze. Rochester notes that Jane has saved him from a horrible death and the hour ends with a beautiful, tender "Jane," spoken softly and with skill by Jayston. Long before this, however, you will have little doubt that things are going to warm up in a most wonderful way between the squire and the governess, and we shall not be disappointed in our surmise as later hours unfold. The intonations of Jayston, by which he virtually makes love while delivering rather cool lines, are notable and effective and and probably are rolling the author about in her grave. But maybe not. The strong current of sex was apparently not only felt but rather carefully channeled by Charlotte Bronte.

The dialogue is not, of course, the sort we are used to in the theater today. It is artificial--it is hardly conceivable an 18-year-old orphan raised any which way should speak rather like Dame Judith Anderson--and is designed to reveal character. It does, I confess, get rather in the way ofthe hot love story people are patiently waiting for, but then art has its price.

At its best, it sounds like Jane Austen through a glass darkly and that is very good indeed. The hero's ward (identified as the child of the unmarried opera girl, from "the mud and slime of Paris," don't forget that) is fetchingly played by a charming child, Isabelle Rosin, though there are times one joins with her curator, Mr. Rochester, in wishing to pitch her in that handsome fireplace. The point is she is believable, as infant actresses rarely are. Furthermore, old Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper, and the other minor characters are agreeable. I suppose the dog is a deerhound. You have surely noticed that novels sometimes have an interior power that is evidently independent of their surface mannerisms and (to us) hilarities."Jane Eyre" has leapt the time barrier far better than most novels. It seems to me girls were about 15 when they had fits about it, and maybe they still do."

The New York Times July 18, 1982, Sunday, Late City Final Edition
A New Jane

BYLINE: By Eleanor Blau

'Jane Eyre,'' the Charlotte Bronte novel, arrives on Channel 13 in four parts starting Wednesday evening at 8, offering a new look at a much-filmed heroine. Jane, hired as a governess at that mysterious house, Thornfield Hall, headed by the romantic and tyrannical Mr. Rochester, has inspired at least three pre-talkie films and two with sound: in 1934 (with Virginia Bruce and Colin Clive), and in 1944 (Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles). There was even a Broadway version in 1958 (Jan Brooks and Eric Portman) and a 1971 television movie (Susannah York and George C. Scott).

In this BBC version, starring Sorcha Cusack (daughter of the actor Cyril Cusack) and Michael Jayston, Jane will tell her own story - as she does in the first-person novel. According to Robin Chapman, the novelist and playwright who did the adaptation, ''usually when people dramatize 'Jane Eyre' they take away the narrative voice-over of Jane herself and this turns the book on its head.

''I think Charlotte Bronte was an early feminist,'' Mr. Chapman said last week speaking by phone from England. ''She debunks the Byronic glamour associated with Rochester.'' The first view we get of Rochester is a typically romantic, macho one, riding a horse - but he falls, Mr. Chapman noted. And by the time Jane is reunited with him at the end of the novel, ''he is reduced to a human being.'' He has been blinded but some of his sight is being restored. ''It's very much a parable,'' Mr. Chapman said.

The New York Times July 21, 1982


THE idle question comes to mind with the start tonight at 8 o'clock of a four-part dramatization of ''Jane Eyre'' on WNET-TV, and it asks whether anyone reads the Charlotte Bronte novel in its print original anymore.

Certainly ''Jane Eyre'' has over the years become almost as familiar on film and television. Its attraction for those who work in eye and ear is obvious, what with the story's linear development and exterior action between people, that is, its lack of dependency on interior thought in one person's mind. Its language is a mannered, ornate English that can only delight a performer and a listener. Also, a general spookiness and a tendency toward catastrophes do not hurt in this respect.

The new series, made by the BBC, brings us this 19th-century melodrama about caste and class in old England and about the steadfast honesty of a young woman seeking happiness while out to do the right thing. It is impeccably done, to judge from the first part, and appears to be faithful to the book, but perhaps because of this faithfulness it does not catch fire. It is an enactment from the book, and one must judge for oneself whether to honor or deprecate it for its literary fidelity.

As its heroine, Sorcha Cusack makes an uncommonly strong, yet reserved, Jane. She is not pretty but has a quiet beauty enhanced by a slight smile and an expression that is attractively quizzical. Her soft voice supplies bridging text from the book between scenes. Michael Jayston is craggily handsome and strong and more theatrical in his portrayal of Rochester, the imperious, troubled master whose service she enters and whose heart she captures.

The settings and casting are exactly what one imagines ''Jane Eyre'' should look like like if translated from writing. Perhaps this series will encourage viewers to take the book off the shelf or, contrarily, it might have the effect of relieving them of guilt for not having read it. They will already know how it all works out.

Doctor Who Magazine, 17 Nov 1999 "Michael Jayston: Pointing the Finger" by Chris Howarth and Steve Lyons

Excerpt from an interview

Doctor Who, however, wasn’t Michael’s first experience of fan adoration. “I did Jane Eyre years ago, about 1971, that was probably the biggest. I got about 200 letters from that altogether, mainly from adolescents. If any lady says to me, ‘I liked you in Jane Eyre,’ I virtually know how old they are.” Kind of the Colin Firth of the time then? “It is strange, you do a classic like that and there’s no nudity, nothing really sexy but it’s what’s not seen I suppose.”

Retrospect, 14 October 2006
Vanished Into Thin Eyre

For some actors, their lead role in JANE EYRE launched a brilliant career, but for others it was the road to obscurity. LISA SEWARDS finds out why it's such a mixed blessing.

"Unknown actress Ruth Wilson has shot to fame as Jane Eyre in the BBC's current adaptation of the classic novel. The series, one would assume, would guarantee her a glittering thespian future. Costume dramas are often a springboard to fame and fortune for young actors: Samantha Morton was 20 when she played Jane in 1997 and then went on to star in Minority Report with Tom Cruise and Enduring Love opposite Daniel Craig. But they can also be a one-way ticket to professional oblivion. Here, we find out what happened to previous Janes and Mr Rochesters, and why they now look at the role as a double-edged sword.

SUSANNAH YORK starred with George C. Scott in the 1970 version of the film. Susannah, 64, is starring in a touring production of The Wings Of The Dove next year. As well as acting, she also writes film scripts. She recalls: At the time I was asked to play the role of Jane, I was quite hot, so to speak. Offers were coming fast and furious, so I was delighted when I got the part. I loved the book and it was a part I had always wanted. I was bewildered and upset, however, when people said I was too pretty to play a plain governess. I have always thought of myself as a character actress and I longed to be noted for my acting ability and hated it when people paid attention to my appearance.

I've never thought of myself as pretty and truly felt I was Jane. She's not a showy character, but she is still passionate, and that's what I liked about her. People are also saying that Ruth Wilson is too pretty. But I think she has just the right qualities and seems to have the same view and feel of, and feeling for, Jane that I did.

My co-star, George, was a big, craggy, gruff creature, and he was great for a chat. But our approach to filming was totally different. I liked to rehearse, but he would do a scene in one take then go back to playing backgammon. I thought he made a pretty good Rochester, though, as he had a real presence; although he was perhaps a bit too old. I must confess that I have yet to see my perfect Mr Rochester. Even Toby Stephens in the current adaptation, while a great actor, is not the Rochester of the book as he's a bit too young.

I wouldn't say I was typecast, but people tended to see me as a more serious actor afterwards. As a result, although I refuse to accept it when people put limitations on me, I'll admit that it hasn't always been easy to get roles since.

I don't regret playing Jane, though. It was a brilliant part. Usually I curl up with embarrassment when I watch my performances, but when I watched my version of Jane Eyre, it seemed to me that I had struck the right note.

MICHAEL JAYSTON played Mr Rochester to Sorcha Cusack's Jane in the 1973 BBC miniseries of Jane Eyre. Michael, 70, currently on tour with the play Heroes, says: I landed the role of Rochester as a result of a practical joke. My then wife, Heather, sent a funny letter to the director, Joan Craft, saying, "It's about time Michael played Rochester", and we used to think that I got the part as a result.

Looking back, though, I was on a roll at the time. I'd just come from playing several highprofile roles such as Tsar Nicholas II in Nicholas And Alexandra, and A Bequest To The Nation opposite Glenda Jackson. And here was the ultimate romantic part.

Sorcha was only 23 and I was 37. People said there was an electrifying chemistry between us, which was true. I did find her attractive, but we kept things quite jokey on the set to alleviate the intensity. It's not that romantic performing love scenes on a cold morning at 8am, with a props guy holding a hot fan right next to you to stop your lips freezing. Professionally, playing Rochester didn't do me much good. I never played a romantic part on TV after that. I was baffled because when it was shown on TV, I received the biggest fan mail I've ever had.

SORCHA CUSACK, 57, never made the big time after playing Jane Eyre, but has had roles in such shows as Morse, Casualty and North And South. She is currently starring in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Romeo And Juliet. She says: Jane Eyre was my first TV job and, to be honest, I felt I was rather hopeless. With no major roles under my belt, my performance was flat. I was very lucky to get the role in the first place and I think I got the part because I'm plain-looking and, because I was born and bred in Ireland, I was ten years behind other girls in terms of sophistication. Both were key ingredients to the character.

As a child, people were always saying, "Isn't Sinead [her actress sister] gorgeous?" But my look was perfect for Jane. Rochester, Michael Jayston, said, "After this you'll be huge," and, while we were filming, I did go to my bank manager and say, "I won't need the overdraft any more." But I did need it as I didn't get any big breaks afterwards. There was plenty of work, but not a role that changed the course of my career.

Lots of theatre work followed, but several years after playing Jane, I put my career on hold for a while to return to Ireland to care for my late mother, who had heart problems. It's nice looking back on the whole Jane Eyre period, and it's lovely that I still get letters saying, "You'll always be my Jane."

ZELAH CLARKE starred in the lavish 1983 BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre opposite Timothy Dalton, who was said to be too handsome to play the brooding Rochester. Zelah, 52, says: Jane Eyre is the ultimate poisoned chalice. Everyone remembers the Rochesters, but no one recalls the Janes. I hoped the role might be a springboard; I never thought it would force me to retire. Before Jane Eyre I had done lots of TV costume dramas, but not a lead role, so I was thrilled when I got the part. Tim Dalton wasn"t a superstar then; in fact, I had more TV experience than him.

It was depressing when things suddenly stopped after Jane Eyre, especially as I had no idea why. But then I got married and my life changed. There is something undignified about old actors scraping around for work. I would never go back into the theatre; it ruins your social life and breaks up families. If I hadn't done Jane Eyre, perhaps I'd have felt that I hadn't proved myself. But I did and I have. Now, looking at the series, it seems old-fashioned, but I was pleased with my performance. Between roles I became interested in art, so perhaps I didn't have such a desire to be a famous actress after all."

Interview with Sorcha Cusack

(On November 25, 2014 I received an answer to a fan letter I wrote Sorcha Cusack and she was kind enough to answer these questions I sent about her time filming Jane Eyre)

1. When did you read “Jane Eyre” for the first time and do you remember your first impressions of the novel?”

I’m afraid Wuthering Heights made a far more memorable impression though I remember most vividly the early chapters in J.Eyre: the cruelty of the Reeds and the death of Helen Burns. The fact that I read it when I was about 11 no doubt accounts for this.

2. How did you get the role of Jane? And how did you prepare for the role? Did you watch any previous performances of the character?

I had 2 BBC auditions that day. At the first, for The Pallisers the director asked me where I hoped to be in 20 years time - my totally precocious answer was: ‘Playing Phedre at the Comedie Francaise! They roared with laughter. The director of Jane Eyre was next door and intrigued to know the cause of such hilarity, so the ice was broken and my nerves left.

3. How was the first meeting with Michael Jayston? Did you know about him before? Did you find working with him easy?

Michael and I shared the same agent and he had just starred in Nicholas and Alexandra so I knew about him. He was immeasurably kind, patient and fun with a young inexperienced me.

4. What did you find difficult about the role or the filming?

Just self-doubt!

5. Are there special, good memories you have about the filming?

It was over 40 years ago but a couple of people who worked on it have remained friends. Michael + I have bumped into each other from time to time - usually following each other into theatres on tour.

6. This will probably be hard to remember - but can you tell us if there were any big scenes that were filmed but subsequently cut from the series?

- I really can’t remember.

7. Any funny stories or bits of trivia you can share about the filming and/or the cast?


8. Did you get to keep any souvenirs from the shoot- props or costumes?


9. Have you seen the series again since 1973? Do you own the DVD?

I think I watched bits of it with my children and the DVD is somewhere hidden beneath a hundred shows.

10. What do you think of other adaptations of “Jane Eyre”? Any favorite versions?

I remember enjoying Samantha Morton + Ciaran Hinds in a 1997 ish version

Article Citations

Radio Times 22-8 Sept 1973
Radio Times 8 Nov 1973 (letter from Mrs. Veronica White)
Sheffield Star 16 Apr 1973 (account of filming in Chatsworth)

[Southend] Evening Echo 4 Oct 1973
Bournemouth Evening Echo 22 Sept 1973
Daily Telegraph 24 Sept 1973 and 28 Sept 1973
Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph 27 Sept 1973
[Ipswich] Evening Star 28 Sept 1973
Derbyshire Times 28 Sept 1973
The Times 28 Sept 1973 and 29 Sept 1973 (identical)
Colchester Evening Gazette 1 Oct 1973
Shields Gazette 3 Oct 1973
Lancashire Evening Post 4 Oct 1973 and 16 Nov 1973
Banstead Herald 4 Oct 1973
Croydon Advertiser 5 Oct 1973 (musical introduction is Elgar's Introduction and Allegro for strings)
Bernard Davies Broadcast 12 Oct 1973
Sunday Times 21 Oct 1973 (picture only)
Patricia Smith Southern Evening Echo 26 Oct 1973
Peter Fiddick Guardian 29 Oct 1973
Justice of the Peace 3 Nov 1973

Source: Nudd, Donna Marie, 'Bibliography of Film, Television and Stage Adaptations of Jane Eyre'