Charles Dickens: Hard Times adaptations

There have been two adaptations of Charles Dickens’ novel of a Northern industrial town, ‘Hard Times’, both for television.

The 1977 version (ITV):

In 1977 Granada transmitted a four-hour version starring Patrick Allen, Timothy West, Jacqueline Tong, and Alan Dobie.  I first saw this back in 2006, on VHS, and this is what I thought:

“At nearly four hours, this version of ‘Hard Times’, made by Granada TV, scores highly, moving along at a much slower pace than, say, the 1990s version made for children’s television.

The novel by Charles Dickens is not one of his best known; however, in the tale of the mills of Coketown, the pompous self-made mill-owner Bounderby, and the miserable Gradgrind children, worn down by their father’s insistence that facts are the only things one needs in life, he portrays an interesting set of characters that lend themselves well to film adaptation.

As Gradgrind and Bounderby, Patrick Allen and Timothy West are both excellent. Jacqueline Tong is a feisty Louisa, who handles most of her scenes well, while Edward Fox is an oily Harthouse. Alan Dobie completes the main players as mill-hand Stephen Blackpool, a man confined and crushed by fate.

Long unavailable on home video, this adaptation deserves to be seen by a new generation and it is a pity that Dickens’ collections on DVD have generally included the later version which is much shorter and has much less depth.”

Since then a DVD has been made available of the Granada version, distributed by Network.

The 1994 version (BBC):

Made for BBC children’s television, this version was shorter, sparser, and featured Bob Peck and Alan Bates.  My thoughts, also from 2006:

“A basic adaptation of ‘Hard Times’ is lifted above the ordinary by the impressive cast – Bob Peck as Gradgrind, Alan Bates as Bounderby, Dilys Laye as Mrs Sparsit, Richard E Grant as Harthouse, Bill Paterson as Stephen Blackpool, and Harriet Walter as Rachel.

Of course the story is somewhat compacted in a running time not much over an hour and a half, but the omissions are not that puzzling and the story is left easy to follow. The quality of the acting and the script mean that this adaptation isn’t taking its young audience for granted.

Now available as part of a DVD set of Dickens’ works, and well worth buying.”

I didn’t credit Beatie Edney, who played Louisa.  I don’t recall her as much as I do Tong in the Granada version, which may explain why I didn’t refer to her when I first looked at the 1994 adaptation.  The ‘DVD set of Dickens’ works’ I refer to is an American release,  It is also  available on its own and in a Dutch box set if you are looking for a Region 2 version.


About Louise Penn

Writer, reviewer, fan. View all posts by Louise Penn

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