Some time ago, I did a blog post about the actress who played Fred's maid in the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol, known in Britain as Scrooge. I wrote that viewers loved her, but no one seemed to know who she was. Recently, commenter Paul Tollet told me that he knew: She's his sister's mother-in-law. At the time she appeared in the film, he reported, her name was Theresa Derrington.
I e-mailed Paul, who put me in touch with Theresa's son Matthew Hepenstal, and the two of them supplied some information about her life and career. Her nickname is "Trip," as she was one of triplets. She attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and played only a few roles onstage and in films before marrying in 1951. She and her husband had five children. She was widowed and later married again; her last name is now Cozens-Hardy.
In brief -- this was a fairly good adaptation, all told. The cast, with a few exceptions, was really excellent, with Bill Paterson's Stephen and Beatie Edney's Louisa being the standouts. And even though it looked like they'd been given about $1.50 to spend on the sets, somehow they made it work. (I can't say as much for the soundtrack, though, which sounded equally cheap and much less effective.) The biggest problem, by far, was the uneven pacing. I wouldn't recommend this film before reading the book -- it would be easy to get lost in the "muddle," as Stephen would say. But it makes a decent supplement to the book.
And we're into the home stretch. Nice little monologue in a mirror for Richard E. Grant. Still don't feel that his look is quite right, but I really can't fault his acting. He's done a fantastic job. Sissy's acting, however, strikes me as a little flat. And she wears her hair down for no reason, a la Billie Piper in Mansfield Park.
The sets for this movie are sparse, but effective. You see Stephen walking past a never-ending brick wall with humungous "VOTE FOR THOMAS GRADGRIND" posters every few feet, you don't need much else.
Finally Harriet Walter gets a full scene. She's not an actress I would have thought of for this role, but she makes a good thing of it, in a quiet, austere way. And she's a nice foil to Bill Paterson's passionate Stephen.
You guys, I have to get you a screencap of Mr. Gradgrind's blackboard. The stuff on it would give nightmares to a graduate student in calculus. And it's so big he has to climb a ladder to get to the top of it, no joke!
The pacing here is a bit rushed -- probably because it's only 104 minutes. If I didn't know the story, I'm not sure how well I'd be able to follow it.
About that vote on which film or miniseries I should recap -- we had an interesting split. All the voters on this site wanted Hard Times, and all the voters in the Dickensblog Facebook group wanted Martin Chuzzlewit! But there were four voters here and three voters over there, which means Hard Times wins. With any luck, I'll get to it, or at least start it, this weekend!