The road to Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell, circa 1860. I like the hint of a smile…she looks like she’s up to something or thinking of a good story. Public domain image, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It’s said that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Gather ’round, people, I have a tale to tell of blogger influence in action. Due to a fellow blogger, RAFrenzy, I found two marvelous books that I might otherwise never have seen.

A few months ago, RAFrenzy was kind enough to stop by and leave a comment on a post. Now I’m the curious type and was intrigued by that blog name, so I followed the link back to RAFrenzy to determine what it was all about. It’s a fan blog devoted to talented British actor Richard Armitage (RA for short). On one side, there’s a list of hyperlinks of the work RA has done.

One of them was the British comedy, “The Vicar of Dibley,” a show featuring Dawn French as a lively female vicar in a remote country village largely populated by people a few cards shy of a full deck. And now I’m really puzzled. I didn’t remember this guy at all in that show, so I did some investigating. It turns out that RA played Harry Kennedy, the vicar’s love interest and eventual husband.

WHHHHAAAAAT??!! The vicar got married? When did that happen?

It happened during the show’s final episodes, which I hadn’t seen. And if you haven’t either, I highly recommend you watch “The Vicar of Dibley: The Handsome Stranger Part 5” on YouTube, which has the most hilarious reaction to a marriage proposal ever filmed in TV history. I didn’t stop laughing until three hours later.

RAFrenzy’s blog also says RA was in “North and South,” a BBC miniseries based on the book of the same name by Elizabeth Gaskell. North and South is about John Thornton, a tough-minded cotton factory owner from northern England, who opposes and then falls for minister’s daughter Margaret Hale, a poor but idealistic woman from the south.

It reminded me a lot of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Here’s a brief video to give you an overview. (The entire miniseries is on YouTube, if anyone wants to watch.)

After watching the excellent miniseries, I got the book from the library to see if it was as good as the miniseries. I’m working my way through it and so far, so good. I also discovered that Gaskell wrote of The Life of Charlotte Brontë, and of course I had to check that out since I love Jane Eyre. So I have two literary treats in store in my near future, thanks to RAFrenzy.

And the funny thing about RA: For an actor I hadn’t known, that boy pops up everywhere now. He played the Nazi spy that blew up the lab after the transformation of Chris Evans in “Captain America,” and he’s also in “The Hobbit” as Thorin Oakenshield.

I guess the “Armitage Army” just got its latest recruit.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “The road to Elizabeth Gaskell

  1. Can you see the grin on my face? So glad you’ve joined up, and I’m glad you didn’t feel I had shanghaied you. Can I say shanghai?

    I look forward to hearing what you think of the book vs. the miniseries.

    • I’m grinning back. I’m so glad you helped me discover these books, the miniseries AND the proposal/wedding episodes of “The Vicar of Dibley”. Priceless.

      And yes, you can say shanghai. I wish we had more actors of RA’s caliber out there.

  2. This is awesome! Richard Armitage is starting to pop up everywhere, finally getting the recognition he deserves for his great acting. Several years ago, I watched those episodes of The Vicar of Dibley, and my cousin thought something was wrong with me, I was shrieking with laughter. When they cast Armitage as Thorin, I knew this movie couldn’t get any better.

    Also, everyone should read Elizabeth Gaskell and watch the BBC movie. In some ways, I think North and South is better than P&P (movie version), but that’s only an opinion. Gaskell also wrote Cranford and Wives & Daughters, which were made into BBC films. Cranford is a “quieter” story, about a village that’s full of mostly women, but when they cast Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, and Imelda Staunton, you know you have film gold.

    Wives and Daughters was Gaskell’s last book, with her dying right before she finished it, but she was so close that BBC was able to finish the story for their mini-series. Both the book and movie are fabulous. Michael Gambon was in this (also in Cranford), but he gets a huge role in this one. Love that man.

    I know I waffle back and forth between the movies and the books, but as a contemporary of Charlotte Bronte, Mrs. Gaskell often gets ignored, compared to the Brontes and Jane Austen. I am thrilled that she’s starting to get more recognition, in recent years, and mainly because the movies were so well done. Now, I love Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy, but Richard Armitage’s Mr. Thornton had me at hello. : )

    Now, how many months left until The Hobbit?

    • LOL! Armitage’s Army is on the move to The Hobbit. Popcorn tubs and movie tickets at the ready. I think it comes out in December 2012, unless it gets postponed. Also, check YouTube — there are some great behind-the-scenes Hobbit videos and Peter Jackson is also keeping a production diary on YouTube.

      My favorite bits are Thornton’s “I’m not sure I know how to dabble” when he responds to Henry Lennox’s attempted putdown at the exhibition and “Look back. Look back at me,” as Margaret’s carriage takes her away from Milton forever. Plus, the part where he talks to the little boy waiting for Higgins to finish his shift. Both Thornton and Higgins are good men, but stubborn. Arrrrgh.

      I’ve seen Cranford and Wives & Daughters, too; both are equally good. Like you said, you just can’t lose with those 3 actresses.

      • Oh, yes, I do really know when The Hobbit’s coming out, it’s more like “I can’t wait that long!” I’m not part of the Armitage Army, but I can still appreciate a good thing when I see it. Those are awesome parts to that movie…never get tired of them. And every time, I’m hoping she’ll turn around! I would have. Never knew a short sentence about dabbling could be such a one-two punch to a guy’s ego. I’m so glad you were shanghaied into watching. The book is excellent, also. I’ve read it several times.

        Last time I watched it, I read it again, right afterwards, and meant to blog about it. But didn’t. Sigh. You get to the end of both and think, how can I ever do justice to either of them? That and I probably got busy doing something else. : ) Let us know what you think of the book when you’re done.

      • I’ll definitely tell more about the book when I finish reading it. Look for it in a future blog post.

  3. Oh!! I really enjoyed “The Vicar of Dibley.”

  4. She also wrote a spooky story….no, not Dawn French!! (although it is possible now she’s moved into fiction) – I’ve read Gaskell in 19th Century Women’s Lit, Victorian Lit and now Gothic Lit (I know, it puzzled me at first!) – “The Nurse’s Story” is only a short story so I’m not sure how you’d track it down outside of the Norton anthologies – but it’s a great little read for a dark and windy winter’s night! As a Northerner, I have to say Gaskell sometimes grates on me a bit; Mary Barton and N&S have a few bits that are not exactly realism but a bit of fantasy for her southern softie upper class readers – as Jim Trott would say, No, no, no….er yes – I’d pay good money to see Dawn French play Margaret Hale though…or John Thornton!

  5. RA is also in MI-5 although I prefer him in more romantic roles.

    • He makes a great Lucas North, doesn’t he? I’ve been watching some of the videos on YouTube about what happens to Lucas North. RA was amazing in this role. What a chameleon he is. It takes a really talented actor to pull that off.

  6. I’m British but I didn’t get into The Vicar of Dibley until quite late on. Fabulously funny as well as moving. This reminds me that Dawn French is in the BBC series of Lark Rise to Candleford and made me cry and laugh as any actor worth their salt should be able to do. Lark Rise was broadcast around the same time as Cranford and is well worth watching. Some of the same good actors appear in Lark Rise such as Julia Sawalha. Yes, I wish there were more good actors of RA’s calibre; there are too many who have no experience and go straight into television without having learned their craft. They gain fame from being on a soap and are then employed on stage where they fail miserably – don’t get me started! As you may have guessed, I am in the same profession though currently trying to earn a living with art and design (hence First Night Art). Your blog is right up my strasse, as some of us say in these parts!

    • Thanks! I wish there were more high-quality programs, period. I’ve been fortunate enough to see some wonderful movies and theatrical productions. I have to admit I am a BBC lover because so much of their work is wonderful. I’m hoping to see a production in the West End someday. That would be so fun.

      Good luck in your acting career. Love your designs. 🙂

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