chapter  4
50 Pages

Dramatizing Cranford, 1899–2007

In a brief on-line Daily Telegraph article (telegraph.co.uk, updated November 17, 2007) devoted to the 2007 BBC dramatic adaptation of Cranford-which also folds in material from three other Gaskell stories: “Mr. Harrison’s Confessions” (1851), “My Lady Ludlow” (1858), and “The Last Generation in England” (1849)—emphasis is given to what is framed as an ironic contrast between the well-known cast led by Dame Judi Dench on the one hand, and the obscurity of the narrative on the other. The adaptation was broadcast weekly in the United Kingdom in five parts beginning on November 18, 2007, and although it followed in the wake of the successful BBC adaptation of Dickens’s Bleak House in 2005 and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre in 2006, the producer Sue Birtwistle notes that relying on multiple sources for the adaptation, she, screenwriter Heidi Thomas, and director Simon Curtis “have fashioned a completely original drama.” Thomas extends the point by stating, “To make it strong and muscular, we dropped some characters, amalgamated others, changed their journeys.” The net result, suggests Curtis, is that this Cranford “isn’t like your usual costume drama. Part of the reason for that is the comedy in it, part is the breadth of age and class of the characters, and also there’s the fact that people don’t know the story. […] For most of the audience, Cranford will be a journey into the unexpected” (“Why Cranford is Britain’s hottest town,” telegraph.co.uk updated November 10, 2007).