Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Beyond the obvious need to lure the American public away from their TV sets with size and spectacle impossible to match on the small screen, I’m not sure I've ever been totally clear on the thought process behind the '60s epic. I can understand when the subject’s a heroic historical figure (Lawrence of Arabia), or the backdrop is something as broad in scope as the Russian Revolution (Doctor Zhivago); but when the roadshow treatment (widescreen, two-plus-hours running time, reserved seats, intermission) is imposed upon relatively intimate stories of love, relationships, and the flaws of character that lead to tragedy (Ryan’s Daughter), I can’t help but feel that the outsized visual scale of the epic can sometimes work to undermine the effectiveness of the human drama. Such is what I find to be the case with John Schlesinger’s otherwise superior adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd.
Julie Christie as Bathsheba Everdine
Alan Bates as Gabriel Oak 
Terence Stamp as Sergeant Frank Troy
Peter Finch as William Boldwood
In earlier posts, I've expressed my weakness for visual ostentation and how readily I’m able to overlook a film’s shortcomings when its deficiencies are mitigated by a certain stylistic panache. However, the impressive cast John Schlesinger assembled for Far From the Madding Crowd is so fascinating in their own right (Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Peter Finch, and Terence Stamp) that all the pomp and spectacle of the production values surrounding them makes a perfect case against the need to gild the lily.
Far from the Madding Crowd is an outsized film of subtle emotions that might have benefited greatly from the kind of intimate style employed by Ken Russell for his adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's  Women in Love.

MGM’s handing over the reins of a $4 million adaptation of a Thomas Hardy classic to the creative team behind the modestly-funded, ultra-mod, youth-culture hit, Darling (1965), was either an inspired stroke of genius or a simple act of crass commercialism. Inspired, certainly, in conjecturing that the very contemporary talents of producer Joseph Janni, director John Schlesinger, screenwriter Frederic Raphael, and actress Julie Christie (with the added assist of her Fahrenheit 451 cinematographer, Nicolas Roeg) could bring to this Victorian-era period piece the same verve and freshness they brought to their cynical evisceration of swinging London. Crassly commercial, undeniably, in a studio attempting to hit boxoffice paydirt merely by reassembling the hot-property talents of a current success, heedless of their suitability to the material at hand.
While I tend to think MGM was thinking with their pocketbooks more than their heads (Hollywood at the time was literally throwing open its doors to any and everyone who displayed the slightest trace of knowing what young audiences were looking for), I have to also admit that in many ways, Thomas Hardy’s take on Wessex countryside life in 1874 and Schlesinger’s view of 1965 London are a better fit than first glance would reveal.
Bathsheba finds herself the focus of the amorous attentions of three men

As embodied by Julie Christie, Far From the Madding Crowd’s Bathsheba Everdine is easily the spiritual cousin of Darling’s Diana Scott. While lacking Diana’s heartlessness, Bathsheba, like Diana, is of an individualistic, determined, and headstrong nature, tempered by the foibles of pride, vanity, and a kind of reckless self-enchantment with her own powers of allure. Nowhere near as passive as Hardy’s most popular heroine, the unfortunate Tess of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Bathsheba is a non-heroic heroine of unfailingly human-sized passions and idiosyncrasies. Conflictingly led by her heart, her indomitability, and a barely-masked need to have her beauty regarded by others—for no reason beyond the immature, yet very human desire to be reassured of their worth from time to time—Bathsheba is less the traditional romantic heroine ruled by her passions than a kind of rural Circe, bewitching and dooming the hapless men who cross her path.
Self Enchanted
A landowner, a businesswoman, and an independent spirit 

I’m not one to demand that a film adaptation of a book hew slavishly to the written word. Of course, I love it when a film made from a favorite novel is translated to the screen in terms compliant to the way I envisioned it (Goodbye, Columbus), but I’m just as happy if a filmmaker deviates from the text if they are able to unearth something new, something wholly cinematic that captures the book’s essence, if not its exact plot (Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining). I only got around to reading Far From the Madding Crowd last year, some 34 years after I saw the film version, and beyond the then-controversial casting of the blond Christie in the role of the fiery brunette Bathsheba, I found Schlesinger’s film to be surprisingly faithful to the book.
A highlight of both the book and the film is the "swordplay" seduction scene

Perhaps too faithful, as the self-deprecating director indicated to biographer William J. Mann in the biographical memoir, The Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger. In addressing claims that the film was far too long and atypically slow in pacing, Schlesinger lamented: “We didn't take enough liberty with the film because we were too worried about taking liberties with a classic.”  And indeed the film displays the kind of reverence to text that makes Far From the Madding Crowd the kind of film perfect for high-school literature classes, but for me, the movie is more atmospherically leisurely than slow. I love the time Schlesinger gives over to giving us colorful views of country farm life and the romantic quadrangle at the heart of the film (pentagonal if one includes the tragic Fanny Robin, the farm girl with just about as much luck as the traditional heroine of Victorian literature).
Prunella Ransome portrays Fanny Robin, a young servant girl in love with the dashing Sergeant Troy (Stamp). Were this an epic musical taking place in 19-century France, hers would be the Anne Hathaway role.

I fell in fell in love with Far From the Madding Crowd chiefly because of Julie Christie (surprise!) but also because it is refreshing to see a sweeping epic film of this type with a strong woman at its center. A woman whose agency and choices not only propel the events of the story, but whose destiny is shaped by her desires (what she does and doesn't want), not merely by the vagaries of fate.
As far as I'm concerned, the film has a tough time recovering from a huge loss of credibility when Julie Christie rebuffs the matrimonial advances of that absolutely gorgeous slab of hirsute hunk, Alan Bates. Seriously, what was she thinking?

I’m afraid if I log one more post in which I wax rhapsodic on the wonders of Julie Christie, my partner is going in search of professional help (for either me or himself), so I’ll make this brief. In Bathsheba Everdine, Christie is cast as yet another shallow petulant—a character of the sort she virtually trademarked in the '60s with her roles in Darling, Fahrenheit 451 (the Montag’s wife half of her dual role, anyway), and Petulia. Christie’s artistry and gift in being able to convey the emotional depth behind the superficial has been, I think, the obvious intelligence that has always been an inseverable part of her beauty and appeal. It takes a lot of brains to play thoughtless.
Mad Love
As good as Christie is (and for me, her star quality alone galvanizes this monolithic movie) the top acting honors go to Peter Finch who gives the screen one of the most searing portraits of tortured obsession since James Mason in Lolita. One of my favorite scenes is a silent one where the camera is trained on Finch’s face as Christie’s character rides by in a wagon. In his eyes alone you can see a wellspring of hope rise and fall in a matter of seconds. It really takes something to upstage Julie Christie, and she is very good here. But Peter Finch really won me over by giving the film's most realized and moving performance.

Scenes depicting English country life are beautifully rendered

The production values of Far From the Madding Crowd are first rate. The time and place is richly evoked in lavish costumes, painstaking period detail, and vivid depictions of rural life. Still, while the large-format Panavision does well when it comes to dramatically capturing the tempestuous forces of nature which underscore the impassioned carryings-on of Hardy’s characters, the sheer size of Far From the Madding Crowd keeps me at a slight emotional remove. Nicolas Roeg’s ofttimes astonishingly beautiful camerawork strives rather valiantly to imbue the picture-postcard compositions with as much humanity and sensitivity as possible. The story is so engaging and the performances so good that one longs to be brought closer, but too often the film leaves us feeling as if we are looking at these lives through the wide-lens end of a pair of binoculars.
Cinematographer, later-turned-director Nicolas Roeg was the unofficial caretaker of the Julie Christie "look" early in her career. He also photographed her to breathtaking effect for Fahrenheit 451Petulia, and in 1973 he directed her in Don't Look Now

Far From the Madding Crowd did not do too well at the boxoffice in 1968. Critics complained of everything from the central miscasting of Christie to the pacing, the relative inaction, and a screenplay that fails to bring its central character to life. Another factor, at least in part, is that the film was promoted as a grand romance, when the real love story begins about 60 seconds before this 168-minute movie ends. In between, it's largely a roundelay of unrequited passions and thwarted affections.  To its detriment, in hoping to be the next epic romance in the Doctor Zhivago vein, Far From the Madding Crowd wound up being primarily a drama about people who are either in love with the right people at the wrong time, or the wrong people at the right time.
The Valentine which sets the tragic drama in motion 

Far From the Madding Crowd is a movie I like to revisit because in it I find a poignant meditation on love. The three men seeking the hand of Bathsheba offer her three distinct types of love: passionate and sensual; a near-paternal adoration; and finally, the calm, even-tempered love of respect and friendship. Which is truer? Which is preferable? The film never answers, but there is much to read into the film’s final scene. Look at it carefully, there’s a lot going on. Look at the expressions on the faces, the placement of the characters in a kind of domestic tableau, take note of the weather, the significance of the color red, the recurring clock and timepiece motifs, the framing of the final shot…then draw your own conclusions. Like the ambiguously happy ending of  Mike Nichols' The Graduate, everyone seems to come away from Far From The Madding Crowd with a different impression of what the ending signifies.

Copyright © Ken Anderson  2009 - 2013


  1. Great review Ken, and thanks so much for the kind mention of my own post.

    1. My pleasure, Mark. I loved the piece you wrote and was so surprised that we both were in the mood for the same film around the same time. As you said, it's a good kind of movie to revisit during the holidays. Thanks for stopping by again!

  2. Ken, great coverage and some eye-popping images of a film that I had heard good things about (despite its tepid reviews on release) but didn't see until a few years ago. I was every bit as impressed as you, particularly as this was the last kind of film I would have expected from Schlesinger at the time he made it. I personally find "Madding" more suitable for the epic treatment than many of the other stories this has been applied to. I also find Schlesinger's "quality" style here remarkably effective--and lively for this kind of film--despite its subdued feel compared to the more flamboyant direction of the films that came right before and after this one.

    I agree with you about the fine acting in the film. I'm afraid, though, that I find Christie, an actress I admire a lot, the weak link in the cast here. And I mean weak literally: she doesn't seem forceful enough for the character and seems intimidated by the material in a way she normally doesn't. Oh, well...we all have different responses to things in a film. I felt that Bates came across so much more strongly than Christie that he eventually became the main character. With all that great acting, I would especially single out his performance--if it weren't for the amazing performance by Peter Finch that impressed both of us so much. He seems to dig into a similar place for this character as his did for his crazed newscaster in "Network."

    1. Although it's almost a lost art on the internet these days, I really enjoy hearing people's different responses to things in the movies I write about. You're rare in being able to express opposing personal tastes in a non-combative manner that doesn't attempt to challenge or convince.
      The observations you make on "Far from the Madding Crowd" pique my interest (such as your finding it a suitable story for the "epic" treatment, your appreciation of Schlesinger's style), and offer lots of food for thought. Especially your feelings on Christie's performance. I've read that even Schlesinger (who’s self-deprecating to a fault, given how talented he is) felt she wasn't particularly comfortable in the role and took a long while to find her footing. Alas, I'm woefully ill-equipped to even join in on a conversation on the topic because I am so besotted by Julie Christie that I have absolutely no objective credibility where she’s concerned.
      Still, a friend recently related to me having read that George Cukor had wanted Vivien Leigh for the role back in the 40s, and in envisioning that actress’ forceful Scarlett O’Hara, I can at least see your point at what a difference interpretation of Bathseba could do for the film (in a way “Far from the Madding Crowd” is just the kind of female-significant film old Hollywood used to do so well). Your appreciation of the male performances in the film and awareness of what a huge departure this was for Schlesinger at the time denotes thoughtfulness in appraising the film and expressing your opinions that I always appreciate in your comments. Thanks, R.D., for taking the time to share with me your feelings on the film, and for respecting our intelligence enough to feel free to relate differing opinions in a way that encourages thought and discussion.

  3. Argyle, here. Thanks for the post(s.) I'm always reading if not always commenting. It's been several years since I saw this, so all I can remember is that I loved it. We were living in an 1820's Quaker farm house at the time and I have a tendency to relate my surroundings to things I watch. So watching this in the dead of an Indiana winter while a fire burns (for heat) and then tromping around outside looking at a frozen pond and snowy fields was a certain kind of heaven for me. Plus Julie Christie and company. And I have always had a soft spot for the late 60's big studio productions, especially the less successful ones. (Finally saw "Ryan's Daughter" around the same time and loved it, too.) It's partly my willful perversity, but I also feel like those films have a poignancy within and without that makes them compelling. Lately I've been wanting to see "Mayerling." Sorry my comments are always about ME and MY personal reactions; I really do look at films pretty technically, too, it's just been so long with this one that I don't have any specific notes. Maybe there's something in the air: over Christmas, my mother (who is 86,) out of the blue, asked me if I had ever seen "Far from the Madding Crowd." She had just watched this version and loved it, too. I wanted to recommend Polanski's "Tess" (which I love) to her, but wasn't sure if would be too much of a downer, so I didn't. But she's probably similar to me: if a film is beautiful, somewhat faithful to its source, well cast and acted, it kind of transcends any downer factor. Something badly made is much more depressing. What a ramble! Thanks, Ken. I also really enjoyed your exchange with R.D. Finch, above. Your site is an oasis of civility and brains!

    1. Hi Argyle
      I've said it before (I think), but I truly get a kick out of your personal response to a film. When it comes down to it, what more is there to the cinematic experience than that private relationship between the film itself and being one of those people "out there in the dark"? There are libraries of books on film theory and reference I could go to if i want to read about the technical, but yours is the ONLY post in the world that would associate "Far from the Madding Crowd" with memories of living in a 1820s Quaker farmhouse!! To see a film like this in those surroundings would be an integral part of any response to it, and I dare say it would likely be a positive one.
      In fact, it sounds so perfect that the studio should have held previews of the film in some rural setting, for the conveyance of farmlife is one area where I think Schlesinger excels with this film.
      I only saw "Ryan's Daughter" for the first time last year after avoiding it for a lifetime, and so enjoyed it, but have never seen "Mayerling."
      Also what you relate about your mom and "Tess" is really quite touching (same age as mine!)I think it's lovely that a person might just respond to the beauty of a story and film perhaps enjoy a good, happy cry, rather than see the adaptation as a downer. That is a marvelous observation. As is the statement "something badly made is depressing"...I concur!
      Argyle, I enjoy your infrequent posts specifically because they ARE so personal. I mean, that's the cornerstone to this blog in a nutshell. You're really very kind and I'm happy you continue to come back to the site (with some of the films I write about, that takes real loyalty!). Thanks a heap!

  4. Hello Ken,
    Thank you for the great review of "Far from the madding Crowd"! I agree with your preference of films with more style than substance!

    I finally got to see this seldom seen or talked about 60s epic. I dreaded seeing it as I had the impression that it failed at the box office because Julie Christie couldn't be convincing as a country lass. This is the first film where I could appreciate Alan Bates and, indeed, he is the most attractive man of the three lead actors. (I agree with you that it is hard to understand why she dind't pick Alan as her mate from the start!)

    It was interesting to read your comparison with "Women in Love"and that MGM handed over the film, set in the 1800s, to ones behind the much more modern "Darling". The settings of the two films were too different and I think that John Schlesinger and Julie Christie had been better off doing one more film set in the 1960s before moving on to a completely different genre. Considering that everything "mod" was cool at the time, it is strange that the studio asked Schlesinger to film a Thomas Hardy novel (or maybe they considered that Christie had just starred in the hit "Dr. Zhivago").

    The film is lovely but it would have been better if the pace had been quicker. As it is I keep fearing viewers might lose interest. I too adore Julie Christie and she is gorgeous in the film but she is eclipsed by the three male leads. She is fine except, in my opinion, in the important scene with the coffin and later with the shooting at the party. In both scenes she underreacted and did not have enough power too express the emotions in those horrifying scenes.

    It seemed to be that all the good will she had received in the media after "Darling" disappeared after "Far from the Madding Crowd". Perhaps the film didn't become a hit because it was too slow and too different from her previous film "Darling". I did enjoy the "Far from the Madding Crowd" and I will probably watch it again. It is beautifully filmed and manges to create a feeling of actually being there on the british countryside.

    - Wille

    1. Hi Willie
      Good to hear from you again! Truth be told, I actually have a "weakness" for style of over substance in movies. It's an admission on my part that if a movie is fabulous looking, it can keep me in my seat even when I find other aspects of the film to go wanting. I'm not sure it's anything I'm proud of, but I've made amends with it in my nature (I think I'm such a visual animal and lover of beauty...hence Julie Christie and a lack of objectivity).
      In your comment I admire that you are able to like the film in toto, appreciate it's beauty, yet still reserve criticism for the shortcomings of Christie's performance.
      The two scenes you site are perfect examples in which her male co-stars deliver far more effective performances.
      You mention that Christie underacts in these scenes, and I might have to agree with you a bit. Christie for me is an actress made for the closeup, she has small emotions play over her face and in her eyes. The large-scale "Madding Crowd" dwarfed her talents a bit, when i think they required something like what Ken Russell gave Glenda Jackson in "Women in Love"...(lots of close ups that created an intimacy and got us into the mind of the character).
      I've read that John Schlesinger was eager to get away from being typed as the "mod" director of small films and longed for a prestige film, and Christie was indeed riding high on the success of "Darling" and "Zhivago". The failure of this and "Fahrenheit 451" didn't do her career momentum any favors, but I'm glad she took on such diverse roles (noble failures?).
      I really loved reading your very well-considered comments, and I feel as You do about the film, that it is still very entertaining and the English countryside so beautifully rendered. The jury is till out on Ms. Christie's performance, with me alone in the cheering section, unable to get past the fact that she is my idea of a dream. :-) Thank you so much!

    2. You are right that Julie is even better in close-ups and that the beautiful photography in the film was far busier depicting the sprawling british landscape. I didn't mean to bash Julie Christie as I love seeing her In films. I'm just conflicted as to why she didn't become a bigger star since she is so gorgeous on screen! I'm constantly wondering why she didn't make more films in the late 60s (when she was a red hot star), why her films flopped and why she wasn't a top movie star in the 70's (up there with Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Faye...).

      She deserves respect for the fantastic actress she is, so she hopefully won't be forgotten or dismissed as sjhe's been. She needs to be rediscovred the way newer gererations have gone completely gaga over Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's". Her Diana in "Darling" is just as mesmerizing!

      Yes, "Far from the Madding Crowd" might have been a noble failure when it was released but it should now be considered a classic like other 60's epics. Keep watching those stylish films, Ken, and keep writing your great reviews!


    3. Hi Willie
      By no means is a considered opinion that takes in both the pluses and minuses a "bashing" (except on the internet, where, as I mention in my "Cul-de-Sac" post, one is supposed to say only positive things about a film and star or be labeled a "hater." No, I welcome someone who sees both sides of things and I fully understood what you wrote about Christie and the film. Please don't lose that ability to see the good and bad in things, that's discernment and it's personal taste.
      As for Christie's career, from things I've read she's always been an actress deeply unconcerned with fame and even a tad fearful of it. Turning down high-profile roles for parts that interested her. One of the things I most admire about her (although it has meant less movie of hers for me to fawn over)has been her staunch position on not caring about stardom and refusal to be a part of the star-making machine. I think you're right, she could have been a star the caliber of Fonda or Redgrave, but she always said that her personal life mattered more than her professional. All the better for her, all the worse for fans like us!
      Thanks again for commenting Willie and for your kind words. And I hope you continue to analyze what you consider are both the good and bad in films you watch. It's a talent!

  5. It's true what you wrote about Julie putting her personal life before stardom. It must be the reason why she made so relatively few films in the late 60s and 70s. She has a lot of integrity to not care too much about the film business.
    I will continue to read your excellent reviews, Ken!

  6. I have been avoiding this movie for years, but, thanks to your tribute to it here, finally nestled in last night for the long haul to watch it. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, certainly more than I anticipated that I would.

    You will die when I tell you why I resisted seeing it... I could always tell in every still photo that Miss Christie was wearing a wig (in a style and color that I didn't like!) LOL As it turned out, I still didn't care for the wig(s) and wish they could have somehow incorporated her own hair into the look of her character, but I was taken enough with her performance and the rest of it to move on. Every female in this movie looked incredibly authentic and plain, but Julie's got the heavy mascara, the lilac eye shadow... I know it happened to a point in Dr Zhivago, too, but somehow it stuck out more to me in the rural setting of this movie.

    Anyway...enough of that. I thought that Finch was very strong in his role, tormented and haunting, but not overplayed. Stamp was captivating and charismatic and so selfish. Bates was just wonderful; appealing, intriguing and handsome. I enjoyed Christie very much, too. She's very interesting because at times she can be scorchingly beautiful and then in the next frame will do something weird with her mouth or cross her eyes and its very jarring, like someone smeared the icing on a luscious cake. Ha! I took no issue with anything about her performance except to say that I am not fond of her in crying scenes, maybe because they aren't appealing visually and vocally (just as they are not, most often, in life!) versus more cinematic, "glamorous" crying that we've become used to. I ought to be crediting her for the reality of them, but the tacky, shallow side of me prefers something more palatable!

    Thanks so much for guiding me to this beautiful and memorable movie, though. I'm glad I finally watched it.

    1. Poseidon
      Happy you got around to seeing this film! Though your stated reason for avoiding it did make me laugh, I think both of us know that when it comes to movies, sometimes a blatant inauthenticity can be a superficial yet insurmountable hurdle (although nowhere in the same class, the 60s look of Carroll Baker's "Harlow" is jarring to me. It's like the film happens in a time-warp).
      Julie Christie is a bit of a paradox in being an extremely serious actress known for her lack of interest in the fame side of the business, but I've yet (even in a biography)been able to align her apparent vanity regarding her looks during this phase of her career. She keeps the same (and if I may say so, rather smashing) 60s look from film to film, no matter what the era of the film she's in.(Cinematographers have stated she can be difficult to photograph. As you point out, she has an interesting landscape of a face that can be gorgeous in one scene and unusual and unbalanced in another. Her somewhat mannish jawline has been commented upon at length.)
      I enjoyed reading your impressions of the film, and I find your even-handed, pluses and minus assessment of the film to be refreshing in these times. I go on and on about it in this blog, but internet film bullies have created such an environment of "Love it all or say nothing" that subjective discernment is going the way of the horse and buggy. There's an intolerance for people who aren't 100%, rah-rah fans of a film or film personality. I like that you can watch a film, access its strengths and weaknesses, and arrive at a personal appraisal of a film that is uniquely your point of view.
      You neither criticize those that feel differently nor try make a case for your perspective. As simple as what I describe sounds, trust me, this is rare.
      And by the way, I like your tacky, shallow side. It's leads to a great deal of funny posts on your site!
      Thanks for crediting me with inspiring you to check out this film. Glad you watched it!

  7. Ken-I just discovered yours and Poseidon's blogs and love them both...I've been on blog benders in the last couple of days.

    I fondly remembered "Far From the Madding Crowd" back when it was on TV in my childhood. I also admire Julie Christie. But I watched this movie on TCM in December and didn't realize how strong the late '60s vibe was...

    I always felt had "Far From the Madding Crowd" been filmed at the early end of the '60s, it would have been a perfect vehicle for Elizabeth Taylor, who could have certainly related to Bathsheba!

    1. Hi Rico
      You're very kind, and I'm happy you found the site. I really love the idea of a young Elizabeth Taylor as Bathsheba. She is certainly closer to Hardy's description, and temperamentally (at least as far as her screen persona) she fits the role to a T. And it certainly wouldn't have hurt to have the public project all their Burton/Fisher/ Todd fantasies onto Bathsheba's dilemma.
      Thanks very much for your comment and I look forward to hearing from you again!

  8. Hi Ken,
    I join in your admiration/adulation of Julie Christie, she's my favorite living actress. Sadly she doesn't work nearly as much as I'd like and lately in small parts, hopefully Sarah Polley or some other filmmaker will find a part as good and moving as the one in Away for Her again. I haven't had a chance to read through all your reviews of her various films but look forward to it!

    Anyway back to the film at hand. I had seen bits and pieces on TV over the years but it took me many years to sit down and watch this because my nephew had read the book for school and said it was the worst, most boring, terribly written book he'd ever had to endure. Hardly a ringing endorsement! I had also tried reading Tess years ago and abandoned it, finding it dense and uninvolving. However my love of both Julie and Alan Bates overrode those reservations and I'm glad I did. I found it an absolutely gorgeous version of the Hardy classic, with some captivating scenes particularly that storm sequence. A livelier pace would have made it more compelling however. To me top honors go to Alan Bates, an actor of great skill and at that time a great handsome beauty.

    That was one point of the film I didn't get, Bathsheba's great longing for the bounder Sgt. Troy Terence Stamp played vs. the earnest, earthy Gabriel Oak. I also agree about Peter Finch, a well regarded actor in his day but still I think undervalued, he was able to convey so much with those eyes, although credit where credit is due the way they were lit often helped as in the picture above. He was working with classic material here of course but even in studio fodder like Elephant Walk, a deeply troubled production which is still a lot of fun to watch, he was able to make it better than it would have been by his gravitas and that wonderful voice.

    I'll have to give it another watch soon with your comments in mind, a fresh perspective always helps unearth things that are missed on the first viewing.

    1. I can relate to your nephew's feelings on Hardy. I tried reading those books when I was young and I loathed them. I read them now in my 50s and they are quite beautiful. I think life experience helps with Hardy (and not being in any particular hurry for a story to get somewhere).
      Love that you're a Christie fan and that you found much to appreciate in this film. It certainly is a beauty to look at.
      I agree that the pacing is its worse enemy, but it has so many wonderful performances. Finch in particular.
      I know Terence Stamp was quite the hottie back in the day, but Alan bates is far to appealing to be a believable second fiddle. You keep waiting for Bathseba to come to her senses.
      Your writing reveals a very thoughtful, passionate approach to film and I enjoy reading your comments and impressions very much. Thanks for sharing them, Joel!

  9. There isn't a version of "FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD" that I do not like . . . this version included. But like the other two version, it does have its flaws. Dare I say it? Too much Frank Troy? I'm still baffled that Terence Stamp was listed as the leading male actor in this production and not Alan Bates. I'm not that impressed by the costumes or some of the hairstyles. And although I found Nicholas Roeg's cinematography impressive, there were times when the movie seemed to be dominated by one too many far shots - a flaw that this movie shares with the 1958 film, "THE BIG COUNTRY". Otherwise, this is a first-rate film.

    1. It's wonderful when one enjoys a narrative so much that all adaptions, while falling short of being perfect, offer their unique and distinct pleasures.
      My feelings about "Hedda Gabler" mimic your about Hardy's novel; I've never seen a version of it I didn't like.

      I can wholly understand how it can feel the focus on Frank Troy imbalances this adaptation, making me wonder if each generation's film adaptation has to bear the brunt (benefit from) the time in which it is made. I can't help but wonder what part Terence stamps ascending stardom played in the side of his role.
      Perhaps elements of time and place into your other well-considered observation regarding the large vistas. Certainly Schlesinger sought to make the most of his against-type departure from kitchen-sink realism and enter the world of David Lean. Similarly, I wonder if there was any pressure from the studio to deliver another wide-screen roadshow attraction (to pull people from their TV sets) a la "Doctor Zhivago" and "Ryan's Daughter" - wide screen being the 60s equivalent of 3D or CGI today.

      I have yet to see any of the other incarnations of this film. I tried watching the 1998 TV version online, but had to give it up once I realized I was comparing everything the actress did to Julie Christie (unfavorably...I think Christie spoiled me for Bathsheba, which is odd, since she is the one actress least like the character as written).
      Thanks for taking the time to read the post and especially for offering your thoughts on the film!

  10. There's a long video interview with Terence Stamp to be found on YouTube. He says Schlesinger didn't want him for the role -- he preferred blonds (!) -- and it was producer Joseph Janni who insisted on casting him. Didn't get on well with the director and said that the latter hadn't figured out how to handle the swordsmanship. It was Nick Roeg who would come by when Stamp was idle and the light was good. "Grab your sabre and let's work something out." There was also the challenge that Stamp was left-handed and unable to show it as a cavalryman. In the same interview, Stamp says he didn't want to be a movie actor because he didn't like his looks. But the early efforts of top cameramen like Robert Krasker in B&W for "Billy Budd" and Nicolas Roeg here convinced him otherwise.

    1. What fabulous clip that is! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. As much as some of this was covered in Schlesinger's autobiography and various articles written about the making of the film. Nothing beats hearing the individual themselves talking about their experience making a film that has endured, for better or worse, long after discussions of its boxoffice success or failure has ceased to matter. It's particularly edifying when it comes several decades after the fact, with the passing of time and the mellowing of egos allowing for a refreshingly clear-eyed candor.