Five Victorian-Set Movies to Enjoy

This time, the movies (except one) travel a little farther afield than dear old England ~ Sicily, Florence, Paris, and New York.


  1. leopardThe Leopard (1963)  Director: Luchino Visconti. The Prince of Salina, a noble aristocrat of impeccable integrity, tries to preserve his family and class amid the tumultuous social upheavals of 1860’s Sicily. Starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale







  1. earringsThe Earrings of Madame de… (1953)  Director: Max Ophüls.  In the Paris of the late 19th century, Louise, wife of a general, sells the earrings her husband gave her as a wedding gift: she needs money to cover her debts. The general secretly buys the earrings again and gives them to his mistress, Lola, leaving to go to Constantinople. Where an Italian diplomat, Baron Donati, buys them. Back to Paris, Donati meets Louise… So now Louise discovers love and becomes much less frivolous. Starring Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux, Vittorio De Sica






  1. room-viewA Room with a View (1985) Director: James Ivory.  When Lucy Honeychurch and chaperone Charlotte Bartlett find themselves in Florence with rooms without views, fellow guests Mr Emerson and son George step in to remedy the situation. Meeting the Emersons could change Lucy’s life forever but, once back in England, how will her experiences in Tuscany affect her marriage plans? Starring Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Denholm Elliott






  1. howards-end2 Howard’s End(1992)   Director: James Ivory.  A businessman thwarts his wife’s bequest of an estate to another woman. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Vanessa Redgrave.








  1. age-of-innocenceThe Age of Innocence (1993)  Director: Martin Scorsese. A tale of nineteenth-century New York high society in which a young lawyer falls in love with a woman separated from her husband, while he is engaged to the woman’s cousin. Starring Daniel Day Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder.







So have you seen these movies yet? Which is your favorite?

Victorian Time Travel: H G Wells vs. Jack the Ripper

So on New Year’s Day, I traveled back in time.

To be accurate, I watched the 1979 movie “Time after Time,” starring Malcolm MacDowell, David Warner and Mary Steenburgen. It was mind-blowing, being flung 37 years into the past, all the way back to the late 70s.

Well, back to the late 1800s as well. In the movie, the late Victorian era is portrayed as gritty and dangerous, the gaslit alleyways hiding the specter of hideous death in the form of disease, deprivation, and Jack the Ripper.

H.G. Wells is portrayed not as a fantastic storyteller bur as an actual Victorian inventor who built a working time machine. When his friend Dr. John Stevenson is unmasked as the Ripper, Stevenson steals the machine and travels forward into time to 1979 San Francisco, where the Time Machine is on display in a museum.

Here’s the trailer:

Fortunately, the Time Machine will return to its proper time unless the driver has a key to hold it in the alternate time. This will allow the nerdy and idealistic H.G. Wells to pursue Jack the Ripper into the future, in order to bring him back to face justice.

But in 1979, the marvelously evil Ripper takes one look at the horrors of modern life and knows that he’s where he belongs. In the best lines in the movie, he declares, “I belong here completely and utterly. I’m home…The world has caught up with me and surpassed me. Ninety years ago I was a freak. Today I’m an amateur.”

Watching this movie really made me think about how the Victorians must have felt about themselves: So modern, so fast-moving. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean in less than a week! Talking instantly to someone miles away by telephone! Traveling from one end of Britain to another by train in a single day!

And then the two characters journey into the future and discover that it’s not the peaceful paradise that H.G. Wells had so confidently envisioned. The world was moving faster than ever but violence was everywhere, even in cartoons (cartoon violence was a big issue in the 70s, as I recall. Victorians would have sympathized with that, since they had a very sentimental view of childhood). War continued to plague humanity – as was demonstrated when the camera closed in on the forearm of a San Francisco jeweler, who bore the tattoo of a concentration camp survivor.

On the positive side, H.G. Wells meets Amy Robbins (actually Wells’ wife’s name), played by Mary Steenbergen. During the late 70s Women’s Liberation was in full swing. Women were experiencing a heady feeling of sexual freedom, thanks to new, more effective birth control methods. It was delightful to see thoroughly modern Amy putting the moves on Herbert the Victorian nerd.

In sum, the old adage rings true: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Here is an interesting commentary on the film from Alan Spencer:

15 Victorian-set Movies and TV shows to Watch


If you’re looking for visual and aural inspiration about the clothing, manners and day-to-day activities of Victorian people, the following movies and TV miniseries will help you!  Here are fifteen of my favorite choices.

The painting at left is so typical of the Aesthetic period, with the blue and white china, the color scheme, and the young woman’s distinctively pre-Raphaelite eyebrows, that I thought I’d just add it here.


1. North & South (2004 TV mini-series) BBC production starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe. Based on the novel by Elizabet Gaskell, this is the story of Margaret Hale, a gently-bred parson’s daughter from the pastoral South of England who is uprooted and moved to “dark Satanic mills” of industrial Milton in the North, where she meets the stern, outwardly cold cotton-mill owner John Thornton. Their clash of wills produces sparks that soon turn into a conflagration. Excellent performances by all involved.

2. Mrs. Brown (1997 movie) BAFTA-winning performance by Judi Dench as widowed and grieving Queen Victoria, who finds her joy in life reawakened by her Scots ghillie, or groom, John Brown (played by an excellent Billy Connolly). This true story traces their 20-year friendship, which began when the Queen’s closest advisers brought Brown to the Isle of Wight to encourage her to go out riding for a little fresh air. Brown proved to be a loyal, protective and utterly devoted friend to his Queen, despite the rumors and catty remarks about their relationship.

3. The Young Victoria  (2009 movie) Emily Blunt brings to life the young princess and heir to the English Throne who falls in love with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and finds enduring happiness with him despite the political machinations and intrigues going on all around them.

4. Jane Eyre  (2006 TV miniseries with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson) A “poor, obscure, plain and little” governess falls in love with her complicated, brooding employer. But the secrets of his past will not stay hidden, and will threaten their happiness.

5. Tess of the d’Urbervilles (2008 TV mini-series with Gemma Arterton and Eddie Redmayne; see also the 1979 movie version with Nastassia Kinski and Peter Firth). Tragic story of a young peasant girl torn between the rich man who seduced her and the conventional man who married her without knowing about her past.

6. Cranford  (2007 TV mini-series) Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, and many other prominent British actresses appear in this delightful series of tales about life, love and gossip in a rural market-town in the 1840s, just on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution.

7. Wives and Daughters (1999 TV mini-series) Another wonderful story from Elizabeth Gaskell, this time about a country doctor’s daughter who finds herself dealing with a flighty new step-mama, an impetuous step-sister, the gossip of their neighbors, and her own unrequited love for a man who thinks of her just as a friend.

8. Our Mutual Friend (1998 TV mini-series) Paul McGann stars in Charles Dickens’ tale of love, greed and secret identities in 1860s London.

9. Penny Dreadful  (2014-present TV series with Eva Green and Timothy Dalton) Gothic horror series in which an adventurous explorer, a psychic medium and an American gunslinger team up to battle all kinds of unnatural evil threatening London, including Frankenstein, werewolves and deathless Dorian Gray.

10. Copper  (2012-present TV series) In the 1860s, a rugged Irish policeman must navigate New York City’s tumultuous immigrant neighborhood, the fancy residents of uptown Manhattan, and the black community. Starring Tom Weston-Jones

11. Murdoch Mysteries  (2008-present TV series) Starring Yannick Bisson. In the 1890s, Detective William Murdoch uses brand new forensic crime techniques like fingerprinting and trace evidence to solve the most baffling crimes.

12. Effie Gray  (2014 movie) Starring Dakota Fanning, directed by Emma Thompson. After a six-year courtship, teenage Effie Gray marries the much older Victorian art critic John Ruskin. But when Ruskin refuses to consummate their marriage, Effie finds herself drawn to Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais. It was a true story that shocked Victorian society.

13. Ripper Street  (2012-present TV series) Starring Matthew MacFadyen. Scotland Yard detectives in 1889 are investigating a series of Jack the Ripper-style copycat murders in London’s East End.

14. Desperate Romantics  (2009 TV series) Starring Aidan Turner, Rafe Spall, Samuel Barnett and Zoe Tapper. The vibrant lives and loves of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood as they grow from penniless artists wooing their models and their Muses with equal fervor, into the most celebrated painters of their generation.

15. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: The Murder at Road Hill House  (2011 TV movie) Based on the true story of Mr. Whicher, one of Scotland Yard’s first detectives, who is called upon to investigate a dreadful murder in a quiet rural area. The unpalatable truth shocks the community and shakes their faith in the nascent science of criminal investigation.

SHOWCASE: Victorian Movies and TV Shows

This is the first installment of the Showcase of Victorian Movies and TV Shows.

Over the years, there has been an abundance of movies, miniseries and TV shows that have been set in England during the Victorian era. Original fiction as well as the works of Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, the Bronte sisters, and Elizabeth Gaskell have all been presented on the large and small screen. So what shows can you seek out for your Victorian inspiration?

Today, we’ll discuss the BBC’s 2004 miniseries, “North and South,” starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe. A four-part series, with each episode lasting about 1 hour.

Based on the novel by Elizabet Gaskell, this is the story of Margaret Hale, a gently-bred parson’s daughter from the pastoral South of England who is uprooted and moved to “dark Satanic mills” of industrial Milton in the North, where she meets the stern, outwardly cold cotton-mill owner John Thornton. Their clash of wills produces sparks that soon turn into a conflagration.

Excellent performances by all involved – Richard Armitage’s swoon-worthy portrayal of the tall, dark and brooding Thornton inspired so much fervent admiration that the sheer number of messages reputedly crashed the BBC’s message-board.

Margaret’s first glimpse of John Thornton impresses her, but his later actions inspire her scorn and disgust.

John Thornton watches over the operations in his cotton mill

John Thornton watches over the operations in his cotton mill








Margaret’s impulsive effort to protect Thornton from a mob leads him to make a premature declaration of love, which she rejects.

Margaret refuses John's impetuous proposal of marriage

Margaret refuses John’s impetuous proposal of marriage








Thornton is hurt, but he bends his own high principles in order to protect Margaret from being dragged into a scandalous situation. When she finds out what he’s done, she’s grateful but still won’t reveal the secret that is not hers to divulge. Their next meeting is tense.

John and Margaret meet, but she has secrets she can't tell him

John and Margaret meet, but she has secrets she can’t tell him








Margaret leaves Milton to live with family friends in London. She says farewell to John, giving him her father’s Plato, a book he promises to cherish.

"I wish you well, Mr. Thornton."

“I wish you well, Mr. Thornton.”







Only a miracle could unite John and Margaret now. You’ll have to watch the whole series to find out how the miracle happens!