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Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The

Release Year:         1978
Studio:         Acorn Media
Format:         Colour; DVD, NTSC, Full Screen
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:         3 / 7
Running Time:         366 min. + bonus
DVD Release Date:         February 26, 2013
Creators:         Muriel Spark
Screenwriters:         Jay Presson Allen
Directors:         Tim Wakerell, Mark Cunningham, John Bruce
Actors:         Geraldine McEwan, John Castle, Lynsey Baxter
DVD Features:        Muriel Spark (author of the novel) on Jean Brodie, SDH subtitles
E:Top Picks Rating:         9/10

Acorn Media Write-up:
Beloved actress Geraldine McEwan (“Agatha Christie’s Marple”, “The Magdalene Sisters”) is imperious, unorthodox teacher Jean Brodie in this seven-part PBS miniseries. Adapted from the novel by Muriel Spark, THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE tells the story of an educator’s effect on impressionable young ladies at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Edinburgh, revealing the challenges they face growing up in 1930s Scotland.

Devoted to her students, Miss Brodie endeavours to fill them with a love of art and culture and as much self-confidence as she possesses. In doing so, she offends the conservative Miss Gaunt, tests the patience of headmistress Miss Mackay, and incites the passions of married art instructor Teddy Lloyd (John Castle, “The Lion in Winter”). McEwan gives an indelible performance that Spark herself considered the quintessential portrayal of the iconic character.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:
Having not seen (yet) the Oscar-winning 1969 film with Maggie Smith as Miss Jean Brodie, I came to this delightful miniseries with a clean slate. I was immediately hooked. Geraldine McEwan is a brilliant actress, known to television viewers as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple for three seasons. She is elegant, graceful, swan-like in her beauty and keenly intelligent in her work. She would have to be all those to take on the role of Jean Brodie so soon after Maggie Smith’s star turn.

Also in her favour was the medium in which Ms McEwan was playing Jean. Not in a feature film with an approximate running time of two hours, but on a much broader canvas, television, in the unique form of the miniseries.

Seven episodes of some 48 minutes each is a lot of storytelling time. With such a beloved novel as Muriel Sparks’ “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” to draw from, small wonder the television adaptation stands out.

Judging from the synopsis of the novel, there appears to have been material for more than seven episodes and, curiously, this is precisely the one and only criticism I have of this otherwise superb version. I wanted more. Specifically I wanted to know how Jean ended up.

But absence of a proper ending still does not dull the effect of the truly wonderful seven “episodes in the life and career of one Miss Jean Brodie”, which might make a good alternate title to the program.

In typical English tradition, the acting is at the forefront of the accolades. What particularly stands out, apart from Ms McEwan’s unforgettable interpretation, is the consistently brilliant work of the teen actors who play Miss Brodie’s students. Lynsey Baxter and Amanda Kirby as Sandy and Jenny respectively, give subtle, nuanced performances which are essential to the show’s success. Ms. Baxter has gone on to a successful career as an adult while Ms Kirby appears to have bowed out of acting.

Equally impressive is the direction, which is of a very high standard, showing creativity and sensitivity at the most unexpected times. A gym class scene, for example, evolves into a formidable display of directing without drawing attention to itself. Always apparent is the balance between worlds: Miss Brodie’s, that of the children, the art teacher who nurses an unfulfilled passion for Jean, and many others.

As mentioned, the only thing missing is additional episodes. THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE could easily sustain another two or three episodes to tell the rest of its tale. Nonetheless, this is prime television viewing indeed.

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