1 9 7 4 (UK)
5 x 50 minute episodes
Poor young orphan John Halifax (Robert Coleby) arrives in the Gloucestershire town of Norton Bury in 1794 in search of a livelihood. He is treated with haughty disdain by an arrogant young man of superior birth but is offered bread by a kind-hearted girl who notices him in the street.
He performs a small task for local worthy Abel Fletcher (John Phillips), who is so impressed by the boy’s integrity that he offers him a place in his mill and, eventually, in his home.
The story moves a little too briskly, and as a result, events crowd thickly upon one another: John saves two citizens from drowning with an almost casual air and – in what seems the very next minute – the mill itself is threatened by rising floodwaters. No sooner is this disaster averted than we are in the midst of a famine, and the starving, angry workers are demanding grain from their employer.
Young John Halifax meets and resolves all these crises with an aplomb that would be the envy of Dr Kissinger himself.
Yet despite all this virtuosity, we still feel sympathetic towards him and even interested in his future. John eventually succeeds in business and love – with the beautiful Ursula (Gwen Taylor) – and becomes a wealthy man.
This BBC1 series was dramatised by Jack Ronder from the 19th-century novel by Mrs Craik (Dinah Maria Mulock).