1 9 7 3 (UK)
6 x 25 minute episodes
The 1905 children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett was adapted for BBC1 by Jeremy Paul for this six-part Sunday teatime series set in Victorian England.
Sara Crewe (15-year-old Deborah Makepeace in her first professional appearance) is a sensitive and imaginative 12-year-old who is brought to London by her father, a wealthy young captain in the Indian army (Donald Pickering).
He places her in a girls boarding school – Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies – where the principal, Miss Minchin (Ruth Dunning), is a shallow, ignorant, two-faced woman, easily impressed by money and rank.
Everything seems to promise a bright future for Sara when her life suddenly takes a dark turn. Her father dies penniless, and she finds herself with a miserable new status, working as a kitchen maid and sleeping in a rat-infested attic.
Whenever she can, she escapes into a world of make-believe, which, through the kindness of a mysterious and anonymous sympathiser (Peter Myers), becomes touched with real magic.
The series was remade by LWT in 1986 with Amelia Shankley as Sara and Maureen Lipman as Miss Minchin. A 1995 American feature film version from Warner Bros. starred Liesel Matthews as Sara and Eleanor Bron as Miss Minchin.
Ermengarde St John