1 9 7 3 (UK)
6 x 50 minute episodes
This six-part BBC drama series was based on short stories written by Thomas Hardy. The stories were selected by producer Irene Shubik and took place in the period from the end of the 18th century to the end of the 19th century.
The Withered Arm
This debut episode aired on Wednesday 7 November 1973, and was directed by Desmond Davis.
A young married woman named Gertrude (Yvonne Antrobus) is stricken with a mysterious malady. Her search for a cure leads her into mysteries and tragedy.
Towering above the entire cast was Billie Whitelaw in a relatively small part as Rhoda Brook, the husband’s cast-off mistress – a poverty-stricken milkmaid who was bitter, angry, and somehow in touch with cosmic powers.
The episode was filmed in and around a 17th-century Dorset manor house and the village of Bettiscombe.
Farmer John Lodge
Two men – one rich, one poor – live in the same small town in the late 19th century. Mr Barnet (Kenneth Haigh), a man with inherited wealth, has made a bad marriage (with Susan Fleetwood) and longs for his previous sweetheart, Lucy (Jane Asher).
His unhappy situation is made even more poignant when he witnesses the contentment of an old school friend, Downe (Terence Frisby), a struggling lawyer who delights in his wife (Ann Curthoys) and children.
The two men’s lives become interwoven through tragic circumstances. Once again, Barnet is destined to be the loser, while Downe is destined to find happiness.
The director was Barry Davis.
A Tragedy of Two Ambitions
Adapted by Dennis Potter, A Tragedy of Two Ambitions told the tale of two brothers (John Hurt and David Troughton) who attain respectable positions in the church but feel they must do something about the lowly status of their drunken father (Paul Rogers).
The tale ends tragi-comically with the inebriated father falling into a river and drowning while his two steadfastly religious sons look on.
The episode was made on location in and around Little Bredy and Bridport in Dorset, with Michael Tuchner directing.
An Imaginative Woman
Ella Marchmill (Claire Bloom) is an aspiring poetess, married to a well-off but mundane man (Norman Rodway). Fate brings the family to rent seaside rooms, and Ella falls in love with the vision of a poet whose rooms she occupies for the summer. Maureen Pryor co-starred as the seaside landlady. Gavin Millar directed.
The Melancholy Hussar
This tragic rural romance – set during the Napoleonic Wars – told of Matthaus, a German Hussar who hated the service (Ben Cross) and Phyliss, the shy, retiring maiden from the Dorset Downs (Mary Larkin), whose love could save him.
Their evening trysts by the old stone wall were a solace to them both – until Matthaus was executed for desertion while trying to return home, and Phyllis pined over his burial mound by their wall for another 69 years.
Michael Newell directed.
Barbara of the House of Grebe
Barbara (Joanna McCallum), the naive and spoiled young aristocrat daughter of Lord and Lady Grebe, flees an arranged marriage meant to restore her family fortune. The young country lad she elopes with – Edmond Willowes (Nick Brimble) – is poor but remarkably handsome.
Her parents accept the marriage but insist that Willowes goes on the Grand Tour to be educated as a gentleman. He returns from the Continent horribly disfigured from a fire in which he was trapped.
Barbara is unable to cope with the tragedy and goes on to marry Lord Uplandtowers (Ben Kingsley). Then a statue of Willowes as he once was arrives to haunt her.
The episode was filmed on location in Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset.
Sir John Grebe
Mrs Sarah Drenkard