23 thoughts on “Top Five Frock Flicks Set in the 1830s

  1. There is the famously switched-to-a-different-decade 1940 version of Pride & Prejudice. Filmed in black and white, the (possibly apocryphal) story goes that the director was just off another production set in the Regency era and didn’t want to have yet another empire gowns film to his credit that same year, so he told the costumer to set Pride & Prejudice in the 1830s. I remember being terribly confused the first time I saw it. I can’t remember much about the authenticity of the costumes, but it does stick in my mind when I think about films set in the 1830s.

    1. I think you’re referring to the 1940 Pride and Prejudice with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. What I most remember from the movie is that Greer Garson walked in such a way that she literally seemed to glide rather than taking actual steps. I’ve always wondered if women really walked that way! (And according to Wikipedia, it was the studio’s decision to move the time period to the 1830s, as they wanted more elaborate costumes than those of the Regency era.)

  2. These are great. You may have mistyped the description of “The Long Song” – it takes place in Jamaica, not Haiti.

  3. I love Middlemarch, just finished reading the book. Wives and Daughters is another great one.

  4. That image of Gemma Whelan from Gentleman Jack just cracks me up. I only just finished bingeing Upstart Crow (what took me so long??) and she’s hilarious in that, but it was especially funny because the only thing I’d seen her in before that was Game of Thrones. I’m not saying that she was miscast as Yara Greyjoy – she was so good – but I wouldn’t have known about her comic side from that.

    1. I LOVE Upstart Crow! Came here to say the same thing about Gemma Whelan, she’s amazing. And are there enough costumes to rate an Upstart Crow post on FF?

  5. The Pirate, with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, was also set in the 1830s, also The Young Victoria with Emily Blunt.

  6. I really love 1830s hairstyles, and was very pleased to see them turn up (anachronistically) in Vanity Fair (from 2004 I think). That version was highly stylised (with a lot of Indian influences) so they worked.

  7. But..but..but… you forgot Cranford! And Return to Cranford! Great 30s dresses in those.

    1. Little Dorrit didn’t make it, either, despite having an actress, a social climber, a silly dunce-man, and 2 judgy society matrons. It’s Dickens, so…but the costumes are swell. Honestly, it’s neat to see everyone’s preferences.

      By the way, what are Justine Waddell and Anthony Howell up to, these days?

  8. Une Vieille Maitresse has some (as far I my uneducated eye can tell) really beautiful 1830s costumes. If nothing else, the lead actor in it is unreasonably beautiful, Fu’ad Aït Aattou.

  9. I want HBO just so I can see Gentleman Jack! I have watched all of your other choices multiple times–great stuff! Jane Eyre with Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton rocks some pretty awesome 1830s attire, too. :)

    1. Oh dammit, I forgot that version of Jane Eyre! It’s the best one out there bec. it uses so much of the book as dialog. The costumes are spot-on 1830s, tho’ rather dour at times being Jane Eyre.

  10. I am GRIEVED that you haven’t been able to watch Wives & Daughters, one of my all-time favorite frock flicks! Sucks that it’s not on streaming anywhere. Maybe try your local library? It’s really worth watching, great story, wonderful cast, and the costumes and locations are beautiful.

  11. Ok, I don’t have anything awesome to contribute here today…but I still feel the need to remark that young Julian Sands is just…………….fans self!!!!!!!!

  12. Gentleman Jack for sure. Over the top floof plus butch wear means even more pretty outfits to see.

  13. An old version, but still my favourite Great Expectations adaption with Michael York as Pip, and Sarah Miles as Estella, captures this era’s fashions perfectly. Estella’s white ball dress in one scene is etched forever in my memory, and her hair is in loops and bows, studded with jewels. It’s just gloriously insane. I actually sourced this version on DVD, which I think was a made-for-television Christmas special in the mid-seventies, because I love it so much. Bonus: swelling, evocative score by Maurice Jarre

  14. You MUST watch “Wives and Daughters” and “Cranford.” Elizabeth Gaskell! Great acting in both … and Judi Dench and Michael Gambon in Cranford say so much with so little in Cranford … exquisite.

  15. What the heck were people thinking in the 1830s!!! Ugly, ugly, ugly!
    Anne Bronte’s novels are less famous than her sisters’ perhaps because their essential realism makes them far more disturbing. Arthur Huntingdon is a far more believable villain than Heathcliff!

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