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Wives and Daughters (1999 TV series)

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Wives and Daughters
DVD cover
Based onWives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Written byAndrew Davies
Elizabeth Gaskell
Directed byNicholas Renton
StarringJustine Waddell
Bill Paterson
Francesca Annis
Keeley Hawes
Tom Hollander
Iain Glen
Anthony Howell
Michael Gambon
ComposerJohn E. Keane
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes4
Executive producersRebecca Eaton
Jane Tranter
ProducerSue Birtwistle
CinematographyFred Tammes
EditorKevin Lester
Running time301 minutes
Production companiesBBC
WGBH Boston
Original release
NetworkBBC One
Release28 November (1999-11-28) –
19 December 1999 (1999-12-19)

Wives and Daughters is a 1999 four-part BBC serial adapted from the 1864 novel Wives and Daughters: An Everyday Story by Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell.[1]

The series was a joint production of the BBC and WGBH Boston, an American public broadcast station and 'won high audience ratings' when it first screened in the UK in 1999. Its audience rivalry with an adaptation of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, screened on ITV at the same time, was dubbed 'the battle of the bonnets'.[1][2] It appeared in the USA on BBC America in August 2000 and was later shown on PBS.[1]

It focuses on Molly Gibson (Justine Waddell), the daughter of the town doctor and the changes that occur in her life after her widowed father chooses to remarry. The union brings into her once-quiet life an ever-proper stepmother (Francesca Annis) who is 'too vain and shallow to care for anything beyond her improved social status'.[3] Also a flirtatious stepsister, Cynthia (Keeley Hawes), while a friendship with the local squire brings about an unexpected romance.[1] A New York Times review of the series in 2001 said 'The entire cast gets the characters right.'[4]

Written by Andrew Davies, produced by Sue Birtwistle and directed by Nicholas Renton, the programme also features Michael Gambon, Penelope Wilton, Bill Paterson and Rosamund Pike.[1]


Dyrham Park house where some of the exterior scenes were filmed

Davies and Birtwistle collaborated on the BBC's television popular adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in 1995. Following that success the BBC 'effectively told the duo they could adapt any book they wished', leading to Wives and Daughters. Birtwhistle described Gaskell's novel as 'strong, direct and passionate' and this offered 'the necessary elements for a popular classic TV drama'.[1]

Filming was based at Elstree Studios with additional scenes shot at historic properties across England.[5] Great Chalfield Manor, Wiltshire was used for exterior scenes for the Hamley family home, while interior scenes were filmed at Levens Hall in Kendal, Cumbria.[6][7] Wentworth Woodhouse, South Yorkshire was used for Cumnor Towers, the grand family home Molly visits as a child when she first encounters her future step-mother.[5] Additional outdoor scenes were shot at Dyrham Park in South Gloucestershire.[8]



At the 2000 British Academy Television Awards, the series was nominated for seven awards and won four including Best Actor (Television) for Michael Gambon as Squire Hamley.[9] Gambon's performance was described as: 'Gruff on the outside, with a huge sentimental streak, the country squire is a familiar type, but he makes him seem endearing and fresh.'[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Gritten, David (12 August 2000). "Will BBC's Latest Literary Export Be the Next Jane Austen?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  2. ^ Enker, Debi (7 May 2000). "TV Review: Wives And Daughters, Sunday, ABC". The Sunday Age.
  3. ^ Samson, Alan (28 October 2000). "Classic tale with a wicked stepmother". The Dominion Post.
  4. ^ a b James, Caryn (30 March 2001). "TV WEEKEND; A Strawberry-and-Cream Past, Spiced With Romance". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  5. ^ a b Internet Movie Database. "Wives and Daughters: Filming Locations". IMDb. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  6. ^ "Where I Live: Cumbria". BBC. 11 September 2003. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  7. ^ "Film And television". Levens Hall. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  8. ^ "Where I Live: Wiltshire". BBC. Retrieved 10 September 2013. (Mention in sidebar)
  9. ^ "BAFTA Award Database". Retrieved 10 September 2013.

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