As we observe the recent bicentennial of Charlotte Brontë’s birth (April 21), it is appropriate to take a critical look at the many filmed adaptations of Jane Eyre, her best-known work. Specifically, it is right and proper to assess, soberly and judiciously, the efforts of the many brave men who have undertaken the challenging role of aspiring bigamist Edward Fairfax Rochester. We embrace our duty to celebrate those individuals who have successfully grasped the brass rings (so to speak) of brooding intensity, towering presence, and smoldering hottitude, while also recognizing those who, for whatever reason, are perhaps less likely to haunt our dreams at night (and noting that there has never been a really bad Rochester). Here, in reverse-ranked order, is one such list.
7. George C. Scott (1970/Susannah York as Jane)
Scott brings the requisite gravitas, but might just be the slightest bit…not young for the role? (I know that he may have been technically younger than some of the other fellows listed here, but his Rochester sort of looks like Jane’s grandpa. A smoldering and particularly attractive grandpa, yes. But the age difference is unusually striking in this adaptation.) Also, in what universe was Susannah York ever “plain,” or even unusual-looking in a way that would have pegged her as “plain”? But that’s its own separate issue.