Masterpiece Theatre: Moll Flanders

Program Description

Masterpiece Theatre repeats its four-hour fling with a scandalous 18th century heroine, in an encore broadcast of Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, airing Sundays, May 16 and May 23, 1999 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings).

Moll's premier appearance in fall 1996 bought Masterpiece Theatre wide acclaim-and very high ratings.

"'Moll Flanders' arrives like a firecracker tossed into a tea party," enthused the New York Times.

"Forget 'Robinson Crusoe', the tale most Americans would associate with Defoe," advised the Dallas Morning News. "What's drawing attention now is "Moll Flanders", the far more interesting--and salacious--story of a woman who survives by using her body and her wits."

"Bold and surprising, "Moll Flanders" and its risk-taking heroine never hesitate to go all the way," declared the Chicago Sun Times.

Starring as Moll is Alex Kingston, a newcomer whose provocative performance has since won her the role of Dr. Elizabeth Corday on "ER". Moll is born in Newgate prison and seems destined to die on its gallows after a lifetime of debauchery and thievery.

Daniel Craig plays Moll's heartthrob, Jemmy. Also featured is Diana Rigg as Moll's long lost mother.

The production faithfully follows the bawdy and often unpredictable plot of Defoe's picaresque novel, published in 1722. For all its period indecency, the book is now considered an immortal classic and "among the few English novels which we can call indisputably great," in the opinion of Virginia Woolf.

"Moll Flanders" was adapted by Andrew Davies, who also wrote "Middlemarch" and "The House of Cards Trilogy" for Masterpiece Theatre.

In the course of the story, Moll goes through five husbands-with some interesting complications. Spouse number one is the brother of her first love, a smarmy villain who foists Moll onto his sibling when difficulties arise in the affair. Her second husband is a profligate draper, who absconds to France when the funds run out. She marries number three without benefit of divorce from number two. Spirited away to Virginia to tend a plantation with this pious but priapic Southern gentleman and his proud mother (Diana Rigg), Moll discovers a shocking secret about their family ties-one that makes her give up sex entirely.

But only till she's back in England interviewing for husband number four-wealthy prospects only, of course. The new spouse, Jemmy, turns out to be as big an impostor as Moll, and a highwayman to boot. They separate and Moll eventually turns to a life of crime. But she and Jemmy are obviously made for each other. The rest of the plot hinges on how love can bring these two outlaws together, in spite of more lovers, another husband, prison walls, and the gallows itself.

But beware! "The story, daring for the 18th century, is still daring for late 20th century TV," warns the Los Angeles Times.

A co-production of WGBH Boston and Granada Television, "Moll Flanders" was produced by David Lascelles and directed by David Attwood with Gub Neal as executive producer.

Masterpiece Theatre is presented on PBS by WGBH Boston, where Rebecca Eaton is series executive producer. Pulitzer prize-winning writer Russell Baker is series host. Masterpiece Theatre is closed captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers by The Caption Center at WGBH.

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