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Airing: Sundays, June 4, 11 and 18, 2000
9pm to 11pm on PBS
(Check local listings)
Aired previously January 3 through 5, 1999

Image of two of the cast holding hands

At the peak of his powers, Charles Dickens composed this lurid tale of murder, greed, and obsession centered on the courtship of two ravishingly beautiful, but starkly different women. Ever fond of ironic symbols, Dickens creates a world where money is made from mammoth dust heaps and from corpses fished from the Thames. Paul McGann, Anna Friel, David Morrissey, Steven Mackintosh, and Keeley Hawes star in this meticulous recreation of Dickens's last completed novel, which many regard as his greatest.

"The plot has a very modern feel, using flashbacks and dislocations of time that make it perfect for film," notes producer Catherine Wearing. "The mood-filled landscapes of the River Thames, the dust mountains, and a society obsessed with money dominate these extraordinary love stories."

As with all of Dickens's works, Our Mutual Friend builds a vivid world from characters who are as singular as their names are evocative: Bella Wilfer (Anna Friel, Landgirls), a self-centered coquette who is courted by the mysterious John Rokesmith (Steven Mackintosh, Prime Suspect); Eugene Wrayburn (Paul McGann, Withnail and I, Dr. Who), a dissolute barrister who is suitor of Lizzie Hexam (Keeley Hawes, The Moonstone), the lovely daughter of a corpse robber; and Bradley Headstone (David Morrissey), a homicidal schoolmaster, who also woos Lizzie.

Then there are Bella's guardians, the dust-pile magnates Mr. and Mrs. Boffin (Peter Vaughan and Pam Ferris); the learned one-legged blackmailer Silas Wegg (Kenneth Cranham); his confederate, the lovelorn taxidermist Mr. Venus (Timothy Spall, Shooting the Past); the doll dressmaker and psychic Jenny Wren (Katy Murphy); plus a rogue's gallery of other souls, among them Rogue Riderhood (David Bradley), a fisher of corpses from the Thames who battles for the body that commences the action--and secret--that opens the story.

Our Mutual Friend was completed in 1865, five years before Dickens's sudden death from a stroke. He was in failing health at the time and was very nearly killed in a notorious railway accident partway through the book's composition. Complicating his life was a scandal-defying affair with actress Ellen Ternan.

But these distractions did little to impede his fertile imagination, which succeeded in producing a work that foreshadows T. S. Eliot's modernist classic The Waste Land. The celebrated poem, published in 1922, is pervaded with strange imagery of water, death, sterility, dehumanization, and a bizarre urban landscape--the very themes that permeate Our Mutual Friend.


All photographs courtesy BBC



Our Mutual Friend | Interview with the Producer | Episode Descriptions | Cast and Credits

Other recent Dickens adaptations:
David Copperfield
Great Expectations



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