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The Inheritance (1997) – Adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s First Novel

The Inheritanace DVD

If ever obscurity applied to a costume drama, it would fit The Inheritance like a glove. Its debut in my life came following a Sunday night’s television perusal, and for several years after, it wasn’t anywhere to be found on a home video format (that was back in the days when VHS tapes were the norm). Once it finally appeared on DVD (still under a cloud of anonymity, mind you), I snatched a copy and have enjoyed multiple viewings since then. Until this past month, I’d not watched this in what felt like years. Soon, as the familiar music began, I was immersed in a world of elegance and nostalgia, a feeling all too many films have lost.

The Inheritance Screencap30

The story follows Edith Adelon (Cari Shayne). As a child, she was orphaned but while in Italy, seeing to family business, the wealthy Henry Hamilton (Tom Conti) brought her home (to America) with him where he has since raised her as his own. Companion to the Hamilton’s young daughter, Amy (Brigitta Dau), Edith has had the same education as her charge. The one privilege she isn’t allowed is an entrance into society. That’s all about to change when Mrs. Hamilton (Meredith Baxter) asks Edith to help the family with the arrival of her cousin, Ida (Brigid Brannagh).

According to Mrs. Hamilton, it is past the time for Ida to make a proper match. This is why she wants her to consider their guest, James Percy (Thomas Gibson), a man who may not be up to Ida’s particular standards. Enlisting Edith’s help to make Ida feel welcome, Edith’s love for the Hamiltons puts her in a position she didn’t wish to be in. When James arrives, complications present themselves, some of which are tied to life-altering secrets that have been hidden away for many years.

The INheritance Screencap27

Though this production shows its age (it was made in 1997), as I settled in to watch it again in recent days, this time through was almost as if I was enjoying it with fresh eyes. All these years later, I’m certainly not immune to the enchanting and vivid painting it brings alive with unique brushstrokes. Perhaps the story isn’t anything revolutionary, but the cast and wholesome nature of the old-fashioned (and I am using this term as a positive rather than the negative connotation the dictionary would have you think of it) romance will be something every romantic should experience at least once.

It’s particularly fun to see Thomas Gibson in this role, especially if you watch him in the current police drama he stars in (Criminal Minds), considering the vastly different role he plays. In this world, you’ll see him step into a Knightley or Mr. Thornton type role (yes, I’m going there and comparing), who is most definitely worth taking a second look at. His James Percy is as noble, kind and protective as the best romantic heroes you’re likely to meet, whether on page or screen.

Though her acting career has been less than prolific, Cari Shayne is uniquely elegant in the leading lady role and is surrounded by great talent with Conti and Baxter. Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott (who’s more popular work is, of course, Little Women), the adaptive story takes a much different tone than that of the novel. Running only 150-some pages, the novel isn’t the greatest work of classic literature because of its limiting length and for me, was a bit too fanciful. Dated or not, I do believe the film helped to flesh out the material and gives a finer perspective on what this story is or might have been. The chemistry and connections don’t read as well in the novel as they play out in the script. Edith enjoys a more familial relationship (in the film) with the Hamilton family and this creates a much more endearing group, not to mention engages the viewer far more.

Edith and James
Edith and James

It’s true that, as a television film, this doesn’t reach the potential it might have had had it been produced by the BBC or PBS (it aired on CBS originally), but this shouldn’t deter anyone from looking into seeing this. It’s still one of the most romantic period films I’ve seen and features some of the most romantic albeit underrated romantic gestures. Though it’s misfortune is to be lost in obscurity, the abiding messages of loving with your whole heart and looking beyond skin deep beauty are breathtaking. You can think of this film, in the same way, you might Little Women. Once you’ve seen it, you’re certain to feel a sense of nostalgia anytime you think of it. If you’re anything like me, one viewing won’t satisfy. Repeat showings will become the norm. The charm, elegance and sense of beauty brings about a sense of the story being wise beyond its years.

You can see The Inheritance on DVD (available through Amazon and other on-line retailers for a very inexpensive price).

Have you seen The Inheritance? What’s your opinion of it or the book? Sound off with any thoughts you wish to share down below…


Photos: CBS

Overall Rating

Five Corset Rating Lower Byte Size

“The stuff that dreams are made of.”

Romance Rating

Five heart rating
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.

I have loved none but you.”

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By on September 24th, 2015

About Rissi JC

Rissi is a self-diagnosed Bookaholic and TV fandom addict. She’s currently an avid blogger and reader who enjoys interacting with readers, and often dreams about finishing her first novel. When not writing or reading, she can be found working as an INSPYs advisory board member or contributing to e-zines. Her scribbles are housed on her blog Finding Wonderland (https://www.rissiwrites.com).

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12 thoughts on “The Inheritance (1997) – Adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s First Novel”

  1. I know I enjoyed this movie, and still do to this day with a whopping 3 copies in my collection! This is all because it may have come with a collection of 5 to 10 movies for a measly 3 to 5 bucks for the whole collection. Oh, well, when one dvd stops playing, I will have more of this wonderful movie. The book was a little fanciful in content, but the move was wonderful. I would love for BBC to pick this up and work it’s magic.

    Reply
    • Hi, Carolena! I don’t blame you! Owning multiple copies of this one isn’t a bad thing AT ALL. 🙂 Also, yes! BBC needs to pick this one up. Under the skillful hands of the right production team and cast, this would be a memorable adaptation. We’ll hope this is a part of the line up one of these years. Preferable in the not-too-distant future. 🙂

      Reply
      • Who do I need to petition!… I mean. And I didn’t recognize Mr. James Percy (My that’s a lovely name. Do people tell you that absolutely all the time?) from Criminal Minds (smoldering). The cast was wonderful. Brigid (Army Wives!) was great. BBC can do this justice and maybe get them to reprise their roles. (Okay, I know they are all older, but I can dream.)

        Reply
        • I too loved everyone in the cast, Carolena. It was fun to realize Thomas was later in “Criminal Minds” (which I watched long after seeing this) and of course, Brigid of “Army Wives,” another show I later enjoyed. I also really liked Edith; she’s an actress who hasn’t done much, but this role was wonderful. Who indeed!? We must see BBC adapt this! 🙂

          Reply
  2. Just saw this yesterday after 20 years. Keeping in mind that Louisa wrote this at age 17, it’s amazing. The cinematography & costumes are beautiful. However, it was ITALY, not India.

    Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed this one, Jackie. Because I love this story so much, I’d love to see ITV or BBC update it. The cast is fabulous (it’s fun to see Gibson in contrast to his role in “Criminal Minds”) as are the costumes, I agree. The ball scene in particular is beautiful. 🙂

      I’ve edited the error. Thanks for mentioning it.

      Reply
  3. Rissi, yes, it brought back fond memories of reading Louisa – I read Little Women five times at age 10, and always cried when Beth died. My mother caught me once, and asked why do you read it if it makes you cry?

    I had tears in my eyes when Edith and James finally got together, somewhat like the coming together of Eliza Bennet and Macfadyen’s Mr. Darcy in the rain.

    Reply
    • Aww! What fun memories. I’ve read this, but haven’t ever read “Little Women.” I know I should, especially as I adore the film adaptation.

      I adore the scenes with Edith and James. They’re fabulous, and that ending? So perfect. Makes you feel as if she’s going to let him go – and me want to shout, “NOOOO!” Glad that’s not how it ends.

      Also, I fangirl over the Darcy “rain scene” EVERY SINGLE TIME. That scene is so well directed/written/acted. 🙂

      Reply

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