THE MINISERIES: North & South
THE PAIRING: Mr. John Thornton (Richard Armitage) and Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe)
THE MOMENT: Mr. Thornton and Margaret cross paths at a train station and kiss.
Mr. Thornton and Margaret Hale – The Lead In
Throughout the years, BBC has put out several of the greatest period dramas in recent history with their impeccable costume detail, well scripted dialogue, and sweepingly romantic adaptations from classic literature’s finest novels. Still, one adaptation stands out as one of the most epically romantic. In 2004, the BBC adapted Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel, North & South (not to be confused with the soapy American miniseries of the same name) starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe in the title roles of Mr. John Thornton and Margaret Hale.
Not since Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, has there been such a story about misunderstandings and pride.
The screenplay was written by the always fabulous Sandy Welch (2006’s Jane Eyre, Our Mutual Friend, and 2009’s Emma) and directed by Brian Percival (The Book Thief). Everything about this production worked from the dialogue to the stunning visuals; the cotton in Mr. Thornton’s factory as beautiful as fallen snow. And in a story about class struggles (including a strike) and labor workers’ rights, the love story between cotton mill owner Mr. Thornton of the north and middle class southerner Margaret Hale uprooted abruptly from her country life becomes all the more powerful. Not since Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, has there been such a story about misunderstandings and pride. How could Margaret ever fall in love with a man who seemingly goes against her principles? And how could Mr. Thornton help but fall in love with a woman full of passion and independent spirit?
How the two slowly come together is incredible. One moment Mr. Thornton proposes in full Mr. Darcy style (only to be turned down with similar disdain as Elizabeth Bennet) and the next he thinks Margaret’s brother Thornton witnesses her saying goodbye to in the middle of the night on a train platform is some secret lover. The two are just never on the same page. That is until the very end, which brings me to my romantic moment of the week.
The Romantic Moment – Thornton and Margaret
While most readers prefer book scenes to be relatively similar in the film adaptation, I firmly believe that the ending written by Sandy Welch is even better than the one in the brilliant novel by Gaskell. For those who haven’t read the book yet, I am sorry to say that the chance meeting at the train station does not exist. Thankfully though, it does at least exist for us romantics watching the mini-series on the small screen. This is one ending that never stops making you swoon, no matter how many times you watch it on rewind.
The scene is set flawlessly. Unbeknownst to one another, they both travel to the others’ homes. Thornton travels to the south while Margaret travels back to the north (now knowing that she loves him after being in denial for so long). On their way back to their individual homes, they cross paths at a train station. First, the train stops and Margaret steps out (her lawyer friend Henry about to lose any romantic chance he had left). The other train at the other side of the platform also slowly comes to a halt. We now have the perfect setup: It is Mr. Thornton on the other train and Margaret sees him immediately with a look of surprise and joyful awe.
She walks towards him as Mr. Thornton looks up in astonishment.
His surprise quickly then turns to uncontrollable happiness (obvious since he rarely smiles throughout the entire series):
“Where are you going?” He asks (I think deep down he knows where she has been).
“To London. I’ve been to Milton,” Margaret confesses to Thornton. “You’ll not guess where I’ve been” he teases. Mr. Thornton then pulls out a yellow flower from her old home in a clear romantic gesture; a flower she had thought was no longer in bloom.
“Why were you in Milton?” He asks with hope written on his face, something that had eluded him for most of their story. Margaret claims for business (as if anyone believes her ‘business’ proposal is purely professional to invest her money in Thornton’s now bankrupt mill). “I have a business proposition…I need Henry to help me explain.” Her awkward movements and gestures suggest just how nervous she is to tell her plan and in the process her own feelings she so long refused to admit.
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“You don’t need Henry to explain.” Of course she doesn’t because he knows now that it is all about her love for him. They sit on a bench and she ‘attempts’ to explain her proposition:
MARGARET: “I have some 15,000 pounds just at present lying in a bank earning very little interest. My financial advisers tell me that if you were to take this money and use it to run Marlborough Mills, you could give me a very much better rate of interest. So you see; it is only a business matter. You would not be obliged to me in any way…”
Knowing her feelings, Mr. Thornton grabs her hand:
She pauses after stumbling on her ‘apparent’ speech and further puts her hands in his:
Overcome with emotion and feelings, she takes his hand and kisses it.
Mr. Thornton, still smiling of course, places his hand on her cheek before he is going to kiss her.
They lean in for their first kiss, a textbook romantic moment after almost four hours of build up between the two. Then they finally kiss.
Meanwhile, the London train announces it is about to depart. Margaret takes off only to return with her bag. It is then Thornton realizes he truly has the heart of the woman he has loved for so long. “You’re coming home with me,” he says with a smile and then Thornton and Margaret board the train together to go on and start their new lives.
Do you have a favorite romantic moment between Mr. Thornton and Margaret Hale? Do you love North & South as much as I do? Sound off below…
All Photos are credited to BBC.