Frenchman’s Creek (1998 television film)

Having finished reading the novel a few days ago, last night I sat down to watch the 1998 film version of Frenchman’s Creek. A huge amount of the story was changed. Instead of being set in the Restoration court under Charles II, it was set during the Glorious Revolution in 1688. There are loads of Dutchmen as a result of William’s invasion of England – and whilst I usually love 1688 stories, there is no reason why they couldn’t have kept it in the 1660s. The first scene of the film was shot inside the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, and that was a treat.Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 12.07.23MaAnthony Delain, who was physically perfect as the French pirate, but I felt that he smirked a bit too much to be like the Aubery of du Maurier’s novel. Aubery is pensive and a prolific artist of birds (not once was this referred to in the film). Aubery is also half-Irish in this when he was a full Breton in the book. I had to get used to Tara Fitzgerald as Dona, mainly because I associate her so strongly with her role in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. (Last year, I literally bumped into Tara Fitzgerald on High Street Kensington, which was nice). But she ultimately won me over.

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Harry, Dona’s husband, is supposed to be an idiot and was played as such until, miraculously, at the end of the film he is sober, selfless, and almost heroic – another huge change from the original story. Dona’s daughter, only a very little girl in the book, was insolent and malicious in this version and I found this added an unnecessary and even slightly annoying plotline. There were some beautiful shots throughout the film, including what you can see in the still from below.

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It was quite a short adaptation (less than an hour and 45 minutes) so many little things were left out such as Aubery and Dona getting to know each other, fishing, cooking and eating together. It was the little moments of tenderness between them in the novel that I had hoped would be translated onto the screen, but it appeared that they jumped into bed rather quickly. If the film had been a miniseries or maybe 2 1/2 hours long, there could have been more time to evolve the relationship between the two main characters. Dona and Aubery are soul mates with a beautiful relationship – and this was sadly not emphasised enough in this adaptation. All in all, it was an entertaining and enjoyable film to watch but very different from the original story. I’ll next see the 1940s version and see if that’s any closer to the original.


I’d give it 3.5/5

Hear ye! 4 thoughts — so far — on “Frenchman’s Creek (1998 television film)”:

  1. Helen Hooley

    Frenchman’s is my all time favourite novel ( along with Lord of the Rings) because of the absolutely brilliant portrayal of the relationship between Dona and Jean. The little nuances and details are so sensitively written and …… well words fail me – it’s brilliant: so on the basis of the review and the fact that I’d struggle with Tara Fitzgerald as Dona – I don’t think I want to see this film. 🥴

    1. V'léOnica Roberts

      Miss Hooley, please do not sell this version short, but at the same time, if you love the novel, you must watch the 1944 version. It will not disappoint you.
      When I first saw the 1944 movie in a hotel one morning when travelling across country in 1985, it instantly became my all-time favorite movie. Oddly, getting into the film after the opening credits & being forced to continue my journey before the last scene, I did not know the name of it, nor the names of any of the actors. Then one evening in 1992 or 3, just hearing the TCM guy describe the up coming movie, I knew at once it was the movie I’d been hunting for & quickly set up 2 VHS machines to record the movie in different rooms, just in case. In the 90s, when the remake came out, I flat out refused to watch it because Hollywood is notorious for their awful remakes, as a general rule, & I did not a bad version detracting from my favorite movie. Then just a couple years ago, seeing it on youtube, I decided to give it a chance. It quickly became tied with beloved 1944 version.

  2. V'léOnica Roberts

    To see all the little bits you mentionrd, may I suggest the 1944 version of this movie starring Joan Forntaine & Arturo de Córdova. You will not be disappointed, I promise. Even though Both of these share the spotlight as my Favorite movie of All-Time, they do so for different reasons. The animosity expressed between Dona & Aubrey in the 1998 version does not exist in the 1944 version; instead they shared a rather cordial manner. Dona in the original Dona was shy, where in the 1998 version she was bold, not that in the original she did not prove her mettle, she did so by cutting the boats loose, she was decidedly more feminine, but by no means, a coward, & did fight well when such was required.
    There’s little fighting & no bloodshed in the original. In the 1998 version, the scene where the pirates do battle against the dock in their escape is exceptionally realistic. I think that once you watch the original, if you haven’t already, you will appreciate it, & you too will also find yourself having a hard time choosing which is the better version.

  3. Gilda Caudron

    Frenchman’s Creek is one of my favorite novels, and while both of the movie version have merit they still have not captured the magical love that develops between Jean and Donna, both knowing it is love that cannot develop over the years, yet somehow it is better that way. Having said that, both movies are hugely enjoyable, each cast bringing their special talents to to their roles. Anthony Delon is perfect as the Frenchman, but again, there was little development of his personality compared to Donna.


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