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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 2 September 2009
It is very difficult to imagine anyone better than Dorothy Tutin playing Winifred Holtby's determined Headteacher. Holtby,a friend and contemporary of Vera Brittain whose " Testament of Youth" was a major piece of work, was a feminist and prolific writer and journalist who wrote for the Trade Union magazine The Schoolteacher and The Manchester Guardian. Dorothy Tutin plays the central character, Miss Sarah Burton, with great conviction. Returning to her native Yorkshire she finds "the winds of change are blowing over the South Riding".She strives with great passion to enable the girls in her school to have ambition ,study hard and fulfil their true potential.

Adapted by Sam Barstow and co- directed by James Ormerod and Alistair Reid, South Riding is a masterly drama. In addition to the presence of Dorothy Tutin, a fine supporting cast including Hermione Baddeley, Judy Bowker( an excellent Midge Carne), Clive Swift and the underated Milton Johns, do full justice to Holtby's most celebrated work. The restrained love that Sarah Burton feels for the aggressive Robert Cairn, whose entrenched views and hostility to change shape his character, is both tender and believable. Nigel Davenport plays the role of Carne with considerable force and feeling.

Winifred Holtby,aware that she was dying, strove to complete South Riding before her premature death at the age of 37. This excellent 1974 production is a splendid adaptation of her much loved novel.
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on 12 March 2011
If you want to see a dramatisation of the book, this is the version to go for. The 2011 is travesty and a waste of a good cast. It was a bad idea to try to cram this book into just three hours.

I have called this review tv like they used to make and that may be a mixed blessing. I love it but recognise that it may not be to modern tastes in some ways. Its very faithfulness to the book makes it long and it does start slowly. It does need a degree of commitment at the start but before long you should be engrossed in the many story lines and it is very rewarding.

Winifred Holtby's book is a detailed picture of life in a small Yorkshire town and surrounding countryside. Sarah Burton, who had been brought up there, the blacksmith's daughter, comes back as headmistress of the girls' high school. She has a passionate belief in the value of education for girls, whatever their background. One of her brightest and best pupils Lydia Holly is from a family who live in a disused railway carriage in an area called The Shacks. Sarah fights for her to be be able to stay in school. Seeing Lydia's home life introduces us to their neighbours who have fallen on hard times. Her work as headmistress also means she has to mix with local politicians. She also meets a woman alderman and two of the school governors. One, Robert Carne, is a local landowner who has his own money problems. He is a bit of a dinosaur to whom Sarah is drawn despite the fact that their beliefs are completely opposed. Another, Joe Astell is a trade union activist who is much more in tune with Sarah and her way of seeing life.

There are host of other characters and this adaptation has time for them all. This is where it differs from the 2011 version, which centres on Sarah's love life. This is just one aspect of the story and concentrating on it (in 2011) almost to the exclusion of all else (apart from Lydia's story and a nod at local politics) makes it very unbalanced, incoherent and a poor representation of the richness of the book.

The reason I have only give it four stars is that Stan Barstow's dramatisation embroiders some of the stories. He doesn't change any of them so far as I can remember but he adds details which are not in the book. I can see that this was for good dramatic reasons because it means the various stories can stand on their own but it does make it longer than it needed to be.

The acting talent in the 2011 version is wasted because they are given such an incoherent adaptation to work with. The acting in the 1974 version is good (Dorothy Tutin is perfect and watch out for Joan Hickson as a bullied teacher) but it has to be said that the production values are of their time.
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on 26 May 2017
Very disappointed . Picture quality very poor
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on 14 September 2017
This has to be one of the best TV series to emerge from the 1970s, itself a fantastic decade in which so much top class television programmes were made.Dorothy Tutin's portrayal of the brilliant, socialist Miss Burton is superb.
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on 14 July 2017
Excellent. difficult to find product. good delivery delighted!
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on 8 April 2017
1 "wobble" on 1 D.V.D., OTHERWISE FINE---ENJOYED ESP.AS IT KEPT TO THE BOOK!
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on 12 April 2009
The previous review has no validity since the writer did not have the patience to watch this series all the way through. The winner of four major television awards, Yorkshire Television's version of Winifred Holtby's superb, but under-rated, 1930s novel is an excellent one, which brings out all the compassion and humanity of the original. Credit must go to Stan Barstow for the faithful adaptation and to the cast, among whom Dorothy Tutin gives a truly wonderful performance as the idealistic headmistress Sarah Burton. Nigel Davenport is also fine as the landowner Robert Carne, who represents all the things to which Sarah is opposed but which do not prevent her from loving him. The sometimes rather leisurely pace merely allows the drama to unfold steadily and purposefully.
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on 2 February 2011
I began watching with some trepidation, expecting it to be a hammy and dated production. How pleasantly surprised I was! Yes, the first episode was rather heavy-going and seemed to cram in an awful lot of characters and plots and sub-plots, but then so does the book. With both, a little perseverance made it all worthwhile as for the rest of the series I was transfixed by the story and, on the whole,the acting. I live in the area dubbed "Cold Harbour" in the novel so it was admittedly of particular interest to me, but apart from that, this was a wide-sweeping depiction of rural Britain of the time between the two wars. Had I not read the book I might have suspected that many of the feminist and political aspects had been inserted by Stan Barstow, it seemed so modern, but they were actually true to the content of the novel. Winifred Holtby was very politically aware and shared many of the views of Sarah Burton, the headmistress who strives so hard to inspire and enable her students and to ensure that they get the best possible education. More than this, the author does not just take the leftist approach and only depict the poor and needy, but also shows empathy for the struggle of farmers and landowners to survive and not go under and for the politicians who follow their beliefs. As to the complaint that the series was dated, I actually found that this enhanced the atmosphere. (No doubt the new series will be very pretty and glossy, but I doubt that it will feel as authentic.) The acting in the 70s version was very true to the characters, apart from the rather wooden performance of Nigel Davenport. Locations are true to the area and the atmosphere created was spot on. Don't be deterred, stick it out past the first couple of episodes, let it take over your imagination and you will be hooked.
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on 3 June 2011
This ITV production in 1974 was shown on Channel 4 in 1987 and is a faithful dramatisation of the original novel published in 1936. Having read the novel first this 13 episode dramatisation was both a joy to see and a moving faithful account of the plot and spirit of Winifred Holtby's novel. Staring Dorothy Tutin and Nigel Davenport it has done ample justice to Winifred Holtby's remarkably relevent pre-war novel of local politics, corruption, poverty, and love across the class and ideology divide. Winifred Holtby saw the rise of fascism, the coming war, and the dislocation of the landed gentry and its demise. South Riding was Winifred's last novel dying at an early age of 37 and this DVD is a moving tribute her foresight and brilliance and her versatility in tackling the social issues and also the human relationships which do not conveniently stay within politically correct barriers. If there is a message, and I think Winifred Holtby had one its that there is hope through suffering and this dramatisation is faithful to the novel and the novelist whose personal life was a tribute to that hope.
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on 8 March 2011
If you are considering buying the DVD of South Riding following the recent TV production, I would advise you buy this one instead. This is a much superior adaptation of Winifred Holtby's great classic book which does justice to the underlying themes of the novel rather than the more superficial romantic elements.
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