Screen adaptations of Jane Eyre The Nanny Diaries is only one entry in the genre of movies about people looking after other people's children. There's The Sound of Music, there's The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, and then there's the deliciously dark story that begat them all, Jane Eyre. In Charlotte Brontë's classic Victorian novel, Jane takes a job as governess at Thornfield Hall and falls madly in love with the mysterious Rochester, her ostensibly single employer, only to learn (the hard way) that there's a madwoman in the attic—his wife. Of the many screen adaptations over the years, here are the two to watch:

  • Franco Zeffirelli's lush, romantic 1996 film features Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane opposite William Hurt as Rochester; Joan Plowright flaps and frets as the housekeeper who pretends not to notice the screams coming from the off-limits wing of the house.

  • A more gothic 1944 version directed by Robert Stevenson (who later brought us a sunnier nanny flick, Mary Poppins) stars Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. Fontaine's plainspoken Jane withstands the increasingly creepy happenings at Thornfield like a trouper, but can't seem to get her strange, strapping boss off her mind.

Photo: James Steidl/Kyle Gruba/iStockphoto


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