Throughout the 1980’s Barbara Taylor Bradford was Queen of the sweeping romantic drama and Channel 4 (in association with Portman Enterprises), back in 1984 and still in its infancy, made the rather clever decision to dramatise the first of her Emma Harte books A Woman of Substance. Even they were probably a little taken aback at how popular this mini series would be. This of course led the way for further adaptations of the Emma Harte stories, here we take a look at five of the best of the Barbara Taylor Bradford miniseries.
Packed full of top acting talent, led by Jenny Seagrove and the legendary Deborah Kerr as the younger and older versions of Emma Harte, the 3 Emma Harte stories A Woman of Substance, Hold the Dream and To Be The Best, follow the fortunes of Emma Harte and her descendants.
A Woman of Substance begins with self made millionairess Emma Harte gathering her family together before flashing back to her humble beginnings as a maid in Yorkshire, determined to out strip her humble beginnings and eventually rising to the top and owning a chain of department stores, travelling across the decades from the turn of the century to the (then) present day, the story takes in all the key historical events of the times but at its heart its a major tale of love and loss and never giving up what you believe in. There are lots of strong roles for prime British acting talent such as dear old Johnny Mills as well as a breakthrough role for Liam Neeson who does well with the ageing make up to play Blackie O’Neill, who is always there for Emma throughout her life no matter what. It’s a really high quality drama that still quickly has you enthralled.
Hold the Dream followed quickly a year later and carried on the saga of the Hartes with the ageing Emma (still played by Deborah Kerr) handing over the reins of her business empire to grand daughter Paula (cleverly played as well by Jenny Seagrove). It’s another great tale , this time out the action moves between England and New York as Paula tries to juggle the demands of her business empire with learning to realise that love is the most important thing of all.
The finally part of the trilogy To Be The Best didn’t arrive until 1992 and featured Lindsay Wagner in the lead role as a now middle aged Paula. Big business is at the heart of the drama as Paula finds herself in trouble in Hong Kong and the brilliant Anthony Hopkins stealing the limelight as her head of security. An excellent rounding of the story to bring it to a natural close and full of appearnaces from glossy stars like Stephanie Beacham, Christopher Cazenove and Fiona Fullerton.
In between the Emma Harte stories came Act of Will from 1989 and starring a young Elizabeth Hurley and Victoria Tennant and again tells a rags to riches type story as young nurse Audra comes of age in the 1920’s and eventually finds true love in New York, Taylor Bradford supposedly incorporated lots of elements of her own life into this one.
Finally there is Voices of the Heart which, made in 1990, also stars Lindsay Wagner and sees her playing Katherine Tempest who is determined to make it as an actress and rises to become a major Hollywood star. Highly glossy, the cast also includes James Brolin, Victoria Tennant again and Leigh Lawson.
There’s a common theme of succeeding against all the odds in all these stories, something BTB managed to do herself of course and the set as a whole makes for a great collection of supremely entertaining, glamorous and high quality dramas.