If your comparative lit. class didn't point out the remarkable similarity between the styles of Leo Tolstoy and Anathony Trollope, take a look Sunday night at the new Masterpiece Theater offering on Channel 26.
Someone ought to get a doctorate out of comparing "Anna Karenina" to last season's Palliser series, with special emphasis on the area of ball dresses, sofas and stuffy husbands. There are differences, of course. "Anna Karenina" is unquestionably better on furs, while unable to touch the Pallisers in the matter of lawns.
But one could easily prove the pont that Count Tolstoy was mistaken when he noted, for openers, that "every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
"Karenina" is a 10-part series, from England of course, and like the previous television Masterpieces, it is gorgeous. In fact, the trappings are so magnificent that it seems a shame to look into horse's mouth.
In an opening scene, for instance, Anna, in white furs, slowly explains how her silver muff-warmer works. One inserts a capsule, lights it, carefully closes the silver case and inserts it in the fur muff which matches one's hat and coat. Then when one puts one's hands into one's muff, one finds it already warm.
This scene is truly reveting. In comparison, Anna's meeting with Court Vronsky shortly afterwards is tepid.
It is a shame that a production which can deal so sensitively with dry goods, should fail elsewhere. But the Masterpiece Theater persists with its grand tradition of compressing complex literature into quickly grasped modern themes.
In this case, It makes the point that boy and girl adulterers are treated differently; that there was, in fact, a double standard operating back in Czarist Russia.
No doubt. But Tolstoy also wrote about the powers of society and the futility of opposing such a subtle and ruthless force. The television show admits this by having an old lady say "quite scandalous" when Anna and Vronsky are first dancing together publicly - quite innocent indeed, if not intention, at this point, and therefore hardly qualifying as scandalous in that society - but that doesn't cover it.
There is a most beautiful Anna under the beautiful furs - Nicola Pagett, who looks the way Audrey Hepburn would have if she had gotten enough to eat during the war. She was Elizabeth Bellamy in "Upstairs, Downstairs," so she is no stranger to Literature. Nor I Karenin, Eric Porter, last seem in these parts as Soames Forsythe who, come to think of it, was also unhappy in quite the same way.
Vronsky comes off a bit sappy - smouldering eyes, but beneath a bad haircut. However, as we know from previous Masterpieces, when a husband is really stuffy, almost anyone will do to replace him.