(Above: ‘Father Brown’, 1974)
Reports that author GK Chesterton (1874-1936) could become Britain’s first saint in over three centuries got us thinking about film and TV portrayals of Chesterton’s most famous character: The mystery-solving, slightly comedic priest named Father Brown.
Chesterton featured Father Brown in more than 50 short stories, all of which can be read or downloaded for free. The priest was first portrayed on film by Walter Connolly in 1934’s Father Brown, Detective, and most recently by Mark Williams in 70 episodes of the BBC’s Father Brown series since 2013.
But we prefer Kenneth Moore’s rendition in 13 episodes of a short-lived 1974 British ITV series, also called simply Father Brown. We like that Moore’s version took place in the 1920s, roughly akin to when the original stories were written, and that it skewed fairly closely to the original plots.
Episodes of the current series, when based on Chesterton’s original stories, tend to venture far afield. And the show is set not in the 1920s, but in the 1950s.
That makes Williams’ Father Brown more akin to the priest’s 1954 movie portrayal by Alec Guinness. Set contemporaneously in the ‘50s, the Guinness version was again called just Father Brown (but retitled The Detective in US theaters).
You can’t currently stream either of the two Father Brown movies that we’ve mentioned, both of which were based on the very first Father Brown story, 1910’s “The Blue Cross.” But here’s a clip of Guinness’ performance:
Subscription streamer Netflix offers all six seasons of the current Father Brown series, but you can also watch it free on many public TV stations. To find out if/when it airs in your area, consult your local PBS station. Here’s 2013’s version of “The Blue Cross”:
Subscription streamer BritBox offers the 1974 Father Brown, but you can also stream all 13 episodes free on YouTube. Alas, that series didn’t adapt “The Blue Cross,” so here’s “The Curse of the Golden Cross” instead:
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