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Masterpiece Theatre; Wives and Daughters

Wives and Daughters Episode 1

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Masterpiece Theatre
Wives and Daughters
Program Number


Series Description

Program premiered in 1971 with The First Churchills. Hosted by Alastair Cooke. Intended as a showcase for the best of British television drama. Spawned MYSTERY! in 1980. Current executive producer Rebecca Eaton. All promotion of program done by Frank Goodman & Associates (see below). Synopsis, cast information and producers listed by individual title. Series release date: 1971

Program Description

In this adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s enchanting masterpiece, young Molly Gibson finds her chief rival for handsome Roger Osborne is her best friend and stepsister, the captivating Cynthia. Roger and Cynthia pair off, of course, but love finds a way for the stalwart Molly. The cast includes Francesca Annis, Michael Gambon, Keeley Hawes, Bill Paterson and Justine Waddell. 3014 Seventeen-year-old Molly Gibson lives contentedly with her father, a respected local doctor, until Mr. Gibson's young assistant professes love for Molly. Panicked, Mr. Gibson sends Molly on an extended visit to Squire and Mrs. Hamley of Hamley Hall. There, Molly develops a close bond with the frail Mrs. Hamley and becomes infatuated with her elder son, Osborne, reputedly a brilliant scholar. Trouble erupts when the younger son, Roger, returns with news that Osborne has failed his exams. Soon after, Molly's life is thrown into turmoil when Mr. Gibson announces he is to remarry. Molly suspects that her new mother the former Mrs. Hyacinth Kirkpatrick is not the sweet, kind person she appears to be. Molly confides her misgivings to Roger, who becomes like a brother to her. Meanwhile, the squire banishes Osborne when his mounting debts come to light. Mrs. Hamley goes into terminal decline, faithfully attended by Molly. 3015 Mrs. Gibson's daughter by her previous marriage, the ravishingly beautiful Cynthia, arrives from France. Molly finds her irresistible, and they become fast friends. Cynthia's relationship with her mother is distant and awkward, especially when the handsome land agent Mr. Preston comes to call. Soon, Mrs. Hamley dies and the squire turns his grief and rage on Osborne, who disappears on frequent unexplained trips. Molly learns Osborne's secret when she overhears a conversation about his "pretty French wife." Osborne swears Molly to secrecy. Meanwhile, Roger is falling in love with Cynthia, just as Molly is falling in love with Roger. When flowers arrive for Cynthia from Preston, she throws them in the fire. Molly wonders if there is something in the past between them. Before he leaves on a scientific expedition to Africa, Roger proposes to Cynthia. She accepts and Molly is heartbroken. 3016 Mrs. Gibson tells her husband about Cynthia's engagement and reveals that she thinks it a good match, given Osborne's serious health problems. Mr. Gibson is furious, realizing that she has been eavesdropping on his medical consultations. His congratulations to Cynthia turn sour when she demands total secrecy about the engagement, but won't say why. When Molly is out walking she comes across Cynthia and Preston in a passionate argument. Preston reveals they have been secretly engaged for several years, but Cynthia insists the engagement is off. That night Cynthia tells Molly her story: At age 15 she accepted Preston's proposal, but now he won't release her and holds her letters as blackmail. Molly vows to help. She meets Preston and demands the letters. Preston refuses, professing undying love for Cynthia. A local gossip observes the meeting and assumes the worst: a tryst between Molly and Preston! 3017 Mr. Preston finally returns Cynthia's letters to go-between Molly, who little suspects she is the subject of scurrilous town rumors. Lady Harriet comes to the rescue by taking up the cause of Molly's honor. With news of her duplicity now out, Cynthia breaks off her engagement to Roger and eventually lands a suitable match but not before the shocking news arrives that Osborne is dead. Molly tells the grief-stricken squire about Osborne's wife and son, both of whom the squire adopts. Roger returns from Africa and is startled to see Molly, no longer the girl he considered a sister, but a beautiful, self-confident woman. He is on the point of leaving again, when he and Molly must make a fateful decision.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Chicago: “Masterpiece Theatre; Wives and Daughters,” WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 24, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_7C034457C6C140E09782F26549E35489.
MLA: “Masterpiece Theatre; Wives and Daughters.” WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 24, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_7C034457C6C140E09782F26549E35489>.
APA: Masterpiece Theatre; Wives and Daughters. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_7C034457C6C140E09782F26549E35489
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