Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Fr. Brown series

Mark Williams in Father Brown

First of all I want to say that I like Mark Williams as an actor and as a comedian. I like aspects of his portrayal of Fr. Brown. He brings something of his own to the character. However, having watched two of the episodes (on BBC iPlayer) I have to say that, on the whole I do not like the series. My first reason is that the films do not follow Chesterton's stories but adapt them and add elements that are not in line with Chesterton's Fr. Brown nor with Chesterton's thinking. The episode "The Hammer of God" was a mess. Just recently I watched the earlier version with Kenneth More (from the 1970's). Although that version was in black and white, was obviously less expensive and was shorter (and there was a sad piece of bad acting from William Rushton - who I like - as the vicar) it was far superior.
The Kenneth More version of the Fr. Brown character was more carefully observed and more in line with Chesterton. I enjoyed some aspects of the newer series; I liked the additional characters which add some humour. However, on the whole, it is not Chesterton and not, in my opinion, the best depiction of Fr. Brown. I like the way Alec Guinness portrayed him in the film, but there the time frame was wrong as it is in this new series. I suppose we have to be grateful for any depiction of a Catholic priest that is anyway genuine and positive, but there are some worrying elements in this new version which may say much about the writers and may lead some viewers to a distorted understanding of Chesterton.


  1. I have enjoyed the Father Brown Stories - being a bit Miss Marple-ish. The character is a bit quirky but I think it also looks at forgiveness and redemption. The stories are simple and a bit predictable in this series but again a nice change for a series. It's growing on me. I am also enjoying Death in Paradise.

  2. Yes, they are enjoyable to begin with, but looking below the surface, or really listening to the script, shows another agenda. There is definitely a "liberal" view of the Scriptures and Church teaching here which is dishonest because it does not accord with Chesterton's views and is a false depiction of Fr. Brown. I am parish priest in a parish where the real Fr. Brown was PP. Chesterton came here too. The inspiration for Fr. Brown, Fr. J. O'Connor was a connoisseur of the arts and was very well-read, possessing a wonderful gift of reason as well as a wry sense of humour. He was also quite humble. These are the things that attracted Chesterton and it is on these attributes that the Fr. Brown character was based. I like Mark Williams but he is NOT Fr. Brown.