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The Belle of Amherst

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The Belle of Amherst + Emily Dickinson: A Certain Slant of Light
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Product Details

  • Actors: Julie Harris
  • Directors: Charles S. Dubin
  • Writers: William Luce
  • Producers: Carolyn Houghton, Don Gregory, Harry Waterson, Mike Merrick
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Kino Lorber films
  • DVD Release Date: July 6, 2004
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00028G6HG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,689 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Belle of Amherst" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

The brilliant Julie Harris repeats her Tony Award winning role as the eccentric nineteenth-century poet Emily Dickinson. Against a handsome set depicting Dickinson's Amherst, Massachusetts home, Harris is in constant motion recollecting the poet's past form her work, her diaries and letters and encountering the significant people in her life - friends, relative and acquaintances. The play, here for the first time on DVD, shrewdly balances the agony of the secluded poet as she tells about her family and the bright moments when Dickinson can see the joy in life. Julie Harris' Emily Dickinson is "so perfect here that the film assumes an authenticity and poignancy unmatched in similar films and the poetry emerges as fresh and contemporary" (LIBRARY JOURNAL). THE BELLE OF AMHERST has been mastered from the only source material available, drawn from the primitive analog video in which it was originally photographed. As a result, this DVD does show artifacts from the digitization process which are most prominent through the film's final 30 minutes.

Customer Reviews

Julie Harris manages to bring the elusive poet Emily Dickinson to life in the play Belle of Amherst.
Elizabeth W. Crane
The taped/DVD version captures a good deal of the original; unfortunately, some memorable portions of the play were edited out for unclear reasons.
Anthony Compagnone
Learning about Emily's life and hearing her wondorous verse spoken by such an artist was truly invigorating.
D. lariscy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Richard O. Follett (richfoll@yahoo.com) on November 9, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
This astonishing video performance of Julie Harris' one-woman show about poetess Emily Dickinson's life and work is a true tour-de-force. Ms. Harris' range of expression both physically and vocally evokes Emily Dickinson so precisely that one can hardly imagine that she ever looked or sounded any other way. The poems which are featured in this script are so deftly and subtly interwoven that the entire presentation feels seamless and eminently REAL. I am a Theatre Arts/Speech teacher at a small High School in Virginia, and my students are perpetually astonished at the humor and relevance of a video made more than twenty years ago - usually, they want to tune out anything "old". This is a rich and sumptuous piece of living literature with a tremendously broad appeal - not just Dickinson's poetry, but her unique life is showcased in this privileged interview. This is EXACTLY the kind of "living literature" that we need most in our homes and in our schools - by bringing authors and works of note to life, we can perpetuate the essential reverence for the power of the written word which has perenially distinguished our culture. Please don't let the relatively high price of this product deter you - it is an investment which will repay itself many times over!
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Alejandra Vernon HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 6, 2004
Format: DVD
Of all the highlights of Julie Harris' illustrious career, "The Belle of Amherst " is her masterpiece. This extraordinary one-woman, two act play by William Luce is exquisitely written and laced with Emily Dickinson's poetry, and is by turns hilarious, as she tells us the small town gossip, to profound and moving, when she speaks of her poetry, her parents, and Dr. Charles Wadsworth, a preacher that captured her heart and soul.
It takes place when Emily, who was born in 1830, is 53 years old, and she invites the viewer into her home, and describes in wonderfully staged vignettes, the many phases of her life. Dickinson was unknown during her lifetime, and was a recluse, but said "I never had to go anywhere to find my paradise".

You will get the recipe for her famous Black Bread, which has as ingredients: 2 lbs. each flour, butter, and sugar, 19 eggs, 5 lbs. raisins, 1 ½ lbs. each currants and citron, ½ pt. each brandy and molasses, 2 nutmegs, 5 tsp. cloves, mace and cinnamon, 2 tsp. soda, and 2 pinches of salt. I have tasted this Black Bread (which is more like a fruit cake), and it's delicious !

Julie Harris is "The First Lady of the American Theater", with a record five Tony Awards with her name on them, as well as an Oscar nomination and 10 Emmy nominations. Ms. Harris has captivated many an audience with her impassioned performances, and her portrayal of Emily Dickinson is as if they shared the same heart; this is a unique theatrical experience, directed by Charles Durbin, and filmed live in a small theater in 1976.

This was a gift from a generous soul, to whom I am very grateful, and this film would be equally treasured by anyone who appreciates poetry and Ms. Harris' magical talent.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Doyle on September 1, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I am thrilled to see that this production is finally out on a decently priced DVD. I haven't seen this production, which I think was on PBS many years ago, since it was on TV back then. However, I was fortunate enough to see Miss Harris perform the play in Boston about five years ago. In all my 55 years, of all the plays, concerts, films, etc. that I have ever seen, this was absolutely the finest piece of art I have ever witnessed. Julie Harris is easily the greatest actress of the 20th Century, and this is her greatest role. Absolutely spell-binding, moving beyond words.

Moreover, I agree with the reviewer who says that "The Belle of Amherst" is an outstanding way to present Emily Dickenson to students. This goes for the general public as well. A remarkable play.

Well, what more can I say? I can't wait to see the DVD. Hope it is of good quality.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Garman Lord on October 1, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
THE BELLE OF AMHERST is one of those artistic gems that is no less brilliant for seeming somewhat imperfectly faceted. By this I mean that I disagree with the dramatist's interpretation of Emily Dickinson's personality, but love the play anyway for the sake of Julie Harris' star turn performance and for the script's being essentially a quiltwork of pithy quotes and juicy anecdotes drawn directly from The Divine Emily's life and works.

My problem is with the depiction of Emily as neurotically, almost pathologically, shy, nerdishly awkward, scatterbrained, giddily unsure of herself... none of which seems to match the historical Emily I have come over time to understand and love. Unfortunately, the play's interpretation is based mainly on the only extensive account of what the mature Emily was like, as recorded by Thomas Wentworth Higginson, literary style-and-form czar of his day, as a very conventional-minded authority who seemed to find the poetess and her creations about equally baffling. My cavil is that this was not the true Emily, but rather an Emily hopelessly unnerved and overwhelmed by her meeting, after years of futile poem submissions and correspondence, with this great literary eminence grise, as obtusely unsympathetic arbiter of the worldly fate of all that was most precious to Emily, namely her poetry.

Higginson was a well-schooled "expert" in matters of poetry. Emily was, by contrast, a genius, born with a magical ability to compose the stuff that Higginson was an expert in, but otherwise almost completely unschooled in it.
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