Paul Dombey (John Carson) is the wealthy owner of a shipping company whose sole desire is to have a son to inherit the family firm. But when a son arrives, his wife dies soon after, and the sickly boy’s own days are numbered. Dombey finds no solace in the affections of his elder child Florence (Kara Wilson). He sees little use in daughters in the business world.
Encouraged by the sinister Major Bagstock (Clive Swift), Dombey enters into a second, loveless marriage with Edith Grainger (Sally Home), who eventually flees to France with Dombey’s double-dealing business manager James Carker (Gary Raymond). Dombey’s livelihood is further undermined by a burgeoning railway network. All seems lost unless his pride will allow him to salvage a relationship with Florence.
The colourful characters also include put-upon clerk Walter Gay (Derek Seaton), retired sea-captain Cuttle (William Moore), scatterbrained Mr Toots (Christopher Sandford), Florence’s faithful maid Susan Nipper (Helen Fraser), Dombey’s fusspot sister Louisa Chick (Hilda Braid) and the spurned but loyal Lucretia Tox (Pat Coombs).
Hugh Leonard’s third Dickens adaptation for the BBC, first broadcast in 1969, is an absorbing portrayal of proud logic undone by staunch affection.