We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

Title for paper on JA film adaptations · 24 February 07


I’m coming closer to a title. I now have: "Films in Dialogue: What the differences between film adaptations of the same Jane Austen novels can tell us." The core is how the versions of P&P are so close, and the versions of Emma different. The supplement about how the transpositions of MP and Persuasion and Northanger Abbey throw light on the controversial or difficult adaptations. This will be the back story of the paper.

The front story is the nugget I sent the editor. The evidence or source of my paper will be filmic conventions in the films.

I’ve also changed which films I’ll deal in: in lieu of the 2006 Focus
P&P I’ll do the 1993 Full Crew/Say Yea Ruby in Paradise

So here’s my line-up now.

Transposition or analogies

1) Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s 1980 Jane Austen in Manhattan (an early James Ivory and Ismail Merchant production);
2) Whit Stillman’s 1990 Westerly Metropolitan;
3) Victor Nunez’s 1993 Independent Ruby in Paradise, starring
Ashley Judd, Todd Field, Bentley Mitchum, Allison Dean, Dorothy Lyman;
4) Amy Heckerling’s 1995 Clueless (Paramount), starring Alice Silverstone.

Apparent fidelity

1) 1971 BBC Persuasion, directed by Howard Baker, screenplay Julian Mitchell, starring Ann Firbank, Bryan Marshall, Basil Digam, Valerie Gearon, Morag Hood, Richard Vernon, Georgine Anderson, Marian Spencer
2) 1972 BBC Emma, directed by John Glenister, screenplay Denis Constantduros, starring Doran Goodwin, John Carson, Fiona Walker, John Eccles, Constance Chapman, Debbie Bowen, Timothy Peters;
3) 1979 BBC P&P directed by Cyril Coke, screenplay Fay Weldon, starring Elizabeth Garvie, Irene Richards, David Rintoul, Moray Watson, Priscilla Morgan, Judy Parfitt;
4) 1983 BBC MP, directed by Giles Foster, written by Ken Taylor, starring Sylvestra Le Tousel, Nicholas Farrell, Anna Massey, Angela Pleasance, Bernard Hepton, Samantha Bond, Robert Burbage, Jackie Smith-Wood;
5) 1986 BBC MP, directed by Rodney Bennet, written by Alexander Baron (using Dennis Constantduros’ 1971 script for an earlier TV S&S), starring Irene Richards, Tracey Childs, Diana Fairfax, Bosco Hogan, Robert Swann, Peter Woodward, Amanda Boxer;
6) 1995 BBC P&P, directed by Simon Langton, producer Sue Birtwistle, screenplay Andrew Davies, Jennifer Ehle, Colin Firth;
7) 1995 Miramax Sense and Sensibility, Ang Lee director, Emma Thompson screenplay, starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslett, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Gemma Jones, Gregg Wise, Elizabeth Spriggs, Robert Hardy;
8) 1995 BBC Persuasion, written by Nick Dear, starring Amanda Root, Ciarhan Hinds, Susan Fleetword, Fiona Shaw, Sophie Thompson;
9) 1996 Meridian Emma, written and directed by Douglas McGrath, starring Gweneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam, Sophie Thomson, Juliet Stevenson;
10) 1996 BBC Emma, directed by Diarmiud Lawrence, producer Sue Birtwistle, written by Andrew Davies, starring Kate Beckinsale, Mark Strong.

Frank reinterpretation

1) 1940 MGM Pride and Prejudice, directed by Robert Z. Leonard, written by Aldous Huxley & Jane Murfin, based on a sentimental drawing room comedy by Helene Jerome, starring Laurence Olivier, Greer Garson, Edna May Oliver, Edmund Gwenn, Mary Boland, Maureen O’Sullivan;
2) 1987 a gothic Northanger Abbey, directed by Giles Foster, screenplay Maggie Wadey, starring Katharine Schleisinger as Catherine Morland, Peter Firth as Henry Tilney, and Robert Hardy as General Tilney;
3) 1999 Miramax Mansfield Park, written and directed by Patricia Rozema, starring Francis O’Connor, Jonny Lee Miller, Alessandro Nivola, Harold Pinter, Embeth Davidtz;
4) 2005 Universal Pride and Prejudice, directed by Joe Wright, screenplay Deborah Moggach, starring Keira Knightley, Donald Sutherland, Matthew Macfayden, Judy Dench.

And here’s my new nugget (front story):

It seems that when people write of the now many film adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels, invariably there is a strong tendency to write hagiographically of Austen, to justify, explain away, and treat her texts as flawless icons, and then to evaluate any specific movie by asking how closely the particular critic felt it approximated his or her interpretation of its eponymous book. It will rather be the purpose of my essay to write a filmic analysis of the films themselves. I propose to discuss the strategies, successes, and failures, occasional brilliant performances and camera work, and different types of adaptation in the BBC serials from 1971 on ( beginning with the 1971 BBC Persuasion, the first of the TV films to attempt genuine fidelity) and the films made for theatrical release from 1986 (beginning with the 1986BBC Northanger Abbey, a still uncommon attempt to create a complementary commentary on the originating book) to bring out elements in Austen’s novels, not just from the point of view of the achievements but also the flaws and problems in the books themselves. I will focus centrally on two of the early mini-series, the 1972 BBC Emma and the 1979 BBC Pride and Prejudice, both ambitious films intended to provide a literally faithful filmic version of the novels in question, and two of the freer adaptations, 1990 Westerly Metropolitan, and the 1993 Full Crew/Say Yea Ruby in Paradise.


Posted by: Ellen

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