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

Sombre comedy: more on the older Persuasion and Emma films · 25 February 07

Dear Marianne,

This morning it was mizzling ice pellets which in the early afternoon turned into thick flakes of snow which fell fast for about an hour.

Caroline was out in it before I awoke:

"we fought to beat home the ice last night. I’ve never seen Garth quite drive a crew like that. He was determined to be out by 3am. he failed. rob said he would. so did rudy. they said if we pushed we might be out in four, but it might be more like five. due to Garth pushing we walked out the door of the gym at 4:10am.

I beeped rob as we left and he responded it was sleeting in va. Garth drove fast—I was supposed to nap on the ride, but i couldn’t relax … I felt like izzy, clinging to the door handle, especially when we crossed the bay bridge. but the sky was clear, until about halfway down route 50.

As we crossed the 20 miles to dc sign, we passed into cloud cover. As we crossed the dc state line, the lighting around us changed, and I said that ‘Now it looked like snow.’

Less than a minute later, we heard it. You couldn’t see it, but you could hear the ice bouncing off the car.

When I got in my car there was a light dusting of sludge, but it came off with a flick of the windshield wipers. As i drove there were almost points when i thought it had stopped … but then I’d turn the radio down and nope, you still hear it, it just was bouncing off so lightly there was no water left.

As I crossed the VA state line, it began to be heavier. The ice left water trails, and i started to use my windshield wipers. On 395 it was nothing but me and the plows. I still didn’t see any signs that it was more than slushy rain until I entered the mixing bowl. For the first time I saw white on the shoulders. The snow steadily thickened as i drove down braddock. When i crossed guinea road the roads suddenly changed from mostly road with sludge to snow covered road with the only visible lines being tire tracks. By the time i reached our house, it was no longer ice, only snow, as the sky brightened and the sun rose.

When i woke up, the backyard was picturesque, with snow hanging down on the evergreens … "


Edward and I did not to go the gym, and I’ve been able to watch two episodes or parts of the 1972 Emma. I’m aiming at a third after supper. By Tuesday with any luck I’ll be watching the 1979 P&P again.

I’m beginning to feel this Emma is the best adaptation of Austen ever made, which probably shows I’m becoming too attached. Still, it is excellent, vivid, intelligent, funny, moving, carefully intelligently well done throughout. At its center is an interpretation of sexuality which perspective (if not the take) coheres with much that has been said of Austen’s Emma’s capacities.

Doran Goodwin as Emma

Fiona Walker is just perfect, brilliant as Mrs Elton, and there the requisite careful camera work is used. The camera focuses on her at dinner from an angle where we see her head from the back, her intense hands as she takes up her spoon, and gestures. She is garish, sexy, grating, and yet anxious, isolated, turning on Jane in desperation, iin the end a companion for cards with Miss Bates, someone Mr Elton understandably prefers to live with to Emma.

I found a still of her in another comic role where the more vulnerable parts of the psychological baggage come out clearly:

Further study of the 1971 Persuasion compared to the 1995 Persuasion has shown me the later film imitated some things done in the earlier. The earlier used the cancelled chapters; the earlier made up an extra scene of Lady Russell and Anne discussing the decision long ago where Anne regrets her decision and says she would not have advised someone the way Lady Russell did, and the earlier made Lady Russell also pressure Anne into marrying Mr Elliot. The earlier has a confrontation between Lady Russell and Captain Wentworth where we see their continued mutual dislike, only the 1971 one has it occur after Anne has accepted Wentworth and Lady Russell is in the powerless position (in the later Wentworth is apparently powerless and yet holds his course). I realize too the vulgarity and loutishness of the Elizabeth of the 1995 Persuasion is the same ploy used in the grating depiction of Mrs Bennet and Lydia in the BBC 1995 P&P. It’s thought contemporary audiences can’t recognize bad manners unless the person is over-the-top obnoxious.

Which reminds me: I have had a very ugly thing done to me where I work (by a woman, a sick, twisted person whose targets for her spite are capricious). It’s a reminder as if I needed any what the worlds of the marketplace are (reflected popularly in these ravaged detective novels), much of common social life where you find yourself continually interacting with others and somewhat dependent on them (not a passing acquaintance like someone on the street to whom you say hello). How I loathed office life. I took a vow for myself when I was 18 never to work in an office 9-5 again. I did do it for 4 months and then 3 weeks once again. Who would be a careerist?

Amusing stuff: John Carson as Mr Knightley wears the same sort of dark maroon outfit at the parties in Emma as Bryan Marshall did in the 1971 Persuasion. Perhaps the same pattern and cloth were used? How I regret not having one still of the landscape in that beautiful early Persuasion.


Posted by: Ellen

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  1. Edith, your comment on yesterday's blog ("the 1971 Persuasion: On location") was inconsistent. You referred to Mr Woodhouse and the old BBC Emma but then went on to discuss Firbanks. I suggest perhaps you rewatch the 1971 Persuasion if you can. Ann Firbanks is thin, but reedy and wiry. In the second half, she does look blooming and creamy. The fashions are influenced by Laura Ashley (as are some of the outfits in the 1971 Emma,especially Doran Goodwin’s, and just about all of them in the 1979 P&P_) and these emphasize thinness (as do most "elegant" expensive fashions for women).

    In comparison, the women playing the heroines in the recent 2005 P&P are scary to look at: they are anorexic; Keira Knightley is childlike and fragile (you can see the sternum in her neck); the Lydia is skeletal around the neck and shoulders.

    I think what I’m arguing for is while I’d agree the 1995 Persuasion was as a whole more successful as a movie, the 1971 Persuasion has real merits and does some things much better than the later version. The 1971 Wentworth’s continued hostility to Lady Russell and her instinctive dislike of him is made much plainer and clearer and towards the end of the film.

    I’m in the middle of rewatching the 1972 Emma and beginning to think it’s one of the best adaptations there’s been so far, but then perhaps I’m growing too attached. One thing I know: Fiona Walker is the best Mrs Elton there’s been. If someone should be fragile, it’s Jane Fairfax, and the actress playing Jane looks fragile and nervous at the piano, ill; when Mr Knightley suggests Frank should not pressure her, the remark seems just and humane, just simple truth. John Eccles is excellent as Mr Woodhouse; he’s funny, but also a tyrant, demanding, tenacious, and hard to move from an idea. At the end of the film, there is genuinely some difficulty in persuading him to accept Emma’s marriage. It’s not made into a joke.

    Elinor    Feb 26, 6:48am    #
  2. Julie Lai from Austen-l:

    "I too believe Emma’s "appearance" is part of who she is—a healthy young lady, bursting with energy, to the point that she has to meddle with others’ lives. Of course, that’s my take on it. (In my life, the bossy people tend to be those with too much energy.)

    I also love that Mr. Woodhouse. He was Perfect."
    Elinor    Feb 27, 12:18am    #

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