Note: This page is mainly a relic of a period when information about older Jane Austen films in IMDB was incomplete, no one had ever heard of DVD, and it was not always easy for people to tell which movie was which, or how videotapes available in the United States were different from videotapes sold in the UK. Nowadays the older BBC movies are available on DVD, and the Jane Austen filmography page contains more up-to-date information.
The following notes on film versions of Jane Austen's novels are mainly the
personal opinions of Mr. Wentz (I myself don't even own a VCR, or
subscribe to cable!). See the article "Jane Austen Adapted" by Andrew Wright
(Nineteenth Century Fiction vol. 30, #3, December 1975,
pp.421-453) for a list of earlier stage, screen, radio, and television adaptations of
Date: 31 Oct 95 10:56:13 EST
From: Charles Wenz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: BBC videos
Included below is a list of BBC videos of Jane Austen
novels; I have no link with the BBC apart from a vague chauvinistic loyalty to
the old values of the corporation, of which these videos are a fine
Among the other dramatizations of Jane Austen is the famously inaccurate but
hilarious 1940's Hollywood movie of
Pride and Prejudice, with
Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson in their Victorian finery, which still gets
an occasional airing on the movie channels (and some people still remain rather
fond of it). A recent film (Clueless) takes the
plot of Emma into modern-day
America, and the BBC's new version of
Persuasion (last entry on the
list below) is to be released in selected US cinemas.
Sense and Sensibility, with
Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson, has opened in the US, and a new adaptation of
Emma for commercial TV
by Andrew Davies (who was previously involved with the recently
successful adaptation of George Eliot's Middlemarch with
high production values) is under way.
He is also responsible for the successful adaptation of
Pride and Prejudice
screened by the BBC in Britain in Autumn 1995. The last of the six episodes
of Pride and Prejudice was
allegedly watched by over 10 million British viewers. (The press managed to
get a Pride and Prejudice
angle on almost everything for the six weeks of the series; there was much
discussion on topics such as period wallpaper, whether people still marry for
money these days, what would have happened to the Darcy family wealth in the
nineteenth century, why did the women in the TV series all seem to be wearing
Wonderbras, why did Radio Times give the end away by showing
Elizabeth on the cover in wedding dress, and a scandal because a village near
Exeter couldn't receive BBC [channel] 1 properly and would thus be deprived of
their right as Englishmen to view the denouement.) A video version was
released (and sold out twice) before the last episode was first shown. The
video (see below) joins the older and more literal
version of Pride and
Prejudice in the BBC catalogue. The older productions are a
memorial to a tradition of BBC "Classic Serials", usually transmitted on
Sunday afternoons for the improvement of the young, but now largely extinct
due to costs. They (and Granada's
Persuasion) are much closer
to the original books than most modern TV writers would deem sensible. As such
they have their attractions for afficionados.
(Dates in the list below refer to the date of the first availability of
video, not to the date of original broadcast.)
Abbey, BBCV4378 (1990). 90 mins.
Dramatised by Maggie Wadey, producer Louis Marks, director Giles Foster.
Starring Peter Firth, Googie Withers, Robert Hardy, Katherine
The last of the six to reach the screens, and hardest to dramatise. Much
of the gothic parody inevitably lost. Robert Hardy's jovial General Tilney is
Sense and Sensibility,
BBCV4332 (1990). 174 mins.
Dramatised by Alexander Baron, producer Barry Letts, director Rodney
Tightly edited and with dubious sound quality; would benefit from a
`complete and digitally remastered' version as provided for P&P.
The treatment of the Dashwoods' parsimony, and the outstandingly pedestrian
demeanour of Colonel Brandon, remain in the memory.
Sense and Sensibility [Recently released on video] (1995)
Dramatized by Emma Thompson, director Ang Lee
Starring Emma Thompson (Elinor), Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet (Marianne),
Hugh Grant (Edward Ferrars), Greg Wise (Willoughby), Imogen Stubbs, Gemma Jones
Pride and Prejudice,
BBCV4960 (1993). Double video, 259 mins. (previously, shorter version
Dramatised by Fay Weldon, producer Jonathan Powell, director Cyril Coke.
Starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul.
Novelist Fay Weldon plays this one for laughs;
Mr. Collins and
Mary (with book permanently 18 inches
from her nose) are prominent. Strong leads for
Bad news: the longer remastered version of this video is not
available in the U.S. I bought the remastered video at the BBC World shop in
Bush House, near Kingsway in London. They are constantly being asked about
US-compatible videos and simply give the CBS address (see at end). (Having
flogged the rights, I suppose they can't then produce US versions themselves.)
The address for mail order is BBC Video Ltd, BBC Worldwide Ltd, 80 Wood Lane,
London W12 0TT. Phone is 0181-576-2000 and fax is 0181-576-3264, but be
warned that European videos are in a format that generally cannnot be played
on US VCR's (PAL instead of NTSC).
Pride and Prejudice, BBCV 5702 (1995). Double video, 301 mins.
Adapted by Andrew Davies, producer Sue Birtwistle, director Simon Langton.
Starring Jennifer Ehle, Colin Firth, David Bamber, Crispin Bonham-Carter
and Susannah Harker.
Darcy is seen fencing, and
at Pemberley he is dripping wet in shirtsleeves, after an energetic dip in the
lake, when he meets Elizabeth.
These scenes, and others of Lydia and
Wickham in London, are added to show
the modern viewer that gentlemen did more than just dance, pose in drawing
rooms and shoot wildlife. This production takes more liberties than the old
Fay Weldon one did, but much can be forgiven in such a competent piece of TV
drama. There's always the book.
Pride and Prejudice,
Warner Home Video / MGM / Loew's Incorporated (1940; video 1989),
Screenplay by Aldous Huxley and Jane Murfin, producer Hunt Stromberg,
director Robert Z. Leonard.
Starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier.
Yes, "that version" is available on video. As it says on the
box, "when the proud, aristocratic
Mr. Darcy condescends to
enter the Bennets' lives by proposing marriage to
Elizabeth, nothing but confusion
follows". Mrs. Bennet, surely, is
W. C. Fields in drag.
Script Aldous Huxley, Fay Weldon Andrew Davies
Dir or Prod Robert Z. Leonard Cyril Coke p. Sue Birtwistle
d. Simon Langton
Role 1940 1985 1995
Elizabeth Greer Garson Elizabeth Garvie Jennifer Ehle
Darcy Laurence Olivier David Rintoul Colin Firth
Jane Maureen O'Sullivan Sabina Franklyn Susannah Harker
Bingley Bruce Lester Osmund Bullock Crispin Bonham-Carter
Mr Bennet Edmund Gwynn Moray Watson Benjamin Withrow
Mrs Bennet Mary Boland Priscilla Morgan Alison Steadman
Lydia Ann Rutherford Natalie Ogle Julia Sawalha
Kitty Heather Angel Clare Higgins Polly Maberly
Mary Marsha Hunt Tessa Peake-Jones Lucy Briers
Mrs Phillips May Beatty Shirley Cain Lynn Farleigh
Mr Collins Melville Cooper Malcolm Rennie David Bamber
Mr Wickham Edward Ashley Peter Settelen Adrian Lukis
Capt Denny Marten Lamont Andrew Johns David Bark-Jones
Caroline Frieda Inescourt Marsha Fitzalan Anna Chancellor
Mrs Hurst ______ Jennifer Granville Lucy Robinson
Mr Hurst ______ Edward Arthur Rupert Vansittart
Georgiana D ______ Emma Jacobs Emilia Fox
Col Fitzw'm ______ Desmond Adams Anthony Calf
Lady Cath. Edna Mae Oliver Judy Parfitt Barbara Leigh-Hunt
Anne DeB'rgh Gia Kent Moir Leslie Nadia Chambers
Sir William E.E. Clive Peter Howell Christopher Benjamin
Lady Lucas Marjorie Wood Elizabeth Stewart Norma Streader
Charlotte Karen Morley Irene Richards Lucy Scott
Mrs Gardiner ______ Barbara Shelley Joanna David
Mr Gardiner ______ Michael Lees Tim Wylton
Mansfield Park, BBCV4333
(1990). Double video, 261 mins.
Dramatised by Ken Taylor, producer Betty Willingale, director David
Starring Anna Massey, Bernard Hepton, Nicholas Farrel, Sylvestra Le
Sylvestra Le Touzel plays Fanny with a baffled air, like a mole just
emerged into the light. But not without charm. The theatricals give the
dramatisation a solid centre. Anna Massey is outstanding as Aunt Norris.
Emma, BBCV4997 (1993).
Double video, 257 mins.
Dramatised by Denis Constanduros, producer Martin Lisemore, director John
Starring Doran Godwin, John Carson, Donald Eccles, Constance Chapman.
Solid adaptation. Harriet Smith stultifyingly dim, not a role for a
young actress to kill for.
Date: Sun, 11 Aug 1996 09:48:28 -0700
From: Lura Raplee
Cast of 1972 BBC Emma
(now available on CBS Fox video)
Emma Woodhouse Doran Godwin
Mr. Knightley John Carson
Mr. Woodhouse Donald Eccles
Miss Bates Constance Chapman
Mrs. Weston Ellen Dryden
Mr. Weston Raymond Adamson
Frank Churchill Robert East
Jane Fairfax Ania Marson
Mrs. Elton Fiona Walker
Mr. Elton Timothy Peters
Harriet Smith Debbie Bowen
Robert Martin John Alkin
Mrs. Goddard Mollie Sugden
Mrs. Cole Hilda Fenemore
Isabella Knightley Meg Gleed
John Knightley John Kelland
Directed by John Glenister
Produced by Martin Lisemore
Dramatised by Denis Constanduros
Designer Tim Hervey
Costume Designer Joan Ellacott
Music Arranged Tom McCall
Dances Arranged Geraldine Stephenson
Emma, initial release August 1996.
Director Douglas McGrath, Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma Woodhouse.
Emma (1996) 2hrs. (ITV)
Adapted by Andrew Davies, produced by Sue Birtwhistle
Kate Beckinsale as Emma Woodhouse.
(Rumors of a BBC miniseries Emma, to appear in 1997, were
based on the early plans for what later became the ITV Emma.)
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 1996 19:54:05 -0800
From: S Bishop
Emma Woodhouse .... Kate Beckinsale
George Knightley .. Mark Strong
Harriet Smith ..... Samantha Morton
Frank Churchill ... Raymond Coulthard
Miss Bates ........ Prunella Scales
Mr. Woodhouse ..... Bernard Hepton
Mr. Elton ......... Dominic Rowan
Mrs. Elton ........ Lucy Robinson
Mrs. Weston ....... Samantha Bond
Mr. Weston ........ James Hazeldine
Jane Fairfax ...... Olivia Williams
John Knightley .... Guy Henry
Isabella Woodhouse Dido Miles
(1993). Double video, 225 mins. (Originally produced by Granada Television in
1971 and `bought in' to complete the set of six.)
Adapted by Julian Mitchell, produced and directed by Howard Baker.
Starring Ann Firbank and Bryan Marshall.
A production as true to the book as the other five. Even older than the
others, so production values now look rickety, but the content is there. Bryan
Marshall stands out as being as handsome as the blond pretty-boy actors who
play the hollow Willoughby,
Wickham, and the younger
Mr. Elliot in this selection of videos -- even though he is not the
BBCV5616 (1995), 102 mins.
Screenplay by Nick Dear, producer Fiona Finlay, director Roger Mitchell.
Starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds.
Good modern television drama, taken
at a dizzying pace (less than half the length of the 1971 rendition). The
media hype calculated to make the most of controversial aspects, such as the
public kiss between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, marks a new approach to
Jane Austen on TV.
This has now been released on video in the US with a hokey generic
romance-novel cover which seems to have nothing to do with the movie: an
unknown woman in very heavy makeup, and with a loose Hollywood interpretation
of an 18th-century barmaid's costume slipping off her bosom, is being nuzzled
by a very young man with a trendy asymmetrical Generation-X haircut. (If
one were feeling somewhat charitable, one could choose to interpret
this as a modernized, glamourized, spiced-up version of the first engagement
beteen Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth in 1806, with Kellynch Hall looming
in the background -- though maybe not as ominously as it should loom).
In the United States, BBC videos are handled by CBS Fox Home Entertainment,
5th Floor, 1330 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10019. The above
is probably not a list of all available Jane Austen adaptations on tape, nor a
promotion for the BBC, but a record of a series of `true' and perhaps
old-fashioned adaptations unlikely to survive the upcoming boom in new and
glossy movie-style productions.