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JUNE 30, 2009 4:29PM

A change of pace & temperament: a bit of comedy, ala Austen

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A few months ago, I posted some poems-- works in progress-- that were inspired by watching repeatedly some of the much older versions of films and mini-series based on Jane Austen's novels. I have since removed those versions of the poems, but have now re-posted them again... here [because I'm still struggling to understand OS's copyright rules]. These are new versions, some including new material... and I have more in the works even now.

Please understand that poems are nearly always works in progress... never finished, only abandoned. These are not yet abandoned.

The films I watched during the past Christmas break while I was recuperating are all available on NetFlix, via InstantView... and these are the ones I like best...

Pride and Prejudice  (in fact, the casting, over all, is better in this version; please note in particular, Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine, and Lydia Bennet. Fay Weldon dramatised it, and was, with a few exceptions, mostly faithful to the novel.)

Mansfield Park (the more recent theatrical version was a travesty; it should have born a different name... loosely based, indeed!)

Sense and Sensibility  (the sisters are of more appropriate ages in this version, although Margaret is missing!, and Irene Richard who plays Charlotte in the P&P above, is Elinor here. I do quibble, however, with the liberties taken with the weather.)

Emma  (I confess, I was never really convinced by Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma. However, Doran Godwin seems born for the part.)

Yes, these much older versions are even better than that marathon series on PBS last year, and yes, this P&P is even better than the A&E version of P&P with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul as Elizabeth and Darcy really do set an independent standard). 

Persuasion (not quite as old as the others, but still an excellent film, with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hind. The version of Persuasion from around that earlier time period was pretty awful; I could not watch even the first episode... I had to turn it off.)

If you prefer what Hollywood does to literature, you might not like these recommendations as well-- since they are certainly less sexy-- but if you care about the books at all, you might learn to like them even better.

After all, Austen was not writing bodice-rippers, nor even romances, but comedies of manners. In fact, in Northanger Abbey she parodied such works.

* * * * *

Be forewarned... by no means should you watch the version of P&P with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. Regency England?! Hah! Try Tara, pre-Civil War. An even worse travesty, if possible, than that other version of Mansfield Park! Nothing there is remotely recognizable as even being loosely based on a work by Austen.

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I love this post. I first read Jane Austen when I was 12, and she was been my fairy godmother/patron saint/role model for the last 52 years.
I met my English husband online in 1995 because he made a witty Jane Austen remark on an email list we both belonged it. We were head over heels before we realized we were 3000 miles and a five hour time difference apart. True love triumphed and we got married in December 2001.

We always tell people that Jane Austen introduced us. I actually had a vanity license plate called Austen.

I will check out your links and give my opinion on the various movies. My husband bought over British versions that have never appeared in the US.
I knew a girl in college who wore a bright red sweat-shirt that said "I'd rather be reading Jane Austen." Another friend had the complete (at least, I think it was complete) collection of Jane Austen novels. She had read them so many times that, instead of starting at the beginning of a novel, she would just open to any random page and start reading. She already knew the stories. She was just reading for its soothing effect. Meanwhile, I obsessed over Dickens.
Steve: I know what the red-sweatshirted girl was about... I have done the same thing, and not just in print, but also with video. One advantage of video, besides getting to see things that are not obvious in a book... is that you can also knit or something else that is also relaxing.

RSG: I suspect that (some of) these might be versions that your husband brought with him. If he had that older version of "Persuasion," though, just get rid of it. It's truly awful.
Enthusiastically thumbed for your ringing endorsement of the Garvie/Rintoul P&P, a most excellent version. Her arching eyebrows are perfectly Lizzie, and the smile that cascades over his face when she finally accepts him shows the triumph of love and embracing life over settling for place and position, however exalted that may be. My wife and I have loved this version ever since it first appeared on Masterpiece Theater. Also like the Wickham and the two Bingley sisters in that version.

Hurray for Jane!
Ooh! Things to add to the Netflix queue. Thanks, Karen!
Yes, indeed, Saturn... and if you have InstantView, you won't even have to wait for the DVDs to arrive in the mail. That's the best part. I can watch them repeatedly, in rotation, without the assistance of the USPS!

AtHomePilgrim... I admit that they (Garvie and Rintoul) now define Elizabeth and Darcy for me. So many of my friends think the same of the A&E version... but that's only (I'm sure) because they have not yet seen this version. However, I have remedied this problem by purchasing from Amazon a boxed set of six Austen-inspired films. I could not watch the Persuasion, and have not yet checked out Northanger Abbey, but the other four are favorites listed above.

Did you know that JASNA is having a conference in Philly in October, and that Elizabeth Garvie is to attend? I plan to join so I can register for the conference. An easy commute!!!
Oooh, Saturn! I really do mean it about the Olivier/Garson version. Please, the cerebral ablutions necessary after such a disaster could easily interfere with you ability to post on OS. I viewed it... so no one else has to!

Pilgrim... In fact, all of the cast of that version of P&P is really good. For example, Lydia is so much better than that coarse interpetation by A&E... she may be silly and flighty, but she is also delightfully feminine. I loved the part when she was telling Lizzie about her wedding.

If you haven't seen the S&S I linked to, Irene Richards, who plays Charlotte in P&P, is Elinor in that version of S&S. She and Tracey Childs are wonderful together as sisters. And even though I truly liked Alan Rickman as Brandon, I also loved Robert Swann in that role.

Imagine what a horror it would be, though, to bring together favorites (in casting) from across the decades to play in some version where the generations are all completely mixed up in the wrongest of ways!
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