Giveaway Winner Announced for The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries, by Emma Thompson & Lindsay Doran (2007)45 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a paperback copy of The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries, by Emma Thompson. The winner drawn at random is CJ who left a comment on May 2nd.

Congratulations CJ! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by May 18th, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments, and for all those participating in The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011. We are reading many Sense and Sensibility inspired novels, watching movie adaptations and delving into Jane Austen’s classic novel this year in honor of the bicentenary of its publication in 1811.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries, by Emma Thompson – A Review

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries, by Emma Thompson (1995)Nominated for seven Academy Awards®, the 1995 movie Sense and Sensibility remains one of my most cherished interpretations of a Jane Austen novel. Everything about this film project seems to be touched with gold; from the award winning screenplay by actress Emma Thompson; to the incredible depth of British acting talent: Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Gemma Jones, Harriet Walter, Greg Wise, Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson; stunning film locations in Devonshire; and the fine brush-work of the Taiwanese director Any Lee. The movie touched many and introduced Jane Austen’s classic story of two divergent sisters searching for happiness and love to millions. I never tire of viewing it, basking in its beautiful cinematography, enjoying its thoughtful performances and marveling at its exquisitely crafted screenplay – both reverent to Austen’s intensions and engaging to modern audiences.

Reading The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries written by Emma Thompson and introduced by the movie producer Lindsay Doran was such a pleasure. What a labor of love this movie was for both actress/writer Thompson and producer Doran who spent fifteen years to bring it to the screen. This highly acclaimed film won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar and Golden Globe in 1996 for Thompson and the praise of hundreds of film critics and fans. Her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes was so witty and Austen-like that the film clip is a perennial favorite on Youtube. This book contains the complete screenplay, over fifty photos of the actors and scenes from the film and Thompson’s candid and often hilarious daily entries of what it was like to be involved in this incredible project. Here is a great excerpt:

Tuesday 11 April: No one can sleep for excitement. Costume designers John Bright and Jenny Beavan wish they had three more weeks but have done truly great work. The shapes and colours and inimitable. Lindsay’s already in Plymouth frantically trying to cut the script. It’s still too long. The art department object to us bathing Margaret in the parlour. Apparently they always used a kitchen or bedroom in the nineteenth century. Perhaps the Dashwoods are different, I suggest, unhelpfully.

“Thompson’s rare and personal perspective makes The Sense and Sensibility: The Screenplay and Diaries an irresistible book for students of film and Austen devotees, as well as for everyone who loved this extraordinary movie.” This is a must read for Jane Austen and period movie fans, and I highly recommend it.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

This is my fourth selection in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011, my year-long homage to Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. You can follow the event as I post reviews on the fourth Wednesday of every month and read all of the other participants contributions posted in the challenge review pages here.

A Grand Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries, by Emma Thompson by leaving a comment by midnight PT Wednesday, May 11, 2011 stating who your favorite character is in the 1995 movie or what intrigues you about a movie adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Winners will be announced on Thursday, May 12, 2011. Shipment to US or Canadian addresses only.

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries, by Emma Thompson
Newmarket Press (2007) reprint of 1995 edition
Trade paperback (288) pages
ISBN: 978-1557047823

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Sense and Sensibility (1971) – Movie Review

I was quite excited when the news hit the blogosphere that the elusive 1971 mini-series of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility was being resurrected from the vaults and reissued by the BBC. It originally aired in the UK, but had never jumped the pond until this re-issue. Now, I think I know why.

If you step back in time with me to the early days of the BBC and Masterpiece Theater television adaptations of literary classics and biographies you might recall such gems as The Six Wives of Henry VIII , Poldark or I Claudius. The scripts and actors were superior, but by today’s standards of movie making they appear a bit stage-playish and stilted. They are after all close to forty years old. If you can get past the slower pacing, video film recording quality and classically trained actors playing to the back row of a theater, they are well worth your entertainment time. This adaptation of Sense and Sensibility is from the same era, and suffers from some of the same stiffness and sluggish pacing. However, these faults could easily have been overlooked if the script had not been so severely altered from the original masterpiece. The plot line of Austen’s story remains, but unfortunately very, very little of her unique language is included. Newer adaptations by Emma Thompson in 1995 and Andrew Davies in 2008 do include Austen’s words, or a variation of them, and we have come to expect them.

Robin Ellis as Edward Ferrars and Joann David as Elinor Dashwood

Notwithstanding my frustrations with the dialogue, I did appreciate some of the performances, and laughed heartily over the costumes and hair styles. Here are some of the highlights:

The Yeas

Joanna David as Elinor Dashwood totally saved this production for me. Her solid and stoic Elinor is never overplayed, but totally understated and stealthily effective. Like Austen’s heroine she is a rock, an island of sanity in a social sphere populated with reprehensible characters used as a morality exercise to compare what should be proper behavior in the Georgian era and what is not. Besides being absolutely stunningly beautiful, her timing and delivery are spot on. It is easy for a reader or an audience to resent Elinor for pulling in the reigns of her family and her own heart, but I never once doubted Ms David’s characters choices. Bravo!

Patricia Routledge as Mrs. Jennings may be my favorite film interpretation of the character so far. In this instance playing to the back row really works as her character is way over-the-top and exaggerated just as Austen intended. Aptly, Routledge’s clothes are as outlandish as her personality; she waves her arms about like a conductor of a comic opera and spouts her errant romantic deductions and matchmaking schemes with her unmistakably unique sign-song voice with aplomb. Her performance alone is well worth the 3 hours of blunders.

The Nays

Robin Ellis as Edward Ferrars. This Edward has a bouffant hairdo and stutters through his lines. This character trait is not in Austen’s novel (that I can remember) and may have been added as an emphasis to show that he was truly not suited for making speaches in Parliment, the profession that his mother aspires for him. We also saw slight stuttering by Hugh Grant in the 1995 production. Is this a trend? Unfortunately, I never felt any chemistry between this Edward and Elinor which made their romance rather flat. This was a big disappointment, since the proposal scene in both the 1995 and 2008 adaptations actually were the highlight of the films for me and amazingly an improvement on the original novel. Honestly, I can’t think of anything positive to say about this Edward beyond the fact that he was an eligible bachelor and he married above himself.

Ciaran Madden as Marianne Dashwood. Oh my! This is a love hate reaction to this interpretation of Austen’s most dramatic of heroines. This Marianne was a frenzied mess, down right selfish and does not care one fig about her family. She whines a lot, throws away anyone else’s opinions like dead flowers and comes off like a spoiled brat. When she finds Willoughby at the Ball in London with a new paramour she is a mad woman, yelling and flailing about. It reminded me of the mad scene in Donizetti’s tragic opera Lucia di Lammermoor. Hard to know if this was the director’s choice of character interpretation or the actress’. Either way they missed the point and she out weighed the balance of the sense vs. sensibility dichotomy of the two sisters. Marianne’s descent into despair is engaging, in a “sick and wicked” sort of way, and is hard to not watch with some amazement, but you are duly forewarned.

Marianne di Lammermoor’s mad scene!

The costumes and hair: pictures can say so much more than I, so take a gander. Beyond the non-period bouffant hairdos for both women and men, the matching pelisses for Elinor and Marianne really made me roar with laughter.

 Chartreuse and pink twin pelisses!

The hair Louisa!

Clive Francis as Mr. Willoughby. Swoonable?

Milton Johns as John Dashwood, truly a weasel!

Kay Gallie as Fanny Dashwood, skinflint!

Image from Sense and Sensibility 1971: Richard Owens as Col. BrandonImage © BBC Warner 2009

Richard Owens as Col. Brandon, unrequited until the end!

Image from Sense and Sensibility 1971: Isabel Dean as Mrs. Dashwood and Patricia Routledge as Mrs. Jennings © BBC Warner 2009

Isabel Dean as Mrs Dashwood with Patricia Routledge as Mrs Jennings

If I seem a bit cynical about this production, please take it with a grain of salt. Firstly, I had heard tale of its charms for decades. Overall it is amusing in an historical perspective sort of way, but it was not what I was expecting and did not do justice to Austen’s plot or characters. Secondly, I am glad that it is now available and that I have experienced it. My curiosity duly quenched, I can now return it to NetFlix after three months of struggling through it in small doses. In conclusion, this Sense and Sensibility does show us how far historical drama has evolved in forty years, but sadly reminds us how far we have to go in perfecting interpretations of Austen’s prose on screen.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Sense and Sensibility (1971)
Directed by David Giles
Screenplay by Denis Constanduros
Distributed by BBC Warner, (2009)
DVD, 178 minutes
ASIN: B002DY9KR0

Images courtesy © BBC Warner 2009

Sense and Sensibility 2008: Cast Preview

Image of the Dashwood ladies, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)

“I am afraid,” replied Elinor, “that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.” 

“On the contrary, nothing can be a stronger proof of it, Elinor; for if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, I should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure.” Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 13

Some say that Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility is her darkest, dealing with the struggle of the principles of common sense against free sensibility, the English inheritance laws of stifling primogeniture and it’s crushing affect on the female line, and the ever-present question of marrying for love, or money?

All of these critical issues are addressed in the new BBC adaptation of Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility which will be presented on Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, March 30th and April 6th at 9:00 pm on PBS. You can read the plot synopsis here.

Adapted by Andrew Davies, of Pride and Prejudice fame, it aired in the UK in January to mixed reviews that were mostly favorable. Never one to miss an opportunity to stir the pot, Davies continues on his theory that Jane Austen is all about sex by adding some provocative scenes and enhancements to the story to suit his purpose; in order to make the story accessible and interesting to the modern audience by sexing up relationships and showing what Jane Austen implied, but did not write!

Never one to shun a good story, I have mixed feelings about this approach that I will discuss further in my review of episode one on Monday. In the meantime, I hope that you find this cast preview helpful. Sense and Sensibility has a very large list of characters in the novel, each of which adds to the progress of the plot, and reminds us of Jane Austen’s talent as a keen observer of human nature, foibles and all.

Cast Preview

Image of Hattie Morahan as Elinor Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Miss Elinor Dashwood (Hattie Morahan). Heroine age 19. Unmarried, eldest daughter of the late Henry Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex and Mrs. Dashwood, recently of Barton Cottage, Devonshire. Dowry of 1000 pounds. Sensible, responsible and reserved. Some-what saintly in her abilities to place the welfare of her friends and family above her own concerns. Elinor’s strong good ‘sense’ and her stoic composure can be a comfort to her family, but stifles her emotions and can be interpreted as coldness by others.

Image of Charity Wakefield as Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Miss Marianne Dashwood (Charity Wakefield). Heroine age 16. Unmarried, second daughter of the late Henry Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex and Mrs. Dashwood, recently of Barton Cottage, Devonshire. Dowry of 1000 pounds. Romantic, spontaneous and unguarded, she frequently thinks with her heart over her head, and often lacks proper propriety. Quick to judge, and often intolerant of different temperaments than her own, her ‘sensibility’ causes concern to her sister Elinor, and places her outside of societies dictum.

Image of Janet McTeer as Mrs. Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Mrs. Dashwood (Janet McTeer). Widow, age 40. Second wife of Henry Dashwood (recently deceased) of Norland Park, Sussex. Now of Barton Cottage, Devonshire owned by her cousin Sir John Middleton. Mother of Elinor, Marianne and Margaret. Step-mother to John Dashwood. Unprepared for widowhood and the responsibities of their new diminished financial situation. She and her daughter Marianne share an emotional and impulsive temperament, often making decisions based on feelings rather than reason.

Image of Lucy Boynton as Margaret Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Miss Margaret Dashwood (Lucy Boynton). Child, age 13. Third daughter of the late Henry Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex and Mrs. Dashwood, recently of Barton Cottage, Devonshire. Dowry of 1000 pounds. Good-humored and well-disposed. Romantically influenced by her older sister Marianne, she is inexperienced and adventurous. Her character is expanded in the movie and serves as the inquisitor, often asking critical questions that her family needs to know, but because of propriety, can not ask.

Image of Dan Stevens as Edwards Ferrars, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Edward Ferrars (Dan Stevens). Hero. Bachelor, age 23 of Oxford. Son of Mrs. Ferrars (father deceased), brother of Fanny and Robert. Heir to the Ferrars fortune and his mother’s hope to achieve public status and distinction in politics. Educated, amiable and highly eligible, he is attentive to Elinor but guarded, distant and troubled at times. Secretly engage to Lucy Steele for four years hence. Honorable and principled, he is willing to forgo his fortune and future happiness to keep his word instead of being with the woman he loves.

Image of Linda Bassett as Mrs. Jennings, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Mrs. Jennings (Linda Bassett). Widow of Berkeley-street in London. Mother to Lady Middleton of Barton Park, Devonshire and Charlotte Palmer of Cleveland, Somersetshire. Talkative, overactive matchmaker who is often an embarrassment to the Dashwood’s. Wealthy empty-nester, bored, and determined to find matches for the Dashwood sisters. Gregarious, unrefined and excessively fond of gossip and a good tale, her well intentioned meddling into the Dashwood sister’s love lives is often unwelcome.

Image of Daisy Haggard as Anne Steele, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Miss Anne (Nancy) Steele (Daisy Haggard). Unmarried, age nearing 30, of Exeter. Mr. Pratt of Plymouth’s niece. Sister to Lucy Steele. Cousin of Lady Middleton of Barton Park, Devonshire. “With a very plain and not a sensible face, nothing to admire.” All “vulgar freedom and folly“. On the quest for prodigious, handsome, smart, and agreeable beaus. Can’t keep a secret, and often says the wrong thing and admits as much. Aggressively in pursuit of beaxs.  Unguarded, revealing her sister Lucy’s secret.

Image of Anna Madeley as Lucy Steele, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Miss Lucy Steele (Anna Madeley). Unmarried, age 22, of Exeter. Mr. Pratt of Plymouth’s niece. Sister to Anne Steele. Cousin of Lady Middleton of Barton Park, Devonshire. Monstrous pretty and naturally clever, but unrefined and uneducated, whose nature “joined insincerity with ignorance.” Secretly engaged to Edward Ferrars for four years hence, using this to hold Elinor at bay. A sly, scheming gold-digger, she is a chameleon of many colors, changing her alliances to suit her pocketbook.

Image of David Morrissey as Colonel Brandon, (2008)Colonel Brandon (David Morrissey). Hero. Bachelor, age 35, of Delaford in Dorsetshire. 2000 pounds a year. Retired from the Army. Rheumatic and wears flannel waistcoats.  Over-the-hill, infirmed and past romance according to Marianne. “if he were ever animated enough to be in love, must have long outlived every sensation of the kind.”. Sentimental. In his youth, he fell in love with a young woman who reminds him of Marianne, but his family did not approve of the match, and he was packed off into the army and sent aboard. Stoic, practical, and steadfast, his amiable qualities eventually outweigh his age.

Image of Claire Skinner as Fanny Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Mrs. Fanny Dashwood (Claire Skinner). Wife of John Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex who is half brother of the Dashwood sisters. Daughter of Mrs. Ferrars, sister of Edward and Robert Ferrars. Mother of Little Henry (Harry) Dashwood. Arrogant, manipulative and selfish she knows the true value of a pence, and convinces her weak-minded husband to keep as much of the recently inherited Dashwood fortune as possible, slighting the second Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters, and forcing them into poverty.

Image of Dominic Cooper as John Willoughby, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)John Willoughby (Dominic Cooper). Bachelor, age 25 of Combe Magna, Somersetshire. Nephew of Mrs. Smith and heir of her estate Allenham Court, Devonshire. An outwardly dashing romantic Byron-esque hero, but in actuality, is an unprincipled deceitful rogue who trifles with young ladies affections by courting them for his own amusement. Later revealed to be a seducer, he is disinherited and is compelled to marry for money because he has squandered his own fortune. Ironically, he later regrets his marriage after his inheritance in restored. His callous quest for money over love is his downfall.

Image of Jean March as Mrs. Ferrars, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Mrs. Ferrars (Jean Marsh). Widow of Park Street, London. Mother of Edward, Robert and Fanny. “a little, thin woman, upright to formality, in her figure, and serious, even to sourness, in her aspect.” The wealthy, manipulative and officious matriarch of the Ferrars family. Her son Edward is her favorite, and she and his sister Fanny “longed to see him distinguished” in public life. He prefers the opposite, a quiet private life. Money and social position are her precept. Her attempts to control her children’s lives by threats of disinheritance are feared, but shallow, as they all choose their own rout anyway.

Image of Morgan Overton as Little Henry Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, (2008)Little Henry (Harry) Dashwood (Morgan Overton). Child, age 4 (but looks about 6). Son of John and Fanny Dashwood of Norland Park, Sussex and heir to that estate. Likes to visit the wild beasts at Exeter Exchange. Spoiled and obnoxious. For Little Harry’s sake, the Dashwood sisters live like impoverished gypsies after his mother Fanny convinces his father John Dashwood to greatly reduce his financial support of his step-mother and half-sisters after the death of Henry Dashwood, his grandfather.

Enjoy the film!

Images courtesy of Masterpiece Classic PBS © 2008; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2008, Austenprose.com

An Austen Addicts Temporary Fix

Image of The Complete Jane Austen LogoFOOLISH

why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation! Frank Churchill, Emma, Chapter 30

An open letter to PBS

Dear Sir/Madame:

Sunday is here, and ahem, pardon my French … but where the *&#% is my The Complete Jane Austen PBS? Now that you’ve got me totally hooked on weekly installments of adaptations of my favorite authoress’ novels, you have cut me off like Fanny Dashwood, and expect me to go cold turkey. Intolerable!

I see that you are running your quarterly pledge drive in her Sunday time slot to remind me to support my local PBS station. Torture! Now I have just witnessed those perky pledge people say Jane Austen’s name twenty times in ten minutes during the pledge breaks between the re-airing of Persuasion. They repeat ever half hour. Pure torture. Wait, now they are talking about Pride and Prejudice! Pure unadulterated torture. (moans and rolls eyes in agony)

Eureka! There is a bit of hope on the horizon. You have dangled the possibility of a new bonnet or trip to Brighton my way by offering the next-best-thing to a Jane Austen adaptation; – – a program about the making of the Jane Austen adaptations entitled Celebrating The Complete Jane Austen! Hurrah!

I am all anticipation as the familiar opening musical fanfare rolls in with the voice over.

Now enter Jane Austen’s world, and go behind the scenes for a look at the Public television event of the season.

Host Lisa Daniels gives the introduction to the program teasing us with the prospect of learning the inside story of the making of The Complete Jane Austen with interviews of the executive producer Rebecca Eaton, screenwriter Andrew Davies, and Austen scholar Dr. Marcia Folsom. She continues with exclaiming that Jane Austen is the ‘it’ girl of the twenty-first century. Ok. You’ve got my attention.

Fifteen minutes into an hour program, you cut to a local pledge drive and then jump back and forth between the two like a tennis match for the rest of the hour without much new information revealed.

This is now The Complete Jane Austen Torture.

This will not be bourne. We are seriously displeased and if you can’t play nice, we are sending Lady Catherine over to restore peace and harmony.

Regards &C

Laurel Ann

Blogmistress, Austenprose