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Archive for the ‘PBS Movie Adaptation’ Category

sanditon-first-look-icon-01-3200x1800Sanditon on PBS Masterpiece exceeded my expectations in some respects and not in others. It seems that a mixed reaction to this mini-series is not unusual. Many viewers in the UK loved it. Many did not. Some loathed it. Reading and hearing the opinions of my Janeite friends overseas, I approached reviewing this series with some trepidation. I had an extreme reaction to Episode One at first, then viewed all the episodes in two days’ time. Seeing them back to back gave me a new perspective.

First, I wondered why Andrew Davies, the writer, used so little of Austen’s actual material. In my copy of Sanditon, the unfinished manuscript is 75 pages long. Austen completed the first draft of 11 chapters and began the 12th, where both Sidney Parker and Miss Lambe made their first appearances. Before that, the readers knew them only through conversations from other characters. Mr. Davies admitted that he devoted half of Episode One to Jane Austen’s plot as he did not think there was enough “story material” in her manuscript for more. Persuasion’s length was 24 complete chapters. Could Davies not have stretched Austen’s excellent material to two episodes? Instead he tossed aside the complex themes she was developing in favor of straightforward cinematic storytelling, which explains why so many Janeites were disappointed with the series.

As I watched the mini-series, I realized that it wasn’t an Austen adaptation. This televised tale was inspired by a tantalizing beginning that Austen did not complete. Davies used the unfinished novel merely as an outline for his plot. In online interviews he spoke about modernizing the story and sexing it up. In his foreword to the official companion book to the series, The World of Sanditon, Davies was forthright about rushing through the first three episodes as he worked against a deadline. He states:

I’m thrilled with what we have achieved: a period drama that feels utterly fresh and modern – Jane Austen, but not as you knew her.”

If you keep this statement in mind, you will watch the series for what it is and what it was meant to be – entertainment with many references to Jane Austen’s other novels and characters.

Rose Williams, who plays Charlotte Heywood, is adorable. She resembles an adolescent Austen heroine. Fresh-faced, yet wise and well-read, with a young-sounding voice, she has the qualities that I imagined for Charlotte Heywood and Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. (Ms. Williams is 25 years old, but she looks and sounds much younger.)

I’ve read of complaints about Charlotte’s hair as being inauthentic in this series. At the assembly ball, however, and at formal gatherings, her hair and its accessories are appropriate for the occasion. I think that by keeping her hair loose and wild during walks, seaside outings, and less formal times, Davies is reminding viewers of her humble country origins. As a guest of the Parkers, she would have help from servants for formal occasions but would most likely be left on her own at other times.

Crystal Clarke as Miss Lambe, a woman of mixed-race, is given the delightful name of Georgiana, reminiscent of Mr. Darcy’s sister. Austen’s introduction of a West Indies heiress is a new development in her novels. The topic of mixed races and fantastic wealth achieved on plantations in Antigua is one she must have known well through her sailor brothers. I love the developing friendship between Georgiana and Charlotte.

I’ve not been as bothered by the music mentioned by some. Sanditon is located along the coastline of Sussex, a rural region, and the setting is not as fashionable or royal as Brighton, where fancy orchestras could find ample work. The folksy music complements the rustic, unfinished streets and buildings in Sanditon and supports the more modern treatment Davies sought.

The photography is lovely, the sets are lush, and I love how the costumes identify people by their wealth and status. Charlotte’s clothes are simple and homemade, although she owns more dresses than I though her parents with 11 children could afford. Miss Lambe, Miss Denham, and Clara Brereton wear clothes of a finer quality, and so forth.

Now we get to the part that I find problematic. I know Davies wanted to sex up the plot, but, really, a hand job? I was not amused. What if I wanted to introduce my young nieces to Jane Austen? How would I have explained that scene?

As to the nudity, male and female beaches were separated at the time. Both sexes knew the demarcation lines and where or where not to walk or swim. Charlotte happening upon Sidney Parker rising out of the ocean full frontal naked caused me to laugh, not out of embarrassment, but because the audience manipulation was so obvious. Jane Austen was no prude. A country woman, she had probably witnessed sex among animals, nursed her male relatives back to health, and helped family members and neighbors with birthing, but she was never crude. Ever.

Young Stringer, the foreman, is a likable character, but I thought almost from the start that he was created to be a “second stringer,” someone to throw us off in the romance department. His background and ambitions are suited to someone of Charlotte’s station, but Sidney Parker has been cast in the role of hero, and so Young Stringer’s purpose seems likely to go nowhere.

Theo James’s performance as Sidney Parker was quite good. He is a darkly handsome hero, one whose sparring with Charlotte in the first two episodes reminded me of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.

To sum up this review, Davies chose to follow his own instincts in developing this miniseries If viewers watch the first two episodes of Sanditon on their own merit and not as an Austen adaptation, they’ll enjoy the experience.

Sanditon for streaming and binge watchers

The debut episode of the series will begin streaming on the MASTERPIECE PRIME VIDEO CHANNEL on January 12, with new episodes debuting Sunday of each following week. On February 23, fans can binge-watch the program in its entirety.

The subscription rate for the PBS MASTERPIECE Prime Video Channel is $5.99/month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription. Every purchase helps supports public television for all.

See sidebar for links to PBS, a description of the full cast, and a link to the companion book.

Links to Music

 

 

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Charlotte Heywood as played by Rose Williams

Image of Charlotte Heywood as played by Rose Williams. 
Copyright: RED PLANET/ITV
For further information please contact:
Patrick.smith@itv.com 0207 1573044

Click below to enter the poll and see results! Feel free to leave a comment.

I’m Looking Forward to Watching Sanditon on PBS Masterpiece this Sunday

(polls)

Results so far. The percentages have remained static for 3 days, although voting numbers are changing.

Image of the Sanditon poll results for "I'm looking forward to watching Sanditon on PBS Masterpiece this Sunday, with 83% looking forward to watching the mini-series.

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Inquiring readers,

Happy New Year! Are U.S. Austen fans ready for the countdown to Sanditon on PBS? Only 11 days remain until this eight-episode mini-series based on Jane Austen’s final novel fragment airs on Sunday nights. You can also stream each episode. The subscription rate for the PBS MASTERPIECE Prime Video Channel is $5.99/month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription. On February 23, you can binge watch the entire series. The DVD is also on sale.

Now, on to the poem, written by Robert Bloomfield “In a Letter from a Beast of Burden to Her Brother Jack.” It’s a lovely early 19th century description from a beast of burden to her brother about her “work” in a seaside resort.

Image of Robert Bloomfield's Letter from a Beast of Burden to Her Brother Jack, 1807, along with an image by I. Cruikshank ?

Brother Jack I am going to inform you
Of things that ne’er enter’d your head,
And I hope the narration will charm you
Wherever you’re driven or led;

For it grieves me to think of your hampers,
And the cudgel that thumps you behind;
To have none of my frolics and scampers,
My labour’s as light as the wind.

On a fine level form’d by the tide,
The beach and the ocean between,
Fashion here tells young lasses to ride
On the best walk that ever was seen,

The sands, brother Jack, that’s the spot
Where the ladies exhibit their graces;
There they push me along till I trot,
‘Midst a circle of giggling faces.

Not one of the party stands idle,
For, when I move just like a snail,
One half of them pull at my bridle,
And t’other half push at my tail.

Then up, full of frolic and glee,
One will mount, and will scold, and will strike,
And ride me knee-deep in the sea,
Where I stop—just as long as I like.

For what are their tricks and manoevres?
They may pull me, and haul me, and teize,
But I plague them as they plague their lovers,
O, I like to do just as I please!

Don’t be envious—Hark what I tell—
You would never do her for a prude,
Because Jack, you know very well,
You were always inclin’d to be rude;

And if you should set up your braying,
And give them but two or three staves,(willow sticks?)
You would stop all the children from playing,
Or frighten them into the waves!

Sometimes a sick lady will ride me,
More tender and delicate still,
And employ a poor boy just to guide me,
Where I cannot go wrong if I will;

Then back through the town gently creeping,
We stop at some library-door,
Where, nonsense preferring to sleeping,
She loads me with novels a score.

And, dear Jack, by the bye, I’ve long guest,
Tho’ good ladies I’ve no wish to spite ‘em;
That ‘tis we bring these book in request,
And that some of our family write ‘em.

But who’d go to boast about that?
No, I’ll finish by telling you true,
That at Worthing we all might grow fat,
And keep the best company too.

So love to you Jack till next season,
I’ll be happy as long as I can;
For an ass that complains without reason,
Becomes—just as bad as a man!”

Published 25th May, 1807.
By Laurie and Whittle,
No. 53, Fleet Street, London

Detail of the illustration by I. Cruikshank (?) News from Worthingo In a Letter from a Beast of Burden to Her Brother Jack By Robert Bloomfield, 1807

Image detail. One can see the chaos in the background with asses that were uncooperative. The maid on the ass is obviously stuck and unhappy.  Chaos reigns, which the onlookers love. Notice the woman at the middle, who is about to be bounced off her ass. Cruikshank (?) shows her bare legs with high stockings. Women in that era did not wear underpants. Ooh la la! The muslin cloth of the woman’s white dress front and center indicates how thin it is as evidenced by her nipples. She is trapped in her position until the ass decides to move. Hah!

I especially like the reference to circulating libraries, which abounded in resort cities.

Many scholars think that Worthing, a seaside resort Jane Austen visited in 1805, could have been the inspiration for the town of Sanditon twelve years later.

  • This interesting article, “Could Worthing have been the inspiration for Jane Austen’s Sanditon?,” by Donna Fletcher Crow, Jane Austen UK, July 24, 2019, and downloaded 12/31/2019, is reproduced on the site by the author’s permission.

About the author: “Donna is a novelist of British history, and a traveling researcher who engages people and places from Britain’s past and present – drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today’s reader. “

Sources:

  • Bloomfield, Robert. “News from Worthing. In a Letter from a Beast of Burden to Her Brother Jack,” Published 25th May, 1807, by Laurie and Whittle, No. 53, Fleet Street, London. Credit Line: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Cartoon Prints, British. https://www.loc.gov/resource/ds.03595/. Rights Advisory:  No known restrictions on publication. (Color cartoon)

The rich and wealthy collected color cartoons. People not as flush in the pocket as purchased black and white cartoons, as shown in the following print from Yale University:

  • Bloomfield, Robert,  “News from Worthing: in a letter from a beast of burden to her brother Jack (from the Monthly mirror for April, 1807). Cruikshank, Isaac printmaker., Laurie, Robert and Whittle, James, publisher, 1807. Digital collection: Lewis Walpole Library. Downloaded 12/31/2019 at this link.

In addition: Jane Austen’s World links to

 

 

 

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Cover of Sanditon by Jane Austen, Oxford World Classics, and edited by Kathryn SutherlandInquiring readers, It is confirmed!! Sanditon, Jane Austen’s last unfinished fragment of a novel has been adapted for television as an 8-episode mini-series by Andrew Davies, who adapted 1995’s Pride and Prejudice for the small screen. Mr. Davies uses his talents and knowledge of Jane Austen and British history to finish the novel that Jane laid aside months before her death. The mini-series includes nude bathing (an historically accurate touch) and, to paraphrase Mr. Davies, is somewhat “sexed up.” (Town and Country Magazine.)

British audiences: Sanditon begins on ITV on Sunday 25th August 2019 at 9pm for 8 episodes.

U.S. audiences: The PBS Masterpiece Sanditon will air some time in 2020. Look for announcements later.

What is Sanditon? According to Oxford World Classics…”Jane Austen writes what may well be the first seaside novel: a novel, that is, that explores the mysterious and startling transformation that a stay by the sea can work on individuals and relationships.”

…”In this, her final, unfinished work, the writer sets aside her familiar subject matter, the country village with its settled community, for the transient and and eccentric assortment of people who drift to the new resort, the town built upon sand.”

Read about the novel, newly released by Oxford World’s Classics and edited by Kathryn Sutherlund at this link. Look for my review of the unfinished novel soon.

Tony Grant, a frequent contributor to this blog, has written a post in anticipation of the series:  SANDITON ( an unfinished novel by Jane Austen) is coming to our screens. What might we see?

View the trailer below on PBS’s site:

Sanditon: First Look on PBS Masterpiece: Click here

Sanditon on ITV: Click here

Additional Sanditon information:

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If you’ve been reading my thoughts on DA, inquiring readers, you know I’ve lumped scenes together for review and not recapped each episode as it progressed. For the sake of space, I’ve ignored some story threads altogether. This week, viewers were treated to dinners upstairs and downstairs, and to more of Lady Violet’s witticisms.  (Spoiler Alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched this episode.)

Dining with the Crawleys

Although the viewers couldn’t care less, the boring saga of the hospitals continues. When Violet discovers that Mr. Neville Chamberlain Minister of Health, is going on an inspection tour of the North, she demands that her son invite him to dine at the Abbey.

DA_Violet_Son

Lady Violet in persuasion mode.

 

He’s a busy man,” the earl tells his fond mama. “What makes you think he will come?’

“Because your late papa, the 6th Earl of Grantham, was his wife’s godfather!”

End of argument. Bested by Lady Violet once again, the earl invites Mr. Chamberlain, and, much to Robert’s surprise, the health minister agrees to come. Cora, knowing all about Violet’s scheming ways, invites Dickie Merton, Isobel, and Dr. Clarkson, the old sawbones (and her new ally), to dine as well.

The earl is already dreading the affair. He’s sure there will be hell to pay. All through Season 6 and going back as far as Season 5, he has suffered from indigestion. Unconcerned, he has gone about his business, ignoring the symptoms. Just before dinner with the health minister, he clutches his abdomen again. He decides to take this new burning sensation on the stomach like a man and make an appearance at dinner, knowing that his mama would march up the stairs and drag him out of bed if he failed to attend.

DA Chamberlain

Mr. Chamberlain is having the most unforgettable dinner of his life. Photographer, Nick Briggs.

So kind of you to respond to my mother-in-law’s summons, Mr. Chamberlain,” says Cora in greeting, before Lady Violet pushes her aside and reminds him of their long past history.

“Oh, I recall you when you were so young and so carefree and I was young and gay, and so I say, let’s let the past stay in the past, like the hospital.”

Tom quickly rescues Mr. Chamberlain before he responds, as Lady Cora invites everyone in to dine, even before the servants are finished setting the table.

“She can’t protect him in the dining room,” announces Lady Violet, unconcerned. “I was trained in a hard school and I FIGHT accordingly!”

But things do not go the dowager’s way, for just as she’s working up to prove that change for change’s sake will ruin power, her son erupts like a breaching whale from his chair, clutching his belly, and violently spews blood on the table until the dining room resembles a Roman vomitorium.

blood bath

Cora receives a blood bath

Everyone is worried – Cora that she will lose her husband, Violet that she will lose her train of thought from the shock, and Mr. Carson that the blood-spattered tablecloth will defy cleaning. But Mr. Chamberlain only feels relief, the earl having found a way to save him from a battle royal. He will always be grateful to Robert’s bursting ulcer for its impeccable timing.

As he’s trundled off to the Downton hospital, Robert manages to tell his Cora how much he loves her. At this declaration, all our hearts go aflutter.

Dinner with the Carsons

DA_dinner_carsons

Elsie and Charlie at home. Photographer, Nick Briggs.

Mr. Carson suggested we might have dinner in the cottage tonight, says Elsie to Mrs. Patmore, wanting her advice. “It won’t be a regular thing, just once in a while.”

When did you last cook?” asks Mrs. Patmore. She can’t decide between helping Elsie make two juicy lamb chops or  the more complicated Turducken (turkey stuffed with chicken, stuffed with duck, stuffed with quail).

“Oh, I’ve done the odd thing every five years or so. Still, I WOULD be grateful for the basket.”

‘Chops it is, then,’ thinks Mrs. Patmore.

Later that day, the Carson’s cozy cottage smells of home cooking.

My compliments to the chef,” says an eager Carson, settling in for an evening feast at his own dining room table.

“That would be Mrs. Patmore, not me,” Elsie says complacently. “Are you ready?” She places the chops on the table.

“Are these done enough?” he asks, testing the meat. ” Oh, the plate is cold, that’s a pity.”

She gives him a look that would freeze a Florida swamp as she slides another platter on the table.

“What’s this?”

“Bubble and squeak.”

“With lamb?”

“I LIKE it with lamb.” Elsie is beginning to realize that her groom is easier to please between the sheets than at the dinner table.

“Well, we musn’t let it get cold,” he says in a sing song voice that grown-ups adopt with toddlers. He saws away at the lamb. “Ah, this knife could do with sharpening.”

Elsie slaps a portion of bubble and squeak on his plate with the force of a pig farmer wrestling a sow, which is when Carson realizes he shouldn’t have told his bride that her cooking doesn’t hold a candle to his mother’s.

‘Uh, oh.’ From the look on her face, he understands he’s not getting any nookie tonight either.

A few days later, having forgotten his love’s reaction to his constructive criticism, he approaches Mrs. Patmore.

I wonder if you would you be willing to help my bride catch up with her pantry pans. It’s been a while since she’s played with them. ”

He turns to Mrs. Carson, er, Mrs. Hughes, er, Elsie. “You’d be very glad of the help, wouldn’t you my dove?”

“Sure. Why not. It’s time to get our coats,” she says, thinking that if she out paces him to their cottage, she could get the couch made up in a trice for his bed.

A Loving Sisterly Exchange

sisterly love

I’ll be in London on Wednesday,” announces Edith at breakfast.

Her papa looks around the table and says proudly, “Edith has a date.”

“Not really,” says she.

“Of course not,” says Mary.

“What do you mean, of course not?” retorts Edith, wanting to scratch her sibling’s eyes out for the gazillionth time.

A Visit to Mr Mason’s New Pig Abode

When Lady Mary learns that pigs are his speciality, she allows Mr. Mason to move to Yew Tree Farm in a trice.

DA Mary_Tom

Mary and Tom in inspection mode. Photographer, Nick Briggs.

I want to look in on, Mason,” she says to her papa, “He’s moving in today.”

“You may go where you like, as long as the pigs are settled.”

“I am concerned,” says she. “I’ve asked him to take over, but pig keeping needs strength, come to think of it.”

“Very sensible. Pigs can be dangerous. Mason’s scrawny. He needs more meat on his bones. ”

“Perhaps we can ask Mrs. Patmore to help in that department.”

In sync with Lady Mary’s thoughts, Mrs. Patmore has laden an abundant basket with fattening goodies as a welcome present. Mr. Mason is the first new bachelor of a certain age with a good job to move within 50 miles of the vicinity this past decade and Mrs. Patmore is old enough to know when OPPORTUNITY comes a’knocking.

DA_Mason_Patmore

Mr. Mason and Mrs. Patmore: a new romance in the making? Or a possible spin-off to be titled: ‘Of Pigs and Men.’ Photographer: Nick Briggs

Mr. Mason admires her strong ample figure and thinks it a sight for sore eyes.

Does me good to see a woman bustling around my kitchen.”

“I’ve got goodies galore for you,” she says, “and a snack for later on.”

“You’re an angle of mercy.”

“Do you mean me?” asks Lady Mary without irony, stepping into the kitchen with Tom. “Am I interrupting?”

“Not a bit, my lady, You’re welcome here.” ‘Drat,’ he thinks, ‘just when Mrs. P and I were getting to know each other…’

“We wanted to discuss the pigs.”

“I’m top at pigs.”

Tom steps forward. “Lady Mary is worried about the physical side of it. Prizing a boar off a sow…”

“Heeheehee,” giggles Mrs. Patmore.

“Or taking the piglets off their mother.”

“Boohoohoo,” cries Mrs. Patmore.

DA_Andy

Andy offers his services. Photographer, Nick Briggs.

As Tom and Mary discuss Mr. Mason’s feeble strength and the absence of a farm hand, Andy, who has volunteered his services in moving to gain favor with Daisy,  steps forward to offer his strong arms to help with pig maintenance.

Can you do it?” asks Tom.

“Sure,” says Andy, promising the stars, the sun, and the moon, as well as seven years servitude. He wants to learn as much as he can about farming, just as long as there ain’t no book learnin’ involved.

Daisy is all agog. ‘Could this be the man of her dreams? A footman plus a pig farmer rolled neatly into one?’

I’ll lend you some books about pig farming and breeding,” offers Mr. Mason to Andy.

“Books?” Charlie utters.

“You need to know the theory of it. Makes it more logical.”

“I’m up shit’s creek,” thinks Andy, visions of pigs and Daisy fading away, since he can’t make heads or tails of a ‘p’ or an ‘i’ or a ‘g,’ much less their capitalized versions.

Later on, downstairs in the Abbey, Mrs. Patmore practically glows from having worked her knuckles raw helping Mr. Mason set up his house and larder. “What a lovely chap.”

‘Wait a moment,’ thinks Daisy, glaring at Mrs. Patmore. ‘Mr. Mason’s MY lovely chap. I found him first!’

daisyhiss_5

Daisy in hissing mode

 

He must be lonely,” Mrs. P. concludes, thinking of how fine the contents of her Hope Chest would look in Mr. Mason’s cottage.

Daisy hisses,” He’sss not lonely! He’ss MY precioussss. He’s been living alone for yearss.”

‘And working himself scrawny, so he needs help with the rutting pigs,’ thinks Mrs. Patmore, knowing she could fatten him up in no time flat and build up his muscles.

He seemed to enjoy the company…” she ventures.

“He was only being polite! He was longing for you, er, us, to go.”

“Pfff.”

Mrs. Patmore huffs off, thinking, ‘Let’s see if I give that ungrateful chit any helpful advice from now on.’

Lady Violet, Denker, and Septimus Sprat

During a village stroll, Denker encounters Dr. Clarkson and rounds on him for being a traitor and scoundrel to the Dowager Countess. His dignity offended, he sends Lady Violet a letter describing Denker’s INSULT and her impertinence. Clutching the letter to her heaving bosom, Violet summons her disagreeable lady’s maid.

Lady Violet

Photographer, Nick Briggs. You read too many novels, Denker!

Denker arrives, thinking she’s about to receive a raise for loyalty.

Is it true you called Dr. Clarkson a traitor?”

“I just thought he behaved very badly.”

“It’s not your place to have opinions of my acquaintances, let alone express them! If I withdrew my friendship from everyone who’s ever spoken ill of me, my address book would be EMPTY! For a lady’s maid to insult a physician!… You’ve read too many novels, Denker. You’ve seen too many moving pictures. You’ve skulked around too many hallways.”

“I was sticking up for you.”

“And for that I shall write a tepid character. From this house you must go forthwith.”

“But my lady, what am I to do? Where am I to go?”

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. When we unleash the dogs of war, we must go where they take us.”

Knowing Lady Violet will not change her mind, Denker approaches Sprat to help save her job.

How’d it happen?” he asks, secretly delighted with the turn of events. “Were you drunk?”

“Of course not! Am I to blame if I have a very passionate nature?”

Sprat makes a face. “Any more of that talk and I won’t be able to sleep.”

The more Denker pleads with Sprat, the happier he gets, ’till he’s humming from sheer joy, but, alas, his happiness is short lived.

“Are you packed?” he asks her the following morning. “Are you gonna help her dress, get your reference, and then head off, never to darken my life again?”

“No, and I’ll tell you why, you insignificant worm. Did they catch your nephew. The one you hid?”

SpratSprat stops humming. “Wha…?”

“Septimus Sprat, if I go down, I am taking you down with me. Capiche?”

“What can I say to …”

“You’d better think of something. And you better hope it works, Mr. Sprat. You better hope that I don’t ever need to mention your nephew ever again.”

Sprat walks away from the conversation thinking that daily torture in a dark dungeon would be preferable to being stuck with this woman for the rest of his benighted life. He wonders if he should apply for a position at Gosford Park before it is too late.

Love Does Not Conquer All

As Lady Mary and Tom drive to the track to watch Henry Talbot, he turns to her. “Do you like him?

He’s attractive and nice and reminds me I’m a youngish woman again, but that’s all. I don’t mean to sound snobbish, but I won’t marry down. I don’t want to be grander than my husband or richer, but he needs to bring something to my substantial table.”

“Happiness doesn’t have much with money or position. Sybil and I had a marriage of equals. I brought the copper, she brought the gold. I brought the dust, she brought the duster. I…”

“I get it,” says Lady Mary, not amused.

Tom and mary

Tom and Mary at the track.

‘Tom’s not getting the point,’ thinks a frustrated Mary. She needs to stay grander than Edith so that she can always lord it over her and her unfortunate choices of doddering old suitors and mere land agents.

And so, having discussed her elevated norm for marital love, Tom and Mary arrive at the racetrack, where Henry and his best friend, Charlie, are driving recklessly around the track at around, oh, 60 – 65 mph.

Just look at him. Working hard but getting nowhere,” says Mary, adding, “He’s just going around in useless circles.”

As Henry and Charlie race around the track a few hundred times, I begin to make my weekly grocery list and check my work schedule. These overly long scenes are best distinguished by the background music, which resembles a soundtrack from an Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon Beach Muscle Blanket Bikini Bingo movie.

As Henry finishes his practice turns and strides towards them, Tom tells Mary, “You don’t have to marry him, but you do have to let him enjoy this moment.”

‘Enjoy, yes,’ Mary thinks, ‘but I won’t let anything as puny as love get in the way of sensible thought.’

Bates and Anna Discuss Lady Mary and Lady Luck

happy

Oh, happy days.

“I want Lady Mary to be happy, like I am happy,” says Bates to his wife as they walk towards the Abbey after breakfast in their cozy cottage for two. “I want everyone to be happy.”

“Are you really happy? says Anna, clutching her rabbit’s foot.

“I am so happy that happy is my middle name. I’m, you know, happy.”

“No, I don’t know. But if you’re happy then I’m happy.”

“I’m happy.”

“Bad Harvest,” says Anna, not wanting to spoil her good luck.

Edith happy

Lady Edith happy.

Outing the Secret

At the end of dinner and in the heat of the moment, as the earl and his bleeding ulcer are carted off to Downton Hospital, Lady Cora prevents Lady Violet from talking any more nonsense about the hospital. “No more secrets from now on!”

mary overhears

Uh, oh. Edith should have said ‘bad harvest’ too.

“You mean, like Marigold?” says Lady Violet, not seeing Lady Mary standing behind them.

From Lady Mary’s expression, we know she’s come to an ah-hah moment. Cue ominous music, please.

What a fine episode, gentle readers. While, for the sake of brevity, I did not discuss Baxter’s plight, Thomas’s offer to help Andy read, or Edith’s trip to London and the start of a budding romance, I give this episode four and a half stars out of five. What say you?

Informal poll: Which did you think was grosser?

The bloody carnage at

  • the earl’s table in this episode.
  • the red wedding in Game of Thrones.
  • the remains of Hannibal Lechter’s lunch.

 

My other Downton Abbey Season 6 Reviews:

 

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Alicia Silverstone as Cher in Clueless, a modern adaptation of Emma

Alicia Silverstone as Cher in Clueless, a modern adaptation of Emma. This film still leaves me laughing, and I suspect JA would have approved of its modern Beverley Hills setting.

Do you have an account with Netflix for instant videos? How about an Amazon prime account, which offers amazing discounts as well as free postage and handling for all your prime purchases? At less than $80 per year, Prime has proven to be my best investment in entertainment.

Here are a few Jane Austen film titles that have become available for instant streaming. These keep changing every six months or so, and I am always on the look out. In the instance of From Prada to Nada, which is a nada good send off of Sense and Sensibility, I cannot tell you how lucky I felt that I watched the film for free.

Netflix Streaming Video – instantly available with your instant video membership

  • Pride and Prejudice 1980
  • From Prada to Nada
  • Aisha
  • Clueless
  • Emma 1996
  • Mansfield Park 1983
The 1995 film adaptation of Persuasion with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds is incomparable.

The 1995 film adaptation of Persuasion with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds is incomparable.

Amazon Prime, Instant videos free, for rent, or for purchase

  • Persuasion 1995 (free with Prime)
  • Pride and Prejudice 1940 (free with Prime)
  • Pride and Prejudice 1980 (free with Prime)
  • Emma 2009 (free with Prime)
  • Other Jane Austen film adaptations are available for rent or purchase at Amazon.
I find the 1940 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice excreble. While the actors are fabulous, this story has been changed and Hollywoodized to the point where the lines are laughable (Every hottentot can dance, instead of every savage can dance) and the ending is downright criminal (Lady CdeB acts as a willing instrument to get Elizabeth and Darcy together. I have a running hate-hate debate with a reader, who is apoplectic with the idea that I don't love this film. She keeps coming back to heap insults. Heap away! You cannot persuade me to like this film. Although I will honor anyone's positive opinion about it.

I find the 1940 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice execrable. While many of the supporting actors are fabulous, even brilliant in parts, this story has been changed and Hollywoodized to the point where the lines are laughable (every “hottentot can dance”, instead of “every savage can dance”), and the ending is downright criminal. I have a running almost 2-year debate with a sometime visitor to this blog who is apoplectic at the idea that I don’t love or respect this film. She keeps coming back every once in a while to inform me that I don’t know sh*t from Shinola when it comes to the fine art of 1940s  film making, and that I wouldn’t be able to discern a donkey’s ass from that of a thoroughbred’s. (My terminology, not hers, but you get the idea.) Insult away, my dear! You cannot persuade me to like this film. Although I will respect anyone’s positive opinion about P&P 1940, it simply isn’t mine.

My rant about P&P 1940 brings to mind some of the worst moments in Jane Austen film adaptations. Here they are in no particular order:

The incomparable Edna Mae Oliver as Lady CdeB, co-conspirator and romantic at heart

The stellar Edna Mae Oliver as Lady CdeB, a softie romantic at heart

1.) Pride and Prejudice 1940: Laurence Olivier (not yet a Sir) as Darcy persuades the incomparable Edna Mae Oliver as Lady CdeB to become his accomplice in winning Elizabeth Bennet over. In other words, Lady CdeB turns out to be crotchety but NICE. The writers and producers of this film should have been made to apologize to every student who watched this film to write a book report and who received an F for getting the ending so dreadfully wrong. They subverted the students’ rights to NOT read the book and opt for a C or a D by watching the movie instead. In addition, 35-year-old Greer Garson was closer to Mrs. Bennet’s age of 41 or so than Elizabeth’s age of 19. And throughout the film good old Larry O resembled a wood mannequin in posture and facial expressions. In my humble opinion, our pinch-faced Larry and his near geriatric Greer had almost no chemistry between them. Let’s not even discuss the costumes.

Billie Piper as Fanny Price as Fanny Hill

Billie Piper as Fanny Price as Fanny Hill.

2. ) Mansfield Park 2007: Billie Piper as Fannie Price. *Hahahahah*. Fanny exhibiting ample cleavage in her day gown. *Loud guffaws*. Fanny athletic and running around with wild hair. *Snorts and sniggers*. Lady Bertram rising from her couch in the last scenes and showing spirit and gumption in uniting Fanny with Edmund. *WTF!?* An energized Lady Bertram is as egregious a change in character as a nice Lady CdeB. The reviews for this film in Rotten Tomatoes are so tepid that it has yet to acquire a ratings score. One wonders why the folks at ITV bothered to adapt this very thick JA novel and compress its tale to a bare 90 minutes. Might as well read a comic book version of MP.  ‘Nuff said.

The gorgeous Frances O'Conner as retiring and shyly pretty FP.

Tall, gorgeous, statuesque Frances O’Connor as Fanny Price.

3.) Mansfield Park 1999: In this adaptation, Frances O’Connor as Fanny is more beautiful and intriguing than Embeth Davidtz as Mary Crawford. In fact, one begins to wonder why Edmund is so drawn to Mary when the lovely, worshiping and nubile Fanny is his for the taking. I won’t go into detail about director and writer Patricia Rozema’s social stance on slavery and British empire exploitation in this film, since my observations in this post are meant to be tongue in cheek and light-hearted. Let’s just say that 1999 audiences were surprised to learn that somehow our dear departed Jane had quite clearly expressed her strong feelings on the topic to Patricia.

Gasping for breath and suffering a headache from that severe, unflattering updo, poor Anne hies after her man.

Gasping for breath and suffering a headache from that severe, unflattering updo, Annie goes after her man.

4.) Persuasion 2007: (Set to the theme of Rocky.) How I pitied poor Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot. I hope that she only had to run through Bath for a few takes. Imagine if the director hadn’t been  pleased with her stride, or if a jet’s drone ruined the scene, or if … whatever. It could not have been easy for her to race over stone sidewalks and streets in those delicate slipper and in full Regency regalia, with her hair pulled back so tightly that her ears and cheeks practically met in the back of her head. Jane Austen’s Anne Elliot would NEVER have run through town like a hoyden and debased herself for a man, not even the delectable Captain W. To quote Jeremy Northam in 1996s Emma when she made a joke at poor Miss Bates’s expense, “badly done.” Badly done, indeed.

Barefoot Lizzie swinging above the muck

Barefoot Lizzie swinging above the muck

5.) Pride and Prejudice 2005: Or the muddy hem edition. Good old Joe Wright wanted to put a different spin on P&P, so he set Longbourn House in the middle of a mud field, surrounded by a moat, and overrun by pigs, geese, and all manner of dirty, smelly farm animals. Then there’s Mr. Bennet (played by 70-something Donald Sutherland) rutting after Mrs. Bennet even though his respect for her intellect is less than zero. And who can forget the film’s breathy, candle lit American ending? – “Mr. Darcy, Mrs. Darcy, Mr. Darcy, Mrs. Darcy.” I don’t know which altered ending was worse – the one in which the co-conspirator in happiness and harmony is  Lady CdeB, or all that post-coital face licking at the end of this adaptation. This film should have been titled: Pride and Prejudice: back to nature.

P Firth is no Colin.

P Firth is no Colin.

6.) Northanger Abbey 1986: Visually, this JA adaptation is quite lovely and interesting. But the music…Gawdalmity! It is so awful that this film should be seen with the sound muted. During the 70s and 80s, the male actor flavor du jour was Peter Firth. He played Angel in Tess and Henry Tilney in NA. Why? Just because he was good in Equus and for two milliseconds, when very young, looked somewhat leading mannish? I found him so off putting as Angel and Henry that P Firth single-handedly ruined those films for me. He could have played a Mr. Collins, Mr. Elton, or John Thorpe quite excellently. As he aged, P Firth began to portray villains, which is how I always saw him. But what I can least forgive this film for are those horrid gothic scenes (which the 2007 NA adaptation picked up.) I read NA and reread it, but, other than telling us about Catherine’s lively imagination and penchant for reading Gothic novels, JA included none of those scenes. To this day, I am still waiting for a decent Northanger Abbey (and Mansfield Park) film adaptation.

Can you recall scenes in JA films that made you cringe? Do share. As always, feel free to disagree with my humble opinions, but politely, please.

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Note: Plot spoilers if you have not seen the 2nd episode! PBS is streaming each episode for a number of weeks one day after the air date. Click here to view online videos.

Review: Downton Abbey, S3, Episode Two: Being tested only makes you stronger, or platitudes don’t help when your heart is breaking.

The second episode was largely devoted to Edith, her wedding and aftermath, Matthew’s dithering about Swire’s money, Mrs. Hughes’ health, and the further deterioration of ThomasanO’brien’s relationship

Lady Edith and the wedding that wasn’t

Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

For once Edith is happy and the viewer is led to believe that his time it’s Edith’s turn to shine. But woe betide the middle child, especially one who is plainer than her sisters and who so openly longs for the same good fortune and happiness as were bestowed on those prettier creatures. Poor Edith. It is pathetic to see how much she yearns for equality. “Something happening in this house is actually about me”,  she states naively.

She gazes at Sir Anthony in worship, seeing freedom from Downton Abbey and the chance to be mistress of her own house, whereas her affianced is beginning to acquire a hunted look. No wonder. Hounded at first by the earl and then by Violet, he is starting to feel as second class as Edith. I have watched this episode three times and still cannot quite understand the earl’s and dowager countess’s objections. Even today, hardly anyone blinks when a Hugh Hefner or a Donald Trump marries a woman young enough to be their daughter or granddaughter. Has anyone taken a gander at Ronnie Wood’s latest bride? Hello! She’s younger than a Beaujolais Nouveau. The age gap has always favored the man, not the woman. Therefore I’ll ask it again: What is so objectionable about Sir Anthony?

The second episode starts well enough, with a Violet quipping over the wedding arrangements: “At my age one must ration one’s excitement.” That was just about the last time I liked her in this episode. I must backtrack on my last post in which I called Violet inviolate, for I despise her behavior towards the blissful couple, calling Sir Anthony a “broken down old crock” and observing,. “Edith is beginning her life as an old man’s drudge.” What strange things for granny to say in a post war world where practically any whole young man left standing couldn’t serve in the war to begin with. And Daddy Crawley is no better, although one gets the sense that he is starting to put a good face on the situation, saying to his prospective son-in-law: “I’m happy Edith is happy, I’m happy you mean to keep her happy. That is quite enough happiness to be getting on with.” Damned with faint praise, but at least he gave it.

Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

And so Edith’s big day arrives It is pathetic to see how radiant she is. “All of us married. All of us happy,” she declares. How plaintive. How naïve.

Knowing how Papa and Granny Crawley feel and based on Edith’s past track record, the viewer can sense that trouble is brewing. Even the minister seems to have swallowed a sour candy as he commiserated with the still bleating Violet, who, upon seeing Sir Anthony in the pew, says: “He looks as if he’s waiting for a beating from the head master.”

She’s some sore loser and won’t quit until she’s had the last word. This trait has been charming thus far, but there is a time and a place for everything. Violet’s like a python. Once she starts twisting and choking her victim, she’s unable to let go.

Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Poor Edith, looking quite beautiful walking down the aisle. Her mother and sisters are genuinely happy for her. And then Sir Anthony drops the bomb, hyperventilating and backtracking faster than the speed of light, saying: “I can’t do it. Bye, bye y’all. Take care of my little Edie” as he hightails it out of the church.

Grannie restrains Edith from going after her man, urging her: “Let him go. Don’t stop him. Don’t drag it out. Wish him well.” But if crazy glue had been invented back then, Edith would have poured some all over herself and Sir Anthony and clung to him until they were stuck for life.

A good friend of mine pointed out an implausibility. It was clear that Sir Anthony was fond of Edith and even loved her. Would he have waited until the last-minute to cry off, or would he have sought a less public, less humiliating forum? Like the night before, for instance? Or arranged to meet Daddy Crawley that morning before everyone tramped off towards the church? Or asked that someone stop Edith from walking down the aisle so that he did not have to jilt her in front of kith and kin?

The real Sir Anthony would have done anything but humiliate Edith. This plot development smacks of “deliberate melodrama” syndrome, in which, given the choice to proceed logically or throw viewers off track, the writers chose the path that promises the most gasps and cries of outrage. I almost threw my glass of Merlot at the screen, but then thought of my liver and its enjoyment.

Laura Carmichael truly shines in these scenes, going from radiant to disbelief to grief of the rawest kind, tearing off her veil as she runs to the privacy of her room, flinging aside her tiara, and then, unable to stand the sight of her two lucky sisters, wailing: “ Look at them both with their husbands … Sybil pregnant … Mary probably pregnant.”

Hers was a raw, naked emotion and a cry of longing for a husband, her own house, a family. Now, all of it gone.

No one can console her, not even her mother.

Only a day later Anna enters Edith’s room and asks her: “What would you like me to get you?” and Edith responds, “A different life.”

My heart broke for her just a little. But what placed me firmly in Edith’s camp was this resigned yet stoic quip to Anna’s question: “Can I bring you up some breakfast?”

“No, I’m a useless spinster, good at helping out. That is my role. And spinsters get up for breakfast.

Edith’s made of stern stuff and she’s going to land on top. Mark my words. Grannie Violet takes one more post wedding dig when Carson offers to take the wedding food to the poor. “If the poor don’t want it, you can bring it over to me.” The woman who admonished Sybil with “vulgarity is no substitute for wit,” certainly could have used a dose of her own medicine.

The rest of Downton Abbey’s cast:

Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Thomas and O’Brien

ThomasanObrien’s dislike for each other is taking a serious turn. Thomas uses Moseley to create trouble for O’Brien with Cora. The valet informs Cora that since O’brien was leaving the Crawley’s service, could he nominate his niece for the post instead? Cora, who doesn’t like surprises, expresses her disappointment to her maid. (Cora’s shown her steely side before when it comes to servants, such as expressing her disbelief that Bates could fully perform his duties as valet when he first arrived in Season One.)

We also get a clear sense of Robert’s lack of fondness for O’Brien and his lack of support for her. O’Brien confronts Moseley, who reveals Thomas’s role in starting the rumor. In one of the better scenes in episode 2,  O’Brien promises the footman that if he wants a fight, he ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Daisy

Daisy is the unlikely heroine in Mary’s quest to save Downton Abbey from bankruptcy and ruin, confirming that she sent the letter for a dying Lavinia to her daddy, a letter that Matthew was certain had been counterfeited. Daisy’s been angry at Mrs. Patmore for not honoring her promotion to cook’s assistant, not knowing that the Crawleys at this point have less money than William’s farmer papa. I find her anger to be cute but petulant, like a kitten not getting its way. C’mon, Daise! The tarot cards and Ouija board say that you are going to inherit a rich yeoman farmer’s assets some day. Stay the course, girl, and you’ll be able to rent Downton Place in the near future.

Lavinia Swire’s Daddy’s Money

Chemistry twixt Matthew and Mary

Chemistry twixt Matthew and Mary

Lavinia Swire’s daddy’s fortune causes a heap of troubles twixt newly wed Mary and Matthew. Am I the only one who thinks their scenes in this episode are stiffer than starch and have about as much chemistry as two brooms in a closet?

It was Robert and Matthew who provided the real romance in this episode, or, more correctly, a splendid bromance moment. When Matthew offers to fork over his inheritance to Robert, the earl rejoined teary-eyed: “Don’t be silly you’re not going to give me any money. What I will allow is for you to invest in the place.” Matthew’s scenes with Robert and Tom, with whom he plays pool, were more passionate than his with Mary. (She hasn’t been able to give off smoldering hot looks since Pamuk’s arrival in Season 1 at the hunt.)

Isobel and Ethel

Isobel Crawley remains a peripheral figure, always looking for something worthwhile to do, in this instance converting ho’s into respectable underpaid working women. Poor Ethel is in a very bad way and trapped in a downward spiral. Fallen women without a family had few choices back then, which was to starve,  sell their bodies, or enter a workhouse. Shame prevents Ethel from seeking help, yet desperation forces her to come out of hiding to ask for aid from Isobel. I wish Matthew’s mama were given a meatier role, as in Season 1. Lately she’s come off as an irritant and, frankly, I miss her stand-offs with Violet.

Downton Place

Credit: Courtesy of © Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Credit: Courtesy of © Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

The poor Crawleys. The specter of having to live in a luxurious house instead of a mansion and having to let all but 8 servants go puts the lot of them in a bad mood. Off they go a-picnicking to view the grounds of their new abode and surprise the current tenant, who probably thought he had a 90-year lease. Only Cora can see the positive side of things, which makes me wonder all the more about her back story and what makes her tick. In this scene Violet is given a couple of zingers, my favorite of which is a rejoinder to her son, who tries to find room for all the family (talk about boomerang kids!)

Violet: What about me? Where am I supposed to go?
Robert: Well we still own most of the village.
Violet: Perhaps I can open up a shop?

Mrs Hughes, Mrs. Patmore, and Mr. Carson

DA3_1_2

Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Without these three upper servants, Downton Abbey, the series, wouldn’t be the same. Mrs. Hughes’ worry about cancer, Mrs. Patmore’s sincere concern for her friend, and Mr. Carson’s astute reading of the situation were a joy to watch. Many worry lines were lifted off Mrs. Hughes’s brow when Cora promised the housekeeper that she would always have a place at Downton and that she would be taken care of.

But my favorite scene was the last one, in which Mrs. Hughes observed Carson singing a little ditty after learning that her tumor was benign. In the first season, Carson declared that the servants were his family. This viewer wonders: is a romance brewing between Carson and Mrs. Hughes? Stay tuned, readers.

For those who have seen the full season, please feel free to comment, but, please, no plot spoilers.

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