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Jane Austen in Hollywood

Linda Troost

Publication Year: 1998

In 1995 and 1996 six film or television adaptations of Jane Austen's novels were produced—an unprecedented number. More amazing, all were critical and/or box office successes. What accounts for this explosion of interest? Much of the appeal of these films lies in our nostalgic desire at the end of the millennium for an age of greater politeness and sexual reticence. Austen's ridicule of deceit and pretentiousness also appeals to our fin de siècle sensibilities. The novels were changed, however, to enhance their appeal to a wide popular audience, and the revisions reveal much about our own culture and its values. These recent productions espouse explicitly twentieth-century feminist notions and reshape the Austenian hero to make him conform to modern expectations. Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield present fourteen essays examining the phenomenon of Jane Austen as cultural icon, providing thoughtful and sympathetic insights on the films through a variety of critical approaches. The contributors debate whether these productions enhance or undercut the subtle feminism that Austen promoted in her novels. From Persuasion to Pride and Prejudice , from the three Emmas (including Clueless ) to Sense and Sensibility , these films succeed because they flatter our intelligence and education. And they have as much to tell us about ourselves as they do about the world of Jane Austen. This second edition includes a new chapter on the recent film version of Mansfield Park .

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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pp. vii

First, the editors would like to thank the contributors to this volume for being so prompt in submitting articles and revisions: without such alacrity, this collection could not have appeared in so timely a fashion. Thanks also to the wonderful people at and readers for the University Press of Kentucky, who made very useful suggestions...

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Introduction: Watching Ourselves Watching

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pp. 1-12

The past few years have seen a proliferation of Jane Austen adaptations. Between 1970 and 1986, seven feature-length films or television miniseries, all British, were produced based on Austen novels; in the years 1995 and 1996, however, six additional adaptations appeared, half of them originating in Hollywood and the rest influenced...

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1. Out of the Drawing Room, Onto the Lawn

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pp. 13-21

What gave Harpo Marx the great idea of adapting Jane Austen for the screen was "a sentimental comedy in three acts" by an Australian named Helen Jerome, a dramatization of Pride and Prejudice that he saw in Philadelphia on October 28, 1935. 'Just saw Pride and Prejudice. Stop. Swell show. Stop," he telegraphed the powerful Hollywood...

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2. Balancing the Courtship Hero: Masculine Emotional Display in Film Adaptations of Austen's Novels

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pp. 22-42

The exclamation, "I loved when Darcy stripped off some of his clothes and dove into the pond as he returned to Pemberley," started off a classroom discussion concerning the Andrew Davies BBC television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (1995). The student explained her enthusiasm by noting that although this scene does not appear in...

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3. Misrepresenting Jane Austen's Ladies: Revising Texts (and History) to Sell Films

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pp. 44-57

A consumer's prefatory note to filmmakers: in spite of the dismayed nature of this article, please understand just how much I enjoyed each of the recent Austen-based productions. Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma are all delightful visual and audio experiences. Beautiful settings, witty and lively dialogue...

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4. Austen, Class, and the American Market

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pp. 58-78

Film industry watchers point out how easily the novels of a writer who is "her own script editor" can be brought to the screen (Lane, "Jane's World" 108) and note the hunger in some segments of the audience for an alternative to "big-screen explosions and computer wizardry" (Maslin).1 Among cultural analysts, one set of theorists proposes...

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5. Jane Austen, Film, and the Pitfalls of Postmodern Nostalgia

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pp. 79-89

The first, which is an adaptation of the poster that advertised the film, depicts the film's stars, Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root, poised for that long-awaited kiss that so shocked Janeites and historical purists. They seem to be holding hands and the shot is nearly full length, showing everything but their feet. Instead of the Bath street scene...

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6. "A Correct Taste in Landscape": Pemberley as Fetish and Commodity

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pp. 90-110

Pride and Prejudice, written in the 1790s and extensively revised before its publication in 1813, is, arguably, the first of Jane Austen's novels to make extensive use of what Austen in Mansfield Park terms "the influence of place." According to Ann Banfield, the "influence of place" determines the development of individual characters as physical...

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7. Mr. Darcy's Body: Privileging the Female Gaze

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pp. 111-121

When I first had the idea of writing on Andrew Davies's 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, a year and a quarter after it had been shown on BBC Television, I at once lamented the fact that I had not thought to keep any cuttings of the numerous articles in the British press which had focused on it, and, in particular, on the appeal of Colin...

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8. Emma Becomes Clueless

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pp. 122-129

Ranked among the top ten entertainers by Entertainment Weekly (Ascher-Walsh), Jane Austen is "the posthumous queen of genteel cinema" (Maslin). Recent film versions of Emma invite speculation about the novels appeal in the 1990s. Written in 1816, Emma traces a classic comic arc: a misguided matchmaker, overconfident in her abilities...

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9. "As If!": Translating Austens Ironic Narrator to Film

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pp. 130-139

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that each of Austen's novels ought to make a good movie. Four of them already have. Between 1995 and 1997 versions of Sense and Sensibility, Emma and Persuasion were released as feature-length films, and on television, the BBC/A&E Pride and Prejudice was watched by over eleven million viewers...

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10. Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility as Gateway to Austen's Novel

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pp. 140-147

Many English instructors use film clips in an effort to help students visually "connect" with a text. Sometimes, let us say in the case of Kafka's The Trial, the entire Orson Welles film (1962) can be particularly helpful in allowing students to navigate Kafka's labyrinth. The recent spate of literary film adaptations and the amount of...

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11. "Piracy Is Our Only Option": Postfeminist Intervention in Sense and Sensibility

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pp. 148-158

Early in Emma Thompson's 1995 screen adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars are riding together in the fields near Norland, the Dashwood family estate—soon to be relinquished to Elinor's half brother. Picking up the thread of a conversation begun earlier and continued over several scenes, Elinor remarks...

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12. Feminist Implications of the Silver Screen Austen

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pp. 159-176

In January of 1996, Time ran a television review with the headline "Sick of Jane Austen Yet?" For many months in 1995 and 1996, British and American viewers found themselves asking, "Why Austen?" and "Why now?" Attempting to answer these questions, as Louis Menand has suggested, "is an invitation to punditry it is probably wise...

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13. Mass Marketing Jane Austen: Men, Women, and Courtship in Two Film Adaptations

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pp. 177-187

Some years ago I was given the "tip sheet"—guidelines for prospective writers—distributed by a well-known publishing house of mass-market contemporary romances.1 Prescriptions for the characterization of the hero immediately caught my eye: "The hero is 8 to 12 years older than the heroine. He is self-assured, masterful, hot-tempered...

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14. The Mouse that Roared: Patricia Rozema's Mansfield Park

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pp. 188-204

Canadian director Patricia Rozema faced a major challenge when adapting Mansfield Park. Unlike Pride and Prejudice, this was not a bright and sparkling novel with a witty heroine and a smoldering hero: Fanny Price is meek and Edmund Bertram bland.1 The film, jointly produced by Miramax and BBC Films (assisted by a £1 million...

Appendix. Austen Adaptations Available on Video

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pp. 205-207

Selected Reviews, Articles, and Books on the Recent Films, 1995-2000

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pp. 208-212


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pp. 213-214


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pp. 215-221

Image Plates

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813171210
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813120843

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 1998