The hazards of matchmaking and relationship plot twists abound in Jane Austen’s novel Emma. Echoes of similar sorts of drama behind the scenes in the making of this production turned up as I researched for this post, but not in romances between the actors (in case that’s what you’re thinking.) Test your knowledge of this adaptation ahead.
- The script called for the character of Mrs. Elton to come from which English port town?
- The filming location used as Highbury Village was also seen in which other Austen adaptation of the 1990s?
- Why did Emma Woodhouse wear the unusual style of hats seen in this adaptation?
- Bernard Hepton (Mr. Woodhouse) was cast as a father figure in which other Austen adaptation?
- The gown Harriet Smith wore at Randalls was previously seen on Maria Lucas in Pride and Prejudice. Where did she wear it?
- Who was the screenwriter of this adaptation of Emma?
- The location used for Emma Woodhouse’s home, Hartfield, was previously seen in the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility. Which estate was it in that adaptation?
- Which British television studio produced this adaptation?
- What was the studio’s motivation for making Emma?
- The white gown with black dots worn by Jane Fairfax was previously used for which character in which other Austen adaptation?
I hope I whet your appetite for some fun trivia and story behind this adaptation. Watch for multiple connections between this adaptation of Emma and Pride and Prejudice (1995).
10.) Randalls vs Rosings – The sprigged yellow gown worn by Harriet Smith at Randalls was previously worn by Mariah Lucas at Rosings Park. The lighting is different and Harriet is often out of focus in this scene, so it’s rather a hard one to spot.
9.) Shipshape and Bristol fashion – The script called for the character of Mrs. Elton to hail from Bristol, England which has a very specific accent. Lucy Robinson, the actress who played the fastidious Mrs. Elton did her best to pull it off. You can hear her speaking it for about 30 seconds in this clip:
8.) The heart of Hartfield – The filming location for Emma Woodhouse’s home, Hartfield, was Trafalgar Park North Salisbury, Wiltshire England. This same location served as Barton Park, home of Sir John Middleton and the loquacious Mrs. Jennings in the 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.
7.) Father and daughter in another life – Or at least in another Austen adaptation. Bernard Hepton, the actor who played Mr. Woodhouse in Emma was also in the 1983 version of Mansfield Park as Sir Thomas Bertram. His daughter in that adaptation, the naughty Maria Rushworth née Bertram was played by Samantha Bond who appeared in Emma as Mrs. Anne Weston née Taylor, Emma’s former governess. In the image of the wedding below, he is seen standing up with Miss Taylor, still concerned for her loss to his daughter, Emma.
6.) Meryton Assembly vs Randalls – The golden ball gown with brown trim that Suzannah Harker as Jane Bennet wore to the Meryton Assembly is seen again on Samantha Bond as Mrs. Weston hostessing a dinner at Randalls. There were many more Pride and Prejudice costumes that turned up in this production of Emma. When you get down to #1 below, the dots will connect and the overlap will make complete sense.
5.) I feel as though I’ve been here before – Emma Woodhouse gives Frank Churchill a tour of Highbury Village, but did it feel familiar? Don’t be surprised if it did. Lacock, Wiltshire served as the film location for the Highbury scenes in Emma. It was also Meryton village in Pride and Prejudice (1995). Its unspoiled appearance has made it a popular site for productions requiring an old English feel, including three Harry Potter movies, the 2015 season of Downton Abbey and the BBC production of Cranford.
4.) What is with those hats? – We touched briefly on this in last month’s “goofs” post, so we are circling around here with an explanation. The hats Emma wears in this production are large and bold, while the other female characters wear the more typical styles we associate with the period. The costume designer, Jenny Beavan, worked closely with Kate Beckinsale on the headwear aspect of Emma’s wardrobe. Kate felt that bonnets were not flattering to her features and together they decided to use Emma’s hats to reflect her status in town as well as to emphasize through costume her hawkish and sometimes aggressive attitudes. An example of this is the straw hat that echoes the shape of a naval commander’s bicorn hat.
3.) This is not a BBC production – I have frequently seen this adaptation referenced as “the Kate Beckinsale BBC version.” This connection doesn’t show up in articles but seems to be a common misconception among viewers, possibly because the screenplay was written by Andrew Davies. There is a story behind this, which is detailed below, so we’re going to just make the point here. This adaptation was produced by Meridian Broadcasting, in association with ITV – a rival of the BBC. It is distributed by A&E Television Network in the United States and United Film and Television in the UK and internationally. It has also been aired as part of the PBS’s Masterpiece Jane Austen marathon.
2.) It’s all about the ratings – ITV, seeing a drop in ratings, decided to get into the business of period dramas in hopes of boosting their ratings. When Andrew Davies approached them, they were happy to get on board.
1.) Drama much? – Andrew Davies, fresh off the success and acclaim of Pride and Prejudice, approached the BBC with an idea for another Austen adaptation, this time of Emma. Unfortunately, he was told that they had already thought of this idea and had commissioned a different screenwriter, Sandy Welch. Undaunted, Davies shopped his idea around and found a willing partner with ITV – a rival broadcasting company to the BBC. The BBC head of drama serials, Michael Wearing admitted that “It was a very, very difficult situation…We really were in a fix.” Many of the crew from Pride and Prejudice jumped ship from the BBC to work with Davies on Emma, including producer Sue Birstwhile and executive producer Della Fine. With the Miramax production of Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow and the modern adaptation of Clueless already in the field, the BBC ultimately tabled their Emma project in light of Davies ITV adaptation further crowding the field. Over a decade later, the BBC revived the Sandy Welch screenplay giving us the 2009 adaptation of Emma starring Romola Garai.
Were you surprised by any of these? Do you have an opinion on “who wore it better?” Are you aware of any other trivia points not covered? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Quiz Answers: 1. Bristol, 2. Pride and Prejudice, 3. To better suit Beckinsale’s face and emphasize aspects of her character, 4. Mansfield Park, 1983 as Sir Thomas Bertram, 5. Rosings Park, 6. Andrew Davies, 7. Barton Park, 8. ITV, 9. Ratings that were trending down, 10. Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.