Sense and Sensibility (1981) Trivia Challenge

Sense and Sensibility (1981) Trivia Challenge

Research for the Trivia Challenge questions on these posts is often a source of entertainment, but sometimes on older versions, as with this adaptation, there is precious little information online. That is when I have to get creative. Some of today’s trivia questions are on the edges of connection to the series itself. When I realized that there was a dearth of details – no cast interviews, only a few articles, etc., I decided to go with what I found interesting, so don’t take it to heart if you don’t know many–or any–of the answers. I hope you enjoy the post anyway and learn something new today. I did!


  1. While filming on location in Devon during the summer, what unusual weather conditions impacted the production?
  2. Diana Fairfax, the actress who portrayed Mrs. Dashwood, had previously played the title role in which Austen adaptation?
  3. Came House in Dorset was used as the location for Barton House in Sense and Sensibility. Which other Austen adaptation used this house as the residence of the Austen heroine?
  4. How old was actress Tracy Childs when she was cast in the role of 16-1/2-year-old Marianne Dashwood?
  5. Numerous gowns in this production were trimmed with a type of lace featuring a unique saw-tooth edge pattern. Which seventeenth-century painter was the namesake for this type of pointed lace?
  6. Irene Richard, who played Elinor Dashwood in the 1981 Sense and Sensibility adaptation, was seen just one year earlier as another Austen character. Which BBC series was she in, and what role did she play?
  7. One of the two screenwriters, Denis Constanduros, had been a screenwriter on a closely related work just one decade earlier. What was it?
  8. A year after Sense and Sensibility was aired, a made-for-TV period film set in 1792 was released that featured Tracy Childs–Marianne in Sense and Sensibility–as a young, French aristocrat. Name the film and role.
  9. What metaphor is used in the opening sequence of each episode to represent the need for balance between “Sense” and “Sensibility?”
  10. The conservatory at Came house was damaged during WWII. What caused the damage?

Well, how do you think you did? Whether you knew no answers or all of them, please read on for some fun facts about this production.

10.) The other screenwriter.  One of the things I noticed as I read up on this series was that Alexander Baron was always named as the screenwriter, including on the opening credits. Interestingly, IMDb includes a second screenwriter in the credits, Denis Constanduros, who was also the screenwriter for the BBC’s previous adaptation of Sense and Sensibility in 1971. A little digging revealed that Constanduros was responsible for the outline of the 1981 remake, essentially building the framework and plot points upon which Baron inserted dialogue and onscreen action. Suddenly, similarities between the two versions make more sense, such as leaving the younger sister, Margaret out altogether. I confess to being a little envious. Not many of us get the opportunity for a do-over.

Top half – IMDb list of screenwriters. Bottom half – screen capture of the writing credit naming only Alexander Baron.

9.) A legacy of lace.  Unlike Mr. Bennet, some of us enjoy talk of lace. The costume designer, Dorthea Wallace, made frequent use of a particular style of lace or edged trim that has an interesting link to a famous painter.  Van Dyke pointed lace was a fashionable style popularized by the seventeenth-century Flemish artist, Antony van Dyke, who incorporated the style into a number of his paintings. He likewise has multiple shades of brown, a style of beard, and a style of collar that bear his name.

Marianne in gown trimmed with lace with Van Dyke points.
Lucy Steele with Van Dyke lace pointing inward, toward her neck.
Fanny Dashwood with neck trim in Van Dyke Point style lace.

8.) They should have used the rain more. The summer of 1980, when the series was being filmed, was a historically wet one in the UK, with only 396 hours of sunshine recorded. Those few sunny hours were used for most of the outdoor scenes, which is a directorial choice that seems odd in light of the story being told. Other adaptations of Sense and Sensibility have used the cinematic opportunity afforded by a rainy day to great effect. You can tell in numerous scenes that it is overcast, but Marianne falls and twists her ankle on a sunny day and she is already ill when they arrive at Cleveland so there is no forlorn journey in the damp to see Willoughby’s estate of Allenham.

An example of a scene filmed when it was overcast, with no shadows produced by the sun.

7.) Does that actress seem familiar? Tracey Childs was Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. During my repeated viewings, I kept having this feeling that I had seen her in another period film but I couldn’t place her. Of course, it isn’t hard to track these things down anymore, and I soon realized that she was also Suzanne de Tourney in the 1982 production of The Scarlet Pimpernel. The date shown at the beginning of The Scarlet Pimpernel is September 1792. Jane Austen is believed to have written the first draft of Sense and Sensibility as Elinor and Marianne in 1795.

Tracy Childs as Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility (1981)
Tracy Childs as French Aristocrat Suzanne de Tourney in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)

6.)  Just exactly how old are these people? It is always interesting to compare how old Austen wrote them to how old the person who was cast is in real life. We have numerous examples where actors and actresses are much older than their Austen counterpart. In the case of Sense and Sensibility, a modicum of sense was applied to the ages of the persons cast in the roles. Ages listed are based on when they were filmed, not on the film’s release:

  • Elinor Dashwood: Austen age, 19; Irene Richard’s age, unknown. (Surprise!) Based on her 1975 role as a university-aged woman, early to mid-twenties is my guess.
  • Marianne Dashwood: Austen age, 16-1/2; Tracy Childs’s age, 17.
  • John Willoughby: Austen age, unknown; Peter Woodward’s age, 24. (Seems about right to me.)
  • Colonel Brandon: Austen age, 35; Robert Swann, 35.

5.) Barton House and Cottage.  Barton House, the home of Sir John Middleton and his family, was featured repeatedly in this series, along with Barton Cottage, the home Sir John offers the impoverished Dashwoods. Both residences are located on the Came estate in  Dorchester, Dorset. The series even moved the Delaford scenes such as assembling for Colonel Brandon’s picnic, to Barton House. One other Austen adaptation used Came House as a location. It stood in for Hartfield in the 1995 film Emma. Take note of the birds flying away in the image. You’ll understand why later.

Came House as Barton House
Came Cottage as Barton Cottage
Artist’s rendition of Came House as Hartfield in the opening credits sequence of Emma.

4.) I can see it. There is another Emma tie-in. This incidence went back in time to 1960, where Diana Fairfax, seen in Sense and Sensibility as Mrs. Dashwood portrayed the title role of a BBC production of Emma. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate an image of her as Emma, which was a black and white made-for-TV 6-part series.

Diana Fairfax as Mrs. Dashwood.

3.) The symbolic Sense and Sensibility. The directors of each of the Sense and Sensibility adaptations I’ve covered up to now have included some symbolic visual representation of the two characteristics. This version is no different. The opening sequence of each episode and one of the scenes features the sisters gently teetering up and down on the seesaw at Norland. The image is intended to show the importance of maintaining the balance between the opposing traits. In the scene with the seesaw, when Marianne gets a bit too emotional and insults Edward Ferrars, Elinor gets off and Marianne gets dumped on the lawn. A great analogy indeed!

2.) Where are the birds? The scene where the Dashwood sisters first meet Charlotte Palmer is held in the conservatory at Barton House. There is a great story about this spot that I found on the Came House website. Prior to WWII, Lady Christian Dawson-Damer, then the mistress of the house, kept birds in an aviary that was built into the conservatory.  At some point during the war, a British Spitfire got its sights onto a German bomber and chased it over the English countryside. To facilitate their escape, the crew of the German plane dropped the ordnance it was carrying near Came House. The reverberations shattered the glass in the conservatory dome, releasing the collection of birds kept by Lady Christian into the wild.

1.) Charlotte? Is that you? In the 1980 production of Pride and Prejudice, Irene Richard was cast in a supporting role as nearly on-the-shelf Charlotte Lucas. The BBC must have liked working with her because they cast her immediately afterward as the sensible Elinor Dashwood. There are several similarities between the two characters that I’ve observed. I wonder if you have too. If so, make a game of naming them in the comments section. If not, I invite you to, think about it for a moment and give it a go.

Irene Richard as Elinor Dashwood.
Irene Richard (left) as Charlotte Lucas.


Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed the tidbits that I shared. If you know any interesting trivia about this production that I didn’t include, please do share it in the comments. Also, if anyone knows when Irene Richard was born, not being able to track that down drove me nuts. Name the date, please, and you’ll have my enduring gratitude.

Quiz Answers: 1.) More rain than usual.  2.) Emma-1960.  3.) Emma-1995.  4.) Seventeen.  5.) Antony Van Dyke.  6.) Pride and Prejudice-1980, as Charlotte Lucas. 7.) Sense and Sensibility-1981 8.)The Scarlett Pimpernel, Suzanne de Tourney.   9.) Elinor and Marianne on a seesaw.  10.) A German bomber dropped a bomb near the house and shattered the glass dome ceiling of the conservatory.

8 Responses to Sense and Sensibility (1981) Trivia Challenge

  1. I love these posts. I did recognize that Richards played both parts in P&P and S&S. I knew the approximate ages were off but I wasn’t sure by how much. I’ve always wondered about Willoughby’s dog when he first heart Marianne’s scream as she fell. Was it the same one Darcy used in P&P the year before? I need to look at that again. Thanks for this informative post… I love these.

    • The ages in this adaptation were closer than in many of the others, but yep, some of them are definitely off. That’s a good question about the dog. It wouldn’t surprise me if they used him in more than one production. I may just have to go do a comparison since I have both DVDs sitting next to my computer. He was so well trained. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. You always leave such great comments!

  2. Great post. I love learning about these bits and bobs of productions that I’d never have heard of. I like Irene Richards and think she did a great job in both films.

    • I know, right? I was surprised – there is so much information about people out there that I found myself admiring her for managing to keep her true age a mystery.

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