Top 10 Goofs in Mansfield Park (1983)

Top 10 Goofs in Mansfield Park (1983)

Mansfield Park is easily the most challenging of Austen’s novels to adapt to the screen. The character arc of the quiet and reserved protagonist, Fanny Price, is nuanced and internal. She already owns an “infallible moral compass,” and it is the revelatory arcs of the people around her that give the plot its momentum. It is only in her refusal of Henry Crawford and the aftermath that we catch a glimpse of her steel. Of the three Mansfield Park adaptations, this is the longest, clocking in with six episodes that add up to over 5 hours of watch time. This allows the production to be more faithful to Austen’s vision, but it does make for a slower moving story. Usually, I can spot at least one candle continuity error or anachronistic music choice in such a lengthy version, but no such error was detected this time. I could have easily written a post covering what they got right instead of catching the goofs. The more I watched, the more I recognized the attention to detail that went into this work. I did find a few goofs, though, all minor, but hopefully, you’ll enjoy the list.

10.) Time stands still. The clock on the mantle in the parsonage was seen in several scenes. In all of the scenes, the hands stayed at the same time throughout the several minutes of dialogue, but the prop crew did adjust the clock to reflect an appropriate time for each conversation.

9.) Well, that was quick. One would assume, watching the travel scene that began in Portsmouth and ended at Mansfield, that the estate was barely down the road from the harbor town. We know from the novel that the journey required an overnight stay at Oxford, so it was a long drive. A simple change of the dresses the ladies wore under the traveling clothes on arrival would have been sufficient cue that they had stopped somewhere overnight.

8.) What is up with Lady Bertram? Angela Pleasence in the role of Lady Bertram was suitably beautiful and elegant, but her performance in the role was almost clownishly overacted in many of the scenes. I don’t know if this was due to the director wanting to play her off as a comical character, as was surely the case with Fanny’s father, or if the actress’s interpretation was simply over-the-top, but it detracted from the story.

7.) Pulling on the harpstring. Mary Crawford often wears gloves and has a curious habit of folding her fingers back, so it’s actually somewhat difficult to catch a glimpse of her fingernails, which are longish. I didn’t take note of their length until she started playing the harp. Harpists keep their fingernails shorter because long nails catch in the harp strings.

6.) Not quite fancy enough. I was surprised, with all the other historical accuracy seen in this production, that this one got past them. We see in another scene, the dessert course with a bare table, which is correct. In a formal dinner situation, where several courses are served, a tablecloth would have been used for the substantial courses preceding dessert.

The Bertrams entertain Mr. Rushworth

5.) Blink and you’ll miss it. The director probably had to pause filming while a plane flew overhead, and I speculate that the cameraman noticed the contrail in the upper left part of the frame because the camera is quickly adjusted to take this visual evidence of modern transportation out of the shot.

4.) Is it a ghost or a cameraman? During a scene in which Sir Thomas is berating his son, Tom, he moves in front of a glass-fronted cabinet. In the tall rectangular panel behind him, the shape and movement of a member of the crew is reflected. It’s difficult to see in a still image, but if you watch the series, it’s there.

Sir Thomas Bertram lectures his eldest son, Tom Bertram.

3.) Not quite a doppelganger. This one comes down to opinion, I suppose. Sylvestra Le Touzel, who portrays the adult Fanny Price, has a rather distinctive profile. I found the face of the actress who played the young Fanny Price to be dissimilar enough from her mature counterpart that it was a rough transition. I would have let this one slide, but I observed the same issue with several other youth to adult casting choices. Julia Bertram and Edmund being the other most noticeable ones.

Katy Durham-Matthews as young Fanny Price.
Sylvestra Le Touzel as Fanny Price, all grown up.

2.) The dandy bun.  Bun? Topknot? Curly hairpiece? I don’t know what this was, but even if it is historically correct, which it doesn’t seem to be but I can’t prove that it isn’t, I consider it a goof. A hairstyle like this on a minor character causes the suspension of disbelief for the viewer to completely disintegrate. Mr. Yates was rendered ridiculous and distracts in every scene where this hairstyle appears.

Mr. Yates, reading Lovers Vows.

1.) Something’s not right. The light fixture in the hallway is first seen when Sir Thomas arrives home from Antigua and goes to his study. It is only seen for a moment as he strides down the hall and doesn’t really catch the eye. It is only when it is seen in the daytime that something seems off. I zoomed into the photo and realized that there are no wax-catching collar or bobeche around the candle holders. The fixture is not visually similar to any of the others, which all feature the lip we generally see. This appears to be a contemporary light fixture with candles placed in the sockets.

The fixture by night
The fixture by day

 

And that’s it for today. For those who have not seen this adaptation, but would like to, it is currently available on Amazon Prime. Have you spotted any of these goofs? If you know of any additional goofs to expand our list, or take issue with any of the items in this list, please share in the comments below.

9 Responses to Top 10 Goofs in Mansfield Park (1983)

  1. I don’t recall whether I’ve seen this version. Thanks for sharing the goofs. You picked the perfect screen shot to show Angela Pleasence’s overacting.

  2. Love these posts! I don’t like this version of MP. I didn’t like the actor who played Edmund. It put me off completely.

    • Hello, Teresa! I do love a strong opinion, and you have expressed yours clearly. I myself had difficulty getting past his shaggy haircut, which I found reminiscent of my seventies high-school friends’ haircuts, at least in the front. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

  3. Love these posts! This is not one of my favorites. I didn”t like the actor who played Edmund at all and that threw me from the start.

  4. This is my favorite type of post… as you know. This is also my favorite Mansfield Park adaptation/movie. Everyone now days wants to modernize Fanny and that just will not work with her character.

    The wigs in this version were hilarious… Henry especially. Those worn by Sir Thomas and Mr. Price were probability historically correct. I do believe Mr. Yates fancied himself a fop of fashion and that seemed correct for his character.

    As for the children… the little blond girl hadn’t leaned to modulated her voice yet. She spoke in this strange high-pitched voice that racked my nerves.

    I do agree that Lady Bertram was very strange. She had the oldest children but was she the oldest of those sisters? Mrs. Norris, Lady Bertram and Mrs. Price. Of the three, Mrs. Price seemed to handled whatever came along in a calm and dignified manner. Lady Bertram just threw up her hands and let her nerves drive her… similar to Mrs. Bennet. She was all shook up when the pug didn’t do her bidding. Mrs. Norris, on the other hand, took over whoever and whatever… whether it was in her purview or not.

    My observation… when Fanny was sewing… I assumed it was night and ladies didn’t usually sew at night. Also, if you listen carefully, the wind was blowing somewhere nearby. It sounded like it was whistling through the windows. You know that sound when windows aren’t a tight fit… that sound. I figured they were filming at an actual location and it was windy that day.

    I haven’t seen this movie in a while so I am trying to remember those things that jumped out at me. I missed many of the things you found. You’re good like that.

    • You’re right. Fanny was being pressed to sew costumes for Lovers Vows at night. That is a good one. I didn’t catch the wind blowing, but the clock in the schoolroom had a loud tick that was very distracting during one of the scenes. Background noises that we are used to do seem sort of out of place in productions, don’t they. Thank you so much for sharing your observations.

  5. These posts are fun! I have yet to see an adaptation of Mansfield Park but I will have to do U can see the goofs!

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