In 1983 BBC once again took on Jane Austen, this time choosing her longest novel- Mansfield Park. Their adaptation, which was directed by by David Giles (who also directed Hetty Wainthrop) contains a cast of wonderfully lifelike characters, many of whom would go on to play other Austen rolls. The leads, Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram, were played by Sylvestra Le Touzel (Vanity Fair) and Nicholas Farrell (Chariots of Fire, Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet). Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram were portrayed by Angela Pleasence and Bernard Hepton (A&E’s Emma). Samantha Bond (A&E’s Emma, James Bond) played Maria Bertram-Rushworth. Perhaps the strangest Austen connection stems from the young actor who played Fanny Price’s younger brother, Charles. Sixteen years later, he would return to again act in a Mansfield Park adaptation, this time as Edmund. His name? Jonny Lee Miller. Mansfield Park may be the hardest of any of Austen’s novels to film. Despite recent efforts, there has not yet been an entirely satisfactory filming of it. Part of this difficulty may arise from the heavy nature of the plot substance (immorality, seduction, adultery)- especially in light of the friendly atmospheres of Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Mansfield Park lacks their spunky, if slightly cheeky heroines. Fanny Price is very moral and kind, but not altogether exciting. In short, very much unlike anything Jane Austen had written before. While the 1999 version of Mansfield Park “improves” upon Fanny and adds to her character, this 1983 adaptation tries to remain faithful to the original.
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