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Tea with Jane Austen: Ideas for using the Jane Austen Silhouette Cookie Cutter

The Jane Austen Silhouette Cookie Cutter


The other day I was having some fun experimenting with the new Jane Austen Silhouette Cookie Cutter . We tried sugar cookies (naturally) and toast (delicious) and tea sandwiches. However, I think my favorite trick was the silhouette sandwich, seen here.


To create this sandwich, you’ll need two types of bread, ideally, of light and dark colors (white and wheat, wheat and pumpernickel, etc.)

Take two slices of your “base” layer, in this case Pumpernickel, and use the cutter to cut a silhouette from the center of one slice.

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Northanger Abbey: 1986

1986 Cover for Northanger Abbey Kind critics have called it quirky. For some it is “awful” and still others call it “A fun and enjoyable adaptation of the Jane Austen novel.” Safe to say, no one is ambivalent. Written by Maggie Wadey (The Buccaneers) for the BBC in 1986 and shown on Masterpiece Theater in December of 1987, Northanger Abbey boasts fair a cast and wonderful scenery. With a different script and score it could have rivaled the Austen adaptations of the 1990’s. Instead, it remains an engaging but slightly discordant note in the Austen film symphony. It is truly unlike anything that came before or has been produced since.

As the shortest Jane Austen film on record (it clocks in at 90 minutes) Northanger Abbey lacks the time given to other adaptations for plot exposition. Indeed, while some of Austen’s best lines were allowed to remain, the writer felt compelled to add new scenes and create new characters to fill out the story, cutting the original plot still further. Perhaps Jean Bowden, Chawton Archivist said it best when she states, “They completely missed the joke.” Maggie Wadey managed to take Jane Austen funniest novel, a satire on the literature of the day, and turn it into what is touted as a Gothic fantasy. All right if you go in for that sort of thing, but certainly not Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Adding to the awkward feel of the film is the score by Ilona Sekacz (Mrs. Dalloway)- a weird mix of period appropriate, night club jazz, opera and new age music. Some people find it humorous- others, appalling.

Tooling around Bath in a Gig Filmed on location in Bath and Bodiham Castle, Kent, this movie is a treat for the eyes. The costumes, created by Nicholas Rocker, are lavish and appealing. While some of the gowns must fall into the category of pure whimsy, others are quite correct. Pelisses worn by both Eleanor Tilney and Catherine Moreland are especially attractive, as are many of the ball gowns. True to the book, Miss Tileny does indeed “always wear white.” The hairstyles are also unusual, creating a period feel, but making it difficult to place the film in any particular year.

Robert Hardy as General Tilney The cast, including costume drama perennials Robert Hardy (Sir John Middleton, Sense and Sensibility) as General Tilney and Jonathan Coy (Lt. Bracegirdle, Horatio Hornblower) as John Thorpe, does well and represents “normal” people of the period rather than the over-pretty characters we are used to seeing in Austen films. Googie Withers is charming in her role as Mrs. Allen, though Cassie Stuart (Secret Garden with Colin Firth) seems to be a bit over the top as Isabella Thorpe. The real star of this production is the beautiful Ingrid Lacey who plays Eleanor Tilney. She is the one actress in the entire film who seems to have stepped directly from the pages of Jane Austen’s novel.

Katherine Schlesinger and Peter Firth The actual stars of the film, Peter Firth (no relation to fellow actor Colin) as Henry Tilney and Katherine Schlesinger (Catherine Moreland) seem slightly miscast. Firth does well with what he has to work with, but is too old and too blond for his role. Schlesinger, playing the wide-eyed innocent to the hilt, seems almost too childish. Her constant daydreams rapidly move from amusing to disturbing. The repeated switch from reality to dream at times creates an unnerving – almost frightening atmosphere. Concluding with a highly improbable proposal scene the viewer is left to wonder just where he lost track of the storyline and how he ended up here.

Aside from the cacophony of imaginative dreams and musings, the most confusing scene in the film is, perhaps, Catherine’s descent into the Roman Baths. This is quite unlike anything in any of Austen’s books and seems almost inappropriate.Catherine and Eleanor in the Baths One reviewer has gone so far as to call it inaccurate, claiming that the baths weren’t even excavated until the 1850’s. This is wrong. While some excavations did take place in the mid 1800’s, the baths had been in use for hundreds of years and, since the visit of Queen Mary of Modena (wife of James II), were celebrated by the ‘modern’ world for their healing qualities. While most people visited Bath intent on ‘taking the waters’ internally, bathing in them was still an accepted form of medical treatment if not social practice. Consider for example, Mrs. Smith (Persuasion) “She…had been afflicted with a severe rheumatic fever, which, finally settling in her legs, had made her for the present a cripple. She had come to Bath on that account, and was now in lodgings near the hot baths… and she never quitted the house but to be conveyed into the warm bath.”

There were actually three different baths in use a the time. The Cross Bath, the Hot Bath and the King’s Bath which is located next to the Pump Room and is the one attended by Catherine and Isabella in the movie. Since this was the location frequented by “gentlefolk,” if they were to have gone bathing this would have been the spot.

There is no record of Jane Austen partaking goings on such as those portrayed in the film and indeed, by the time she arrived in Bath, it’s fashionable heyday was over. An interesting scene, it may continue to be one of the mysteries of Northanger Abbey for a long time to come. It is certainly something rarely, if ever, included in a period film and it is intriguing to see that Andrew Davies wrote a similar scene for his recent screenplay of the same novel.

With all it’s faults, Northanger Abbey does try hard and as the only version available on film, must be accepted, if only to complete the set of all Austen films to date. The best advice I have heard is, “If you are going to watch it, try to enjoy it with an open mind and no expectations.” After all, it does deserve our gratitude. If it hadn’t been for Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice Katherine Schlesinger(BBC/A&E 1995) might never have been made. It was at a screening of Northanger Abbey that writer Andrew Davies met producer Sue Birtwistle and the idea of making P&P into “a fresh, lively story about real people” was born.

Northanger Abbey is readily available on video in both VHS and PAL format, as well as on DVD. The DVD has no special features beyond a scene selection menu.

For more information on the Andrew Davies’ version of Northanger Abbey (in production) visit:The NA2 Upcoming Movie Page.

Laura Sauer is a collector of Jane Austen Films and film memorabilia. She also runs Austentation, a company that specializes in custom made Regency Accessories.

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Emma: 1972

Emma, 1972 “Oh! I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any other…”

In 1972, the BBC created what has been called “The best of the early Austen adaptations”, with their production of Emma. The third in their series of Austen films, BBC recruited the veteran writing/producing team of Martin Lisemore and Denis Constanduros (who had previously worked on Sense and Sensibility, in 1971. Denis Constanduros would later return to write the outline for 1985’s script of Sense and Sensibility.). With the help of director John Glenister (known for his other BBC projects, including A Touch of Frost and Hetty Wainthrop Investigates), they put together a funny, accurate portrayal of Jane Austen’s fourth novel.

John Carson While much of the cast seems a bit old for their parts, John Carson (Mr. Knightley) was 45 and Doran Godwin (Emma Woodhouse) well into her thirties, they did provide, looks aside, excellent portrayals of their characters. Donald Eccles (Silas Marner, 1985), I think, gives a consummate performance as the hypochondriac Mr. Woodhouse. He seems to be lifted directly out of the book. The perfect invalid, longing to be a bother to no one, but afraid for everyone. Mrs. Elton (Fiona Walker) is perfectly vulgar. A triumph! Miss Bates is properly distracted.

Harriet Smith Jane Fairfax and Harriet Smith are not quite so well cast. Jane remains looking pale and sickly throughout, and Harriet comes away looking like a total ninny. One wonders how Emma could stand having her around. She may have cured her of her schoolgirl’s giggle, but not, at least in this version, of her nervous ramblings and indecision. She has been likened to a kitten, all soft and playful and full of wonder, though I found her more akin to a hummingbird, flitting here and there, always a bit rattled.

Perhaps the most famous of the cast members would be Constance Chapman as Mrs. Goddard. Better known for her years as Mrs. Slocomb on Are You Being Served, she manages to play a kindly older woman quite suited to a school full of girls– all while keeping her hair a rather sedate shade of brown.

Mr Woodhouse Overall, the acting is so good, and the script so attuned to the book, that you begin to focus on the story line and even forget about the age question! Some fans were amazed by this quality and said of John Carson, that by the end of the film, they thought him to be quite handsome and were in love with him as well! The exchanges between Emma and Mr. Knightley are lively and wonderfully acted. They really seem to be friends, and carry off their exchanges with a playfulness missing in other versions.

Mrs. Goddard and Harriet Smith Also included in this version are scenes which, for the sake of time, were not added to the later films. Mrs. Weston’s confinement, Harriet’s trip to London, and Tea at the Vicarage are all given full coverage. Because this version is nearly twice as long as it’s counterparts, they also have time to expand on Harriet’s romantic mishaps and Frank and Jane’s secret liaison. The dialogue, which is often quite humorous, gives the actors a chance to express a full range of feeling. Almost as much is told by what is not said! Facial expressions and double entendre are a valuable part of this production.

While this may not be the most visually stunning of all Emma adaptations, it is very apparent that great attention was given to detail. It is obvious that this was filmed on television sets, and the outdoor scenes do leave a lot to be desired. Much of this, however, like the actors themselves, soon becomes of no consequence, as you are swept away by the storyline and acting ability shown.

Emma Woodhouse The costumes in the film were designed by Joan Ellacot. Her goal was to make the actors, and indeed the whole production “look as genuine and real as possible.” Towards that end, she chose to replicate the looks of 1815. *“It’s easy for today’s audiences to dismiss the old BBC costumes as “polyester specials” because of the dating and dulling effects of the videotape and harsh fluorescence used in taping. However, most of the designs used in this production were well-researched and carefully selected. Many of the costumes were reused in later BBC productions during the 1970’s, notably the 1979 version of Pride & Prejudice starring Elizabeth Garvie. As with the other Emmas, the design team chose styles, colors, and accessories to indicate class, age, and personality. Harriet wears youthful, patterned frocks in soft colors and bright bonnets. Emma wears regal styles in sophisticated colors, including an ermine-lined cape and a maroon spencer with appliqued designs. Mrs. Weston wears somber colors in modest styles.”

Emma is available on video in both PAL and VHS form from 20th Century Fox and BBC Video. It, like the other early BBC adaptations is sold as a two tape set and runs for 257 mins.

*From Kali Pappas’ “Emma Page”.

Laura Sauer is a collector of Jane Austen Films and film memorabilia. She also runs Austentation, a company that specializes in custom made Regency Accessories.

Enjoyed this article? Visit our giftshop and escape into the world of Jane Austen.