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Jane Austen Adaptations: Behind the Scenes

When the final credits roll on an Austen film, whether you’ve loved it or not, it’s often fun to find out more. What were relationships like on and off the set? Where did they film these great houses? Who designed the costumes? Was the final product true to the script? Were there any extra scenes that were cut?

Fortunately for us, many of the movies do have additional information available.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) boasts a “Making Of” feature on the newest DVD version and the book The Making of Pride and Prejudice by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin answers just about any question interested fans might have.

Sense and Sensibility won Emma Thompson an Oscar for best screenplay when it was released in 1995. During the filming of the movie, Thompson kept a detailed diary of life on and off the set. Both the script and the diary are available in individual and combined formats.

Also produced in 1995, Persuasion’s script by Nick Dear was printed in book format and is occasionally available from used book sellers. That year’s other Austen offering, Clueless, is an updated version of Emma, set in California. The special edition DVD boasts cast interviews and “making of” information.

Scripts were also published of both Douglas McGrath’s 1996 script for the Gwyneth Patrow version of Emma , and for Andrew Davies’s version for TV. That script, along with cast and behind the scenes information was published as The Making of Jane Austen’s Emma by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin. Though out of print, it can occasionally be found in used book stores and on Ebay.

newtvloclgjpgv1417010708.jpegThe 1999 big screen version of Mansfield Park, written and directed by Patricia Rozema, garnered as much negative as positive publicity. Supposedly based on Austen’s early writings and diaries as well as the source novel, it has certainly provoked ample discussion. A script was issued for this production also, and should still be obtainable.

Lastly, if you feel like visiting some of the locations from these various productions, the TV and Film Locations Guide is your essential handbook!

The Making of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s TV and Film Locations Guide and a variety of DVDs and soundtracks are currently available from the Jane Austen Giftshop.

Laura Boyle 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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The Sheet Music for Austen Film Scores

Jane Austen loved to play the pianoforte. She used to copy out music from her friends into books that remain in the Chawton House library to this day. Many of these pieces- classics by Bach, Mozart, Handel and others – are readily available for today’s musicians. If you want to try your hand yourself, A Carriage Ride In Queen’s Square, a wonderful compendium of original ‘easy to play piano pieces for Jane Austen’s Bath’ with a playalong CD included, is currently available from the Jane Austen Gift Shop.

But what if you want to play music from the movie soundtracks?

Jane Austen's WorldSurely these evoke the spirit of Jane Austen at least as much as the period pieces. Fortunately, many of these- from the original dances used in the movies- to sheet music of the film scores are easily obtained.

Perhaps the most comprehensive collection of works is Jane Austen’s World published by Faber music. It includes:

Emma by Rachel Portman-
Frank Churchill Arrives
Emma (End Titles)

Sense and Sensibility by Patrick Doyle-
My Father’s Favourite
Devonshire
All The Better For Her
Excellent Notion
The Dreame

Pride and Prejudice by Carl Davis
Pride & Prejudice Theme
Canon Collins
The Gardiners
Summary

Persuasion by Jeremy Sams
Persuasion Main Theme
Tristesse
Italian Aria


Jane Austen, The Music
Another book, Jane Austen, the Music  includes a greater range of pieces from both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.
Its contents are:

Sense and Sensibility
Weep You No More, Sad Fountains
A Particular Sum
My Father’s Favourite
Patience
All the Delights of the Season
Steam Engine
Willoughby
Excellent Notion
Combe Magna
There is Nothing Lost
The Dreame

Pride and Prejudice
Opening Title Music
Elizabeth Observed
Canon Collins
The Gardiners
Rosings
Farewell to the Regiment
Pemberley
Thinking About Lizzy
Lydia’s Wedding
Double Wedding

Single sheets for Weep You No More Sad Fountains and My Father’s Favorite are available from the Hal Lenoard Corp. Additionally, music for just Sense and Sensibility, more recently, Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Becoming Jane have also been published. Of course, this only covers the pieces written for the films. For a list of classical music used in the movies (including many Bach and Chopin pieces in Persuasion and Mozart in Pride and Prejudice) and ordering information for all these pieces, visit the Republic of Pemberley’s Music page. For printable country dances, try Christ Peterson’s Traditional Music Page.

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Jane Austen On-line: Period Fashion and Patterns

Le Beau Monde, June 1808Everyone is familiar with the Empire waists and Grecian silhouette of the early 19th century. The classic styles and light fabrics were, no doubt, a relief from the heavily embroidered fashions of previous centuries. This simplification, which began during the French Revolution, transformed the fashion industry. Waists were raised to just below the bosom; sleeves were shortened and puffed; skirts became narrowed and elegant. Clean lines had come into vogue.

While these elements fluctuated during the next twenty years, the look remained much the same. Fabrics such as cotton prints and muslin replaced rich brocades and velvets. White was the color of choice. The desired effect was “Girlhood Innocence.” Cathy Decker, a fashion historian, has collected many original fashion plates from the early 1800’s, and has made them available for viewing on her website, The Regency Fashion Page.

Jenny Beavan, S&S
Costume designers for the recent Austen films have carefully studied period plates to provide viewers with a smorgasbord of historically accurate ensembles. One of the most famous designers, twice Oscar-nominated Jenny Beaven, created fashions for both Sense and Sensibility and A&E’s Emma. Dinah Collins’ gowns in Pride and Prejudice are stunning, though the necklines are a little low for the projected time period. Alexandra Byrne, costume designer for Persuasion, gets the most praise for period correctness. Her fashions, from the opulence of the titled elite to the humblest fisherman’s wife, appear close to perfect.

In 1996, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion vied for the Best Costume Design BAFTA. Similar to an Oscar, the BAFTA is awarded by the British Academy of Film and Television Awards. Persuasion won.

With all these sources of inspiration, it’s easy to desire your own Regency ensemble. The hardest part is deciding how to get started. Jessamyn Reeves-Brown has created a fascinating page full of links to resources, tips, fashion plates and historical information. Jennie Chancey, a noted seamstress, designed what many call the easiest Regency gown pattern. Her site, Sense and Sensibility Creations, is a treasure-trove of information, help and links. Her patterns can be purchased from the site. One other site, Austentation, focuses on Regency fashion accessories– hats, bonnets and reticules. They supply a list of most of the Regency gown patterns available, along with other period costumes, seamstresses, supply sources and historical information.


Originally printed in the JASNA-NY Newsletter, Spring 2002. Reprinted and modified with permission from the author. For a complete study of Jane Austen film fashion, read Jennie Chancey’s article at Celluloid Wrappers.