Jane Austen’s Emma is almost 200!

Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma (1996 Miramax adaptation).

It’s hard to believe that December will mark the 200th anniversary of Emma‘s publication. The recent lead up’s been pretty interesting, including a modern retelling of the novel by Alexander McCall Smith and Pemberley Digital’s multimedia Emma Approved adaptation, which wrapped last year. Various organizations, including the Bay Area English Regency Society in the San Francisco Bay Area, are organizing celebrations commemorating the event. Even though it’s not popular on the same level as, say, Pride & Prejudice, people love Emma because it has a little something for everyone.

Before writing Emma, Jane Austen once expressed, “I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like” (James Edward Austen-Leigh’s Memoir of Jane Austen, p. 158). Most believe that the author was at least half-joking when she said this, as Emma Woodhouse is often a great favorite among readers. The character aside, however, the story itself is simply brilliant. Part romance, part comedy, part drama, and part “detective novel,” adapters for stage and screen have lots of choice when it comes to direction and focus. If the depth and texture of the novel has a limitation, it’s in the fact that most adaptations can’t do justice to everything it offers (not even the long miniseries versions).

Jane Austen wrote Emma over the period encompassing January 21, 1814 – March 29, 1815. At his request, she dedicated Emma to her most high-profile fan, the Prince Regent. This is a bit strange, considering that she didn’t care much for him, his conduct towards his wife, or his personality in general. He received a special first edition of the novel (one of twelve “presentation” copies issued by the publisher), in three volumes, which is kept at the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. For more on the presentation edition, see this description of Anne Sharp’s copy (Bonhams auction site). Novelist Maria Edgeworth – a favorite of Austen’s – also apparently received a presentation copy of the novel.

First published in December, 1815 (though the frontispiece is dated 1816) by John Murray, Emma was the last work Austen lived to see released. The first edition consisted of 2000 copies. Oddly, the book did not sell well, so the second printing/edition didn’t happen until 1833. For more information on the initial publication of the novel, look here. You will also find opinions on the novel from Austen’s friends and family right here.

For more on Jane Austen’s Emma and its various media adaptations, visit the Emma Adaptations Pages.

Fashionable Emma Woodhouse: Costuming Austen’s Emma Adapted

Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma, costumed by Academy Award nominee Ruth Myers.

Fashionable Emma Woodhouse: Costuming Austen’s Emma Adapted

Before the 2009-2010 BBC Emma miniseries came out – and before I’d even started this blog – my friends Vic and Laurel Ann of Jane Austen Today kindly asked me to do a quick piece about costuming in the three previous major adaptations of the novel: the 1971 BBC tv miniseries starring Dorin Godwin, the 1996 Miramax theatrical release starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and the 1996-1997 A&E/ITV movie starring Kate Beckinsale.

It’s based on a previous article on Emma costuming I prepared for Ellie Farrell’s excellent Celluloid Wrappers site, which is dedicated to film costume. Eventually, I’ll be adding a section on the Romola Garai Emma to that article.

 

Paul Gordon Emma at San Diego Old Globe Theatre and more…

I tend to tweet most of my minor updates these days, but here’s a roundup for the sake of completeness.  🙂

 

Emma comes to the Old Globe in San Diego.

Paul Gordon’s Emma – A Musical Romantic Comedy is now running at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre!  The show – which has already enjoyed successful runs in the Bay Area, Cincinnati, and St. Louis – previewed earlier this month and officially premiers this weekend.  The run will continue through February 27 (with an extension to March 6).

Emma is directed by Jeff Calhoun and stars Patti Murin as the eponymous heroine and Adam Monley as Mr. Knightley.  For more…

In other Emma adaptation news, Romola Garai’s Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television did not result in a win.  Still, it was nice to see her nominated for her starring role in the 2009-2010 BBC Emma miniseries.

In non-adaptation Emma news, Maria Edgeworth’s presentation copy of Emma was sold last month at auction.  According to Sotheby’s auction house, it fetched 79,250 pounds sterling.  Edgeworth was a bit of a novelist idol of Austen’s and an acquaintance of the James Leigh Perrots, Jane Austen’s aunt and uncle.  You can learn about Edgeworth’s opinions on Emma in this roundup of period responses to the book.

Happy new year, everyone!

Michael Gambon nominated for Emmy; Emma vampire mashup released

Sir Michael Gambon received a nod during last week’s Primetime Emmy nomination announcements for his portrayal of Mr. Woodhouse in the 2009 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma.

In other Emma news, a new Jane Austen horror mashup novel hit Kindles last week.  Emma and the Vampires, written by Wayne Josephson, takes another stab at the novel of manners-meets-horror movie literary genre.

Emma 2009-2010 costumes on display at Chawton!

Through May 16, the Jane Austen House Museum is displaying a selection of costumes designed by Rosalind Ebbutt for the recent BBC Emma adaptation starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller.  The museum itself is housed in Chawton Cottage, Austen’s home from 1808 until her death.

While many of the fashions worn in the miniseries were actually created for other productions, Ebbutt was responsible for a majority of the pieces worn by the production’s principal actors. The current exhibit includes pieces designed for Romola Garai as Emma, Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley, Sir Michael Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse, and Laura Pyper as Jane Fairfax.

The Jane Austen House Museum’s website lists a May 7 event featuring Rosalind Ebbutt herself – wish I could go!

More information about the exhibit:

More information about Emma adaptation costumes:

Other links of possible interest:

Northanger Abbey group watch and chat…

Hey #emma_pbs fans! Unofficial Northanger Abbey group chat on Twitter during Masterpiece Classic on Sunday! 9pm ET start… 😀 Laurie and I will be there!

Emma DVD Review

So, my Emma 2009/2010 DVD arrived today via Amazon, and I’ve perused the special features.  As far as I know, this BBC DVD version from Amazon is the same as the DVD that ShopPBS.org will ship next month.

Disc 1 includes featurettes on the Emma filming locations and costumes, bringing you short interviews with crew and cast about the visual side of the production.

Design board for the Squerryes Court dining room.

The “Locations” piece primarily covers Squerryes Court as Hartfield and Loseley Park as Donwell Abbey, describing the crew’s intent to use space as a metaphor for the various characters’ existences and as an indicator of each character’s social station.  Emma, for example, inhabits an elegant home with an easy, unobstructed floorplan which represents her personality and life experience:

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”

Donwell Abbey, by contrast, is more venerable in size, style, and age, which very much suits the character and social status of Mr. Knightley:

“The house was larger than Hartfield, and totally unlike it, covering a good deal of ground, rambling and irregular, with many comfortable, and one or two handsome rooms. It was just what it ought to be, and it looked what it was; and Emma felt an increasing respect for it, as the residence of a family of such true gentility, untainted in blood and understanding.”

The featurette also briefly covers decor choices and the tricks involved in shooting winter scenes in June(!).  While the snowscape longshots at Squerryes Court were indeed filmed during winter, the Knightleys’ rear garden snowball fight was shot on a 27-degree C day!  This recalls the snow scenes from the 1995/96 Pride and Prejudice adaptation, which were filmed in July of 1994, if I’m remembering correctly.

Snow in June at Squerryes Court!

The costume featurette was of particular interest to me.  There were several conversations with costume designer Rosalind Ebbutt, who shares various elements of the design process.  Ebbutt brainstormed ideas via collages of period images, fabric swatches, and color samples for each character.  Frank Churchill’s even included a photo or two of Mick Jagger, whom Ebbutt felt captured the dashing worldliness of the character.  In addition to remarks from the designer, we also hear from the actors.  Romola Garai, Louise Dylan, Blake Ritson, Tamsin Greig, Rupert Evans, Laura Pyper, and Jonny Lee Miller all comment on the collaborative design process, how fashion reveals character status, personality and transformation, and the nuts and bolts of wearing period fashion.

Harriet and Emma: Twins!

Tamsin Greig, for example, describes Regency underpinnings (chemises, custom corsets made specifically for each actress, and in some cases, a “bustle” pad).  Romola Garai shows her little chatelaine watch as an example of a costume accessory that denotes Emma’s status as “lady of the house.”  Louise Dylan describes how Harriet Smith’s wardrobe begins to mimic Emma’s as the older girl’s influence grows.  And Jonny Lee Miller discusses Mr. Knightley’s practical yet elegant wardrobe as an outward manifestation of the character’s personality.  “I can see myself gambling in this,” he jokes, indicating his beautiful brocade waistcoat and velvet tailcoat.

Disc 2 contains the music featurette and an interview with Sir Michael Gambon (Mr. Woodhouse), filmed on location at Squerryes Court.

The Music piece includes interviews with composer Samuel Sim, Director Jim O’Hanlon, and Producer George Ormond, and generally overviews the process of scoring a television series.  Director O’Hanlon describes Sim’s Emma soundtrack as having “one foot in the period and one foot in today,” allowing the film to sound historically-appropriate while maintaining a freshness accessible to modern ears. Sim and O’Hanlon also discuss how Emma’s main theme, or motive, is reiterated over the course of the miniseries to accentuate onscreen moods and actions.

Samuel Sim and Jim O'Hanlon "spot" musical cues.

In addition, we learn a little about the planning or “sketching” period, during which the composer creates the main theme and ideas for the various musical cues that will be required in the finished miniseries.  We also get to glimpse a “spotting” session with the composer, director, and producer, which involves watching the film, matching up extant music cues with the footage, and coming up with plans for additional cues not yet written.  The featurette concludes with a recording session at the legendary Abbey Road Studio of Beatles fame.  This is totally off-topic, but it’s worth noting that the score for the upcoming “World of Color” show at Disney’s California Adventure was recorded just a few weeks ago at Abbey Road.

I haven’t yet watched the DVD version of the miniseries itself, but I understand that it DOES include various short scenes that aired on the BBC but not on PBS.

In all, I think the bonus features were worth the DVD purchase price (I paid around $23, via Amazon).  The packaging is a beautiful, book-style box – gatefold, I guess you could say? – with photos of Garai on the cover and on the discs themselves.  There’s a panorama of the Box Hill picnic on the inside.

Related information:

Wrapping up Emma 2009/2010…

Well, I’m home from a lovely visit to Orange County and Los Angeles.  Yes, we went to Disneyland.  Yes, we stopped by Kiyonna.  Yes, I bought something.  One dress.  ONLY ONE. Really.

Anyway, here’s the latest scoop on Emma, which wrapped last night on Masterpiece Classic: