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Emma 1

Emma 1 review by Cheryl Sneed.

Emma 1 Review

It is generally held that this adaptation of Emma, filmed in 1972, is the best of the old BBC Jane Austen productions done in the '70's. It shall be referred to as Emma1, the Miramax version as Emma2 and the A&E version as Emma3.

While all three Emmas have wonderful moments and scenes and actors that are well loved, this version - at four and 1/2 hours - has the length and scope to cover all aspects of the novel, which a two hour movie simply cannot do. Emma2 focused on the Harriet angle of the story at the expense of Frank and Jane; Emma3 was much more satisfying where Frank and Jane were concerned, but poor Harriet received short shrift. This is not a criticism of either film, but rather of the length of the films. Emma is a novel rich in characters and situations that cannot be dealt with justly in two hours.

When our group did a Virtual View of this version, the consensus was that this was the best overall casting of the three Emmas.

Emma, played by Doran Godwin, was a sweet, amiable, but occasionally bored young lady who, while meddling, had no malice in her. Some were slightly put off by her perpetually arched eyebrows, but overall we liked her very much. The relationship between Emma and her father was spot on from the novel. She handles him with such patience and love; "handle" being the operative word here. There is an easy, bantering friendship with Mr. Knightley which strikes just the right chord in their scenes together.

Mr. Knightley, as played by John Carson, was deemed at first to be too old. He is 37 in the novel, but seems to be in his mid 40s here. But Mr. Knightley is such a lovable character and the actor is so good in the role that the concerns about age are soon dispelled. In fact, many voiced the opinion that, by the end, they thought him to be quite handsome and were in love with him as well.

One of the criticisms of Emma2 was that Paltrow and Northam seemed too perfect for each other from the beginning; that there was no surprise when they fell in love. In this version, Mr. Knightley is definitely the older friend of the family and so the discovery of their love for each other was more of the surprise that many felt upon reading the book for the first time.

Everyone's favorite secondary character was Mr. Woodhouse. Donald Eccles portrayed Mr. Woodhouse as the fussiest fuss-budget there ever was. He was thin and frail and his admonitions on the dangers of open windows and the benefits of gruel were hilarious.

Debbie Bowen as Harriet was thought very sweet and pretty, so that one could see how Emma believed men would be interested in her. She has been likened to a kitten, all soft and playful and full of wonder.

Of the rest of the characters, Mrs. Elton, played by Fiona Walker, was a favorite: rude and condescending and funny, as she is meant to be. Miss Bates seemed too old to some, but was very funny in her stream-of-consciousness ramblings. Frank Churchill was handsome and not as cruel as some found him to be in Emma3. Jane Fairfax was quiet and demure, but perhaps too quiet, as she does not seem to have made much of an impression on our reviewers.

In conclusion, this is a highly enjoyable Emma, with a very good cast and the time necessary to tell the story that Jane Austen wrote.

- Review thanks to Cheryl Sneed