Mansfield Park: 2007 ITV Adaptation

Now we come to the last adaptation of Mansfield Park that is currently out there. This version was adapted by Maggie Wadey and was not received well by critics nor fans of Jane Austen’s works. Mansfield Park is a difficult novel to adapt simply because Fanny Price is much more complicated than a majority of Austen’s female characters. She has moments of weakness and strength like Anne Elliot, but has a bit more of a delicate nature like Marianne Dashwood. For some reason, this makes the novel hard to adapt. I think it’s an excuse to not adapt works such as this one and Persuasion in favor of Pride & Prejudice and Emma because they are more well known.

Billie Piper as Fanny Price

Like the 1999 film version, this one sticks with the whole Mrs. Price send her daughter to live at Mansfield Park instead of the novel’s statement Fanny was brought to Mansfield on the request of her two aunts. They also show that Mr. Rushworth and Maria are engaged prior to Sir Thomas leaving for Antigua, which messes with the time line as they become engaged while Sir Thomas is away. Hence the reason why Sir Thomas will assist his daughter in ending the engagement when he returns because he finds Mr. Rushworth an unsuitable match (a match promoted by Aunt Norris I might add). There is also a weird comment by Lady Bertram when the Crawfords arrive that they were “pretty as children.” Correct me if I am wrong (which I am not), but the Crawfords did not come from the Mansfield area as children. They come to the place as requested by their half-sister, Mrs. Grant, after the Grants move into the Parish (after Mr. Norris dies). Fanny Price also never leaves Mansfield to visit her family in Portsmouth. She is abandoned by the family at Mansfield while they leave. Basically, there is so much wrong with the adaptation, it’s hard to watch because so much was messed around with. Billie Piper portrays Fanny as a strong, playful, independent character but with no weaknesses. Her portrayal of Fanny was actually quite similar to her portrayal of Rose Tyler on Dr. Who (and this must be due to the script and the direction she was given as she is an excellent actress).

Joseph Beattie as Henry Crawford, Fanny Price, Joseph Morgan as William Price, and Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram. This does resemble more of an alternative 1980s Romantic Rock band based on the poses.

Tom Bertram (James D’Arcy) and his brother, Edmund.

Other issues are the hair-particularly Fanny’s hair. Women did have short hair, I have stated this before. And children up to a certain age most likely had their hair down (but definitely around age 10-12, girls would have their hair up as all portraits I’ve looked at over the decades have shown this). So I do not understand why Fanny, being around 18 years of age, and thus no longer in the schoolroom, has her hair down. Shoulder length hair can and was pinned up at this point. Length shouldn’t be an issue. there was some attempt to do interesting braiding to bring the tresses off of the actress’ face, but that attention to detail should have continued throughout her hairstyle. Instead, it looked messy and unkempt, which would not be proper for a niece of Sir Thomas Bertram. I also didn’t understand the overly long hair on Henry Crawford. For a character who is stated to be a Londoner, and therefore we can conclude is very fashion forward, his shoulder length hair is appalling out of fashion. Tom Bertram as well had overly long shoulder length hair. While he looks stunning with the long hair, it’s more appropriate for, shall we say, the Three Musketeers than Mansfield Park?

Mary Crawford (Hayley Atwell) and Henry.

Now, there are some fairly good hairstyles in this adaptation. I always try to find some positive points in all of these versions, regardless of the issues I find with them because it takes a lot of work to put something like this together, and when something is done well, it should be applauded. Mary Crawford’s hair was exceptionally fine and I quite liked the use of asymmetrical parts to give her a distinct look from the other ladies. Maria Bertram as well had really lovely more Georgian styled hair, which I’m not sure if the character would be that old-fashioned with her hair, but it was done well and it does look lovely. Though I did think Maria’s hair may have been a way to visually tie her to Lady Bertram, who did have lovely styled Georgian hair as well. Mrs. Norris likewise had a nice pouf with mob cap, which looked more Georgian, but since she and Lady Bertram are older, I don’t mind them sticking to hairstyles of their youth. Edmund had a decent a la Titus going on, just wished they used some product to give it some texture as it tended to lay flat (and yes, pomade was used by men to give texture-it was very similar to hair wax that’s used today).

Fanny in what I believe to be a gown from the 1770s, possibly 1780s.

The costuming was very weird in this adaptation. I really had a hard time pinpointing exactly when the story was taking place because like the hair, the fashions were all over the place. The costume designer is Mike O’Neill, whose mainly done period pieces set in the Elizabethan Era or Georgian Era, it makes sense that he stuck with what was comfortable for him. He excels in the heaving bosom department and this was definitely the case in this version. The problem is that while bosoms were on display during Austen’s time, they weren’t showcased as they had been during the Georgian Era (unless, they were a trend setter and were dampening their petticoats-yes, that did happen but those kinds of women were not so common). The main issue with the costumes is there is a lack of consistency. If this is set during the 1810s, then they should all be dressed in garments from that time (give or take 5 years). I, of course, make an exception for the older generation such as Mrs. Norris, etc, but even they would be wearing something a little more modern in terms of clothing.

Mary & Henry Crawford; notice the waistline is set below the bust which is more 1820s in terms of silhouette.

Sir Thomas Bertram (Douglas Hodge) & Maria Bertram (Michelle Ryan); notice the waistline on Maria’s gown is more along the lines of the typical Regency gown being under the bust.

Lady Bertram (Jemma Redgrave) & Mrs. Norris (Maggie O’Neill); Notice the echelles (the bows) on Lady B’s gown-that’s pure Georgian (think Madame Pompadour) and more 1760s.

An echelle stomacher from the 1770s (Nordic Museum)

Fanny, Mrs. Norris and Lady Bertram. Look closely and you can see the stomacher on Lady Bertram’s gown.

Basically, from what I saw in this version, I counted the use of Round Gowns (1800s), Robe a l’Anglaise (1760-1780s), stomachers (1740s-1780s), and the Directoire/Regency gowns of the 1810s. Likewise the men’s fashions features the typical Regency coat (like what Henry and Tom wear) to a Victorian-esque Cutaway on Edmund. The costumes, much like the script, was just all over the place.

Mr. Rushworth (Rory Kinnear), Maria Bertram, Henry Crawford, Julia Bertram (Catherine Steadman), Edmund and Mary Crawford. While coats did exist with the cutaway look like Rushworth and Edmund are wearing, the issue was when you saw the back and the bottom of it, it didn’t have the period pleating and were curved (I’ve never seen one curved before the Victorian Era).

Because this version is only two hours, so much from the novel was left out. Portsmouth, of course, was gone as well as the trip to see the Rushworth Estate. Both of those tend to be key scenes and while I can forgive not going to see the Rushworth Estate, having Fanny go to Portsmouth is a big deal in the novel. So much pivots on her leaving Mansfield that having the character remain at Mansfield and everyone else leaving makes absolutely no sense. The ball scene, which is how Fanny starts to realize that Henry Crawford likes her, is replaced with a picnic. They mimic the picnic scene at the end with the wedding as well, which just seems a bit repetitive and shoddy. Outdoor weddings were not a thing at this time. Outdoor wedding receptions were not as thing at this time. Weddings were generally held in the morning and then followed with a congratulatory breakfast/brunch type meal. Now there are examples of veils in museums (I had to do more research after the Paltrow Emma version to find out more), but they seem to be something that was popular after the 1816 wedding of Princess Charlotte. I have had trouble finding any that exist earlier than 1820 as most veils depicted in fashion plates were attached to bonnets.

Princess Charlotte’s 1816 Wedding Dress ((Public domain via www.gogmsite.net/_Media/1816-princess-charlottes-3.jpeg)

A Brussels needlepoint lace wedding veil c. 1820. Christies.com

1820s Brussls Lace Needlepoint Wedding Veil (Christie’s)

The wedding concludes with a Waltz, which if this is set prior to 1815, would not have been danced. It wasn’t allowed by Society until the 1814 Season by the Patronesses at Almack’s. And since not many people would have danced it in 1814, it would take a few months to a year for more people to learn the steps.

Wedding dress, veil and fan ca. 1805 From Napoleon

Supposedly from 1805-see explanation below.

This website claims that this Wedding Dress, Veil and Fan are from 1805. I question this solely because the gown pictures is not very full. Gowns from 1805 were still relatively full in the front and this gown has practically no fullness. Also the original blog doesn’t list were the image came from (as int, what Museum), which is never a good sign. So, could this be from 1805? The fan and veil may be from that year, yes. But veils were not worn as part of the wedding ensemble. I have found no evidence of any fashion plates from this time period tht shows any wedding ensemble with a veil. I’ve seen them with bonnets, but those are rare. If veils were so common, then one would think they would be in portraits and in fashion plates. Veils were not worn during the Georgian Era, and the Regency is a subsection of this same Era. Veils most likely came into fashion with continued trade with India, were veils are worn. And since a majority of extant veils date to 1820, one can conclude that veils were a rarity, if at all worn, prior to 1816 (at the earliest). I do believe, however, that what has been labeled a veil may in fact be a lace shawl based on the length and overall pattern. It looks too ornate to be a veil, but a shawl? It would be appropriate in terms of decoration.

Highly Ornamented 1790 - 1810 Blonde Lace Bonnet / Wedding Veil from marzillivintage on Ruby Lane

1790-1810 Blonde Lace Bonnet/Wedding Veil (Ruby Lane Vintage)

Now compare the previous veil (supposedly from 1805) to this one. The difference being that this one is labeled correctly. The veil originally came from a wedding bonnet (which was in terrible condition and could not be salvaged). Why did I include this with this posting? Because they used a veil in adaptation and also to help inform you, the reader, on how to spot possible misinformation out of the Internet.

1983 BBC Version

The 1983 BBC version is the first and still the best adaptation of Mansfield Park we have available currently. It’s faithful to the novel, it gives us a Fanny Price who has moments of weakness and fragility, but also has an inner strength which shines through. The costumes are lovely and while there are some issues with hair (long hair on men seems to be a running theme with Mansfield Park adaptations), it’s superbly acted. If you are looking for an excellent adaptation, this is one you must watch and own. Also note that Fanny is wearing a Wedding Bonnet and Veil! I do not mind the use of a wedding veil if it’s done accurately.

1999 Theatrical Film Version

I have a soft spot for the 1999 film version. The costumes are lovely and I do like how Fanny is portrayed. She is strong but is vulnerable at times, which works for me. We have an excellent Mary Crawford in this version as well (she divinely wicked one cannot help but enjoy her). While I do not like the blending of Austen’s life with the novel, they did a good job of making it work. They at least kept the key point of going to Portsmouth and bringing up Slavery in Antigua, though not in a historically accurate way. It’s a fun version, not one I think I would own, but if it’s on I’d watch it again.

2007 ITV Version

ITV did such an amazing job with Emma and Northanger Abbey that I was very disappointed with this version. When you compare how well those two (which were also released in 2007) compares to this one in terms of costuming and script, this one just feels rushed. Better costuming and hairstyles would have helped, but more importantly, a better script would have made even the costuming bearable. I do not recommend this one at all. While the cast did a decent job acting, the script is not worth their talents.