Character Cheatsheets

Someone sent a comment that I had all ready done a posting about character tearsheets and cheatsheets earlier. One, yes thank you for pointing that out. I am fully aware that I did a brief blog post on these subject earlier. Two, that post was very brief and not very informative,  but was me giving insight as to how I created characters and I didn’t devote as much time to explaining myself as I was currently writing and editing my novel at the same time. And for anyone wondering, no I did not allow the comment to be posted as there was some foul language and for everyone’s sake, I have the right to refuse to publish such things.

As the last blog post went in depth to discuss how to do character tearsheets and why a writer may find them helpful, I thought it would be as useful to discuss the concept of a cheatsheet. Now, this name is a misnomer because it’s not really a cheatsheet per se. On my computer, I call them Character Charts and they also exist in the novel notebook I have (for each novel) as the same thing. I refer to them as cheatsheets because having the information available to me on the laptop makes it easy for me when editing or writing instead of having to stop and rifle through the notebook to the appropriate page.  Also, I tended to add information when typing it out that is not available in the notebook of information that I decided was more relevant to the telling of the character in terms of dialogue or characterization (physical tells, etc).

From Pinterest; yes it’s for a different genre,  but look at some of the questions each section is asking here. Some of these may end up on your character cheatsheet.

character creation sheet - Google Search

From Pinterest (daddilifeforce.com); this is the basic form I used when developing my own character chart. I didn’t use all of these questions, but many of these were useful in developing my own questions I wanted to answer.

Both of the above charts were very useful to me when coming up with my own version of a character chart. I primarily used the bottom one, but I do think the top one has good references to Religion and Psychology that I did use. I changed Race to Race/Ethnicity for my own purposes and I included a View on Self for each character because a someone who’s evil doesn’t see themselves as evil and someone who’s strong may think they are weak in a certain way. Almost like an insight into their own personal view of a flaw (for me). I don’t think there’s a wrong or right way or doing these and it should be personalized to a writer’s style. I did 24 of these for my novel, each one being a word document. There is a 25th one of miscellaneous characters of just people like servants, people mentioned but never seen in the novel and I have listed stripped down, basic information: Name (and any meaning if there is any), Age, Occupation, Looks, Personality, Family. Looks would include Race/Ethnicity. There are 5 people listed on that one document (technically, 4 people and 1 Lawyer firm, but you get the general idea).

Image result for The Hero's Journey blank

From Pinterest; this chart actually reminded me of something one might do for a Character role on Stage or for a Costume Design. Yet it’s a chart and it may be a form that works for you.

My mother said this above form looks like a government issued Tax form, which I have to giggle and state it kind of does. The purpose of these is for you to understand your character. It sounds simple, but it’s deceptive and difficult. You have to know your character inside and out. You have to know them intimately, from their most sacred thoughts, to passing fancies, to even smells or foods they can’t stand. You have to know them so well that if a fan asks you a question, you can answer-or not and allow them to figure it out themselves. After all, sometimes too much information can kill one’s love of the world that was created (Rowling, I am talking about you). The best advice I ever read was to think about this as an interview. You are conducting an interview of your character and are trying to get as much information as possible. You may start off with the basics and over time, as the story develops, you will find out more. Hopefully, you will remember to update the chart when that happens so you don’t forget.

This set includes a Character Feelings/Character Traits anchor chart and 2 different graphic organizers. The Character Feelings graphic organizer allows students to track a character's changing feelings through the beginning, middle, and end of a story. The Character Traits graphic organizer gives students a tool to identify and record a character's personality traits and evidence for those traits.

From tearchersherpa.com; while this is geared towards school children, this wouldn’t be a bad way of brainstorming for a writer. I used this same form for one of my characters and it helped.

As you can see from the above example, not all charts are word heavy. And if you are just trying to get a feel for a character, I really think the above chart would be a good place to start. Most writers that I have spoken to and have read about have all agreed that you do need some way of keeping track of your characters. Charts are one way of doing this. Now, if you decide to just print out pages and fill them in, then getting a binder or having a folder is going to be your way of keeping track of the information. OIf you want a way of somehow putting it on the computer (so you have adigital copy), I think scanning them as individual PDFs would be the way to go to ensure you have a digital set with you, and a physical set as backup. Yes, I may be a little crazy of having 2 versions (hand written then type written), but I like having two copies. I can take the handwritten notebook with me when I print out my novel at FedEx and begin to edit and revise it without having to turn on the laptop. I also make sure to have my research notebooks on hand as well so I can fact check and verify any and all dates that I put in it because we all make typing errors. It’s maddening, but a fact of our profession. And I’ve learned, through trial and error, that even reading it doesn’t always catch the errors. I’ve gone really old school and read it aloud. Sometimes what looks fine on paper sounds really odd out loud. Sounds crazy but it works. Also really a good idea for working dialogue.

It is the opposite for me, this is where the love of my life found me

Pinterest

Basically, find a method that works for you. Use Pinterest, use Google. Look at all the options that are out there. Pick and chose from them to create your own chart. Because what works for one novel or even more than one isn’t always going to work for all of them. That’s the beauty of creating your own version. Because you have tailored it to fit your needs, you can easily continue to tailor fit it for your projects! Never let an author or even an agent tell you that you are doing it wrong. There is no wrong way to do this. There is YOUR way and THEIR way. YOUR way is always the best.

Presenting “Austen Spoilers” Cartoon by John Atkinson

Character Tearsheets: An Introduction

Character tearsheets are something that is common in the Theatre (possibly Film and television) world for Designers. Particularly Costume Designers, though I am certain Hair & Makeup Designers use them as well (in Theatre, Hair & Makeup tend to fall under the domain of the Costume Designer while in Film and Television, that’s an entirely different department). The easiest way of explaining it is a typical tearsheet is a word document (or similar program) of one page where you have pictures/images of a character for design purposes. It’s a way of visually assisting you in coming up with a design for a show. Sort of like a quick visual scan. Most costume students end up doing this in programs as we generally don’t have time to render (fancy term meaning draw and paint/maker/etc) in the short amount of time we are given for the assignment. Sometimes we are given mere days, so doing tearsheets is a quick way of designing a show for an assignment.

An example of a grad student’s tearsheet for Midsummer Night’s Dream on their online portfolio (courtesy of Kristalduke.com)

What you can see from the above example, is the “actor” she has chosen for the role. The jacket style she is considering and possible colors. I also see pants, vests, shoes with spats, a top hat, a cane (in one image, but that just me coincidence), and a fob watch. So, one gets the general idea of where she is going with that design. And you may be wondering, how does this relate to writing?

A writer’s board (courtesy of screencraft.org)

Places like Screencraft and other writer’s resources always recommend a corkbaord or whiteboard to jot down ideas and help build your novel or screen play, etc. And if that works for you, fantastic! My mind doesn’t work that way. Maybe because I come from an English & Theatre background that’s more academic or because I’ve never found those tools helpful other than posting notices, who knows. All I know is I grew frustrated trying those routes in trying to organize my novel and my thoughts because it didn’t work for me. So I turned to ways that I knew worked and they helped me a lot, so I hope that somewhere, they may help someone else. Instead of designing a character for a show, I used a word document (some ran to two pages instead of one) to help me visualize each of the main characters and a few of the secondary ones as well. I pulled images such as celebrities that I thought had the color hair that I liked. Period portraits that showed the outfits or poses I thought fit that character. To putting images of books they read, furniture they used. Even they’re favorite kind of tea or flowers. Anything and everything that would help me “see” that character and create them (especially their moods, and dialogue) in the novel. And I did make notes on the sheets, especially if I couldn’t recall why I picked an image. For instance, I used an image of Cary Grant and specifically chose it because I loved the smile in it. That smile, to me, was the smile I saw my character having. So I made a note of it on the tearsheet that said “Cary Grant Smile.”

This is the picture of Cary Grant smiling that I liked. (Getty Images)

It doesn’t have to be that complicated and it doesn’t have to have a lot of images. If there’s a landscape of a picture of a tree that to you, screams a certain character, put it on your sheet. Something about it is speaking to you, so use it. And if it’s a certain color (like a paint swatch or just the color of a jacket), then yes, make a note that it’s that color you are associating with that character. It could inspire a scene in the novel, you never know. This doesn’t have to be a hard process or a long one. I only have tearsheets for 8 characters for my first novel and I have more than 8 characters. I really only focused on the main ones and the ones I was struggling with in terms of trying to write dialogue for (they were secondary ones). Most don’t get this kind of attention so don’t feel you have to do one for each and every single character. If you have 4 main characters, do one for each of them. Then if you find you are struggling later one for one or two others, then go back and do a tearsheet for each of those characters. I found it really helped me focus on those problem characters and scenes that I struggled with because it helped me focus.

Lyme Cobb (antonyspencer.com)

Another use for them that I did that I had never done before was use them for images of places that the characters travel to. Of course, if it’s a fantasy world, that may be difficult, but if you know the world contains mountains, why not have a tearsheet of different mountain ranges for inspiration? How about different sunsets or forests? Or carriages or carts if that’s how they are traveling? It does help you focus on your novel because it’s a great little visual aide in narrowing down all those images you may have been collecting on Pinterest. And I even have a tearsheet for a cat because it’s a character in the novel. Grey cats are not all the same I will state in my defense and grey kittens in particular vary. Will nay of this information make it’s way into the novel? No. But it’s good to have it available in case anyone who ends up reading the book asks. think of it as your own personal background information that you can share or not with your fans in the future. And hopefully, you will share.

1995’s Persuasion at Lyme (janeausten.co.uk)

I hope this has been insightful, helpful, but most of all, inspirational. I want people to learn from my mistakes (as in listening to experts who say to only do things a certain way) and realize that there are many ways to go about the writing process. I’ve found a method that works for me. And it works well because it’s familiar, it’s easy, and it’s simple to do. Will it work for everyone? No and I don’t expect it to. But is it something I hope people will try? Yes, I do hope those of you who are writing will try this method and see if it’s helpful for you. And I hope it is. There is no right or wrong way here. We are all learning together.

Sense & Sensibility: 2008 Sexed Up Version

This brings up to the last adaptation and the one that’s just…weird and shouldn’t be. Andrew Davis did the adaptation and normally he’s really good at adapting Austen, but this time he really screwed up. He explicitly stated his intent was to make people forget the Ang Lee film by making this version “overtly more sexual” than previous versions because this was a novel about two sisters going on  “a voyage of burgeoning sexual and romantic discovery” (BBC Online 2008; I kid you not). The costume designer was Michele Clapton who described Marianne as a “Wild Child” and bright colors were needed to convey this wildness. Karen Hartley-Thomas (hair and makeup designer) stated ringlets seen in portraits didn’t exist in real life, and only lower classes wore makeup.

Pinterest

After my melt down at the utter pomposity of the statements I read, I did watch it. I regretted it almost immediately (thank god I checked it out from the library is all I am saying. It starts off with Willoughby seducing an underage girl, presumably Brandon’s ward, as a way to “sex up” the production. Per Davis, it was “quite interesting and steamy stuff like a lot of underage sex that goes on and is just talked about. I want to put it on the screen (Trinity Mirror 29 May 2006).” I am going to have to say that it’s not needed. You don’t need to see Willoughby behaving like the jerk we know he is because seeing it lessens the emotional impact when it’s revealed what he’s done later on. It actually ruins the reveal Austen made in the novel. Same with adding a duel between Willoughby and Brandon. The duel exists in one little segment in the novel where Brandon reveals to Elinor what Willoughby has done and that they fought. It’s not a significant moment and no adaptation has ever shown it because it’s not important. Davis used it as an excuse to add more sexual overtones to the adaptation. I wish he didn’t.

Mrs. Dashwood (Janet McTeer), Elinor (Hattie Morahan), Marianne (Charity Wakefield), and Margaret (Lucy Boyton)

Right after the seduction scene, we get the death of the father, John Dashwood Senior and the arrival of John Dashwood, his wife Fanny, and their very portly son, Henry. And I do take offense to this. It’s clear they cast a fat child for laughs and it’s really beneath the casting director at this point to be doing this in this day and age. Yes, it’s nice to cast a child for the adaptation since most don’t have John and Fanny’s son, but to purposefully go out of the way to make the son an object of ridicule is just wrong at this point in Society. Likewise the casting of Mark Gatiss as John Dashwood and Claire Skinner as his wife Fanny is just odd. On screen they look fine, but they don’t act like there’s any kind of relationship there. With the other John & Fanny pairings, I believed that they were a married couple. I didn’t feel it was believable this time.

John Dashwood, Little Henry (Morgan Overton), and Fanny Dashwood

We also have an issue with hair (quelle surprise) in this adaptation. It seems the designer in charge fail to realize that since people only washed their hair once a week to every other week, things like ringlets could be easily maintained using rags and pomade. There were also (get this) curling rods once heated up in the fireplace to curl hair. Then one would probably coat with pomade as it would probably singe the hair a little bit to lessen the frizz. Al lthis is available at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which they claim they spent a month at doing research (yes, I am doing a major eyeroll right now).

Marianne and Willoughby (Dominic Cooper)

Other issues are Marianne either has her hair up, which is correct, or down, which is not proper at all. She is technically “out” and not in the schoolroom. There is no verifiable reason for her long hair to be down in front of anyone in public. Then Willoughby looks like they are giving him a Harry Styles kind of look with enough hairspray that his hair doesn’t even move in the wind. hairspray didn’t exit yet! They won’t use makeup, even though it existed, but will use hairspray? Oh, but they did allow the women to use corrective foundation because that is period correct. Sweet lord this production is just all kinds of inaccuracies. It’s the complete opposite of the type of work Andrew Davis was putting out in the 1990s. Then he really did do research and tried to handle the material with care. This time, he’s all about sexing it up because he thinks that’s what the people want. I hate to tell you but we don’t. Don’t put sex into Austen. Don’t add sex into something that doesn’t need it. There’s enough sensuality and romance in her works without the modern titillation.

Miss Grey (the actress’ name is not listed anywhere I can find)

There are issues with the costumes as well. As you can see, Miss Grey’s ballgown is sleeveless, which is not acceptable and was not worn. This production did not use any costumes from any previous adaptation or any stock clothing and claimed it made everything fresh. They should have done better research then because they have wandering waistlines and clothing from different time periods. Miss Grey’s gown is more 1970s than anything else. Margaret’s gowns usually sit at her natural waist, which is weird for an adaptation set in 1810. Lucy Steel has a long curl over her shoulder like a woman from the 1770s with puffed sleeves more from the 1815 era. Mrs. Jennings has hair more like Marie Antoinette in a Vigee Le Brun portrait while her daughter, Lady Middleton is more 1830’s Victorian. The color palettes range from bright pastels to greys, to earth tones, which I don’t mind. Then you get these bright pops of color, which don’t make sense in the overall view. Plus with the overall grey filter they were using, everything looked dull, lifeless and was depressing.

Mrs. Jennings (Linda Bassett), Sir John Middleston (Mark Williams), and Lady Middleton (Rosanna Lavelle)

Now, there are some good parts of this adaptation. The relationship between Mrs. Jennings, Sir John Middleton, and Lady Middleton was all right. Lady Middleton was quite blasé and uninterested in anything, which fits from her description from the novel, accept she’s more languid in this version than one would expect.. Sir John is energetic and delightful while Mrs. Jennings is utterly forgettable as a character. That’s actually quite tragic considering Mrs. Jennings is such a fun character and Linda Bassett is a terrific actress. Dan Stevens portrays Edward Ferrars and is a much more charming and more easy going version than seen previously, though he seems to be imitating Hugh Grant at times. He also seems to stutter a bit, so there seems to be a general consensus that Edward has difficulty in speaking in all the adaptations even though it’s never mentioned in the novel. Lucy is annoying as is her sister, Anne (I always get confused as to whether her sister is Anne or Nancy because each adaptation that has her keeps changing her name back and forth). I don’t mind having the two Steele sisters, but I also didn’t mind just having the one as Ann is annoying and really offers nothing significant to the novel, other than talking about men and spilling the beans about Lucy’s secret engagement (which Ang Lee’s version has shown how poetic it is to have Lucy betray her lover to his own sister).

Edward visits and chops wood in the rain.

Trying to top his infamous Darcy in the Lake scene, Davis has decided upon Edward chopping wood in the rain. While Darcy wishing to cool down after a long ride made sense historically and logically, chopping wood in the rain does not. One, it’s dangerous because wood gets slippery. Secondly, the actor got sick because of this and was ill for most of the shoot. Never, ever put your actor’s health at risk for something this stupid. It’s not sexy and it makes no sense whatsoever. And I highly doubt Edward Ferrars would do any physical labor of this kind. This sort of labor was not done by men of his social status. Men of his social sphere boxed, fenced, rode horses-they did not chop wood.

Colonel Brandon (David Morrisey)

Like previous BBC versions, Colonel Brandon is at the ball when Marianne confronts Willoughby and Miss Steele, which is not in the novel at all. And while Andrew Davis stated he wished to distance himself from the 1995 film version, he pulled a lot of imagery and script ideas from it. Namely the relationship between Edward and Margaret, Marianne getting sick from standing in the rain at Cleveland Park and being rescued by Colonel Brandon, expanding Margret’s role from the novel, Marianne getting injured int he rain and being offered help by Willoughby (while he helps her in the novel, no where does Austen state it takes place in the rain). There’s even similar costumes and color palettes being used for the same characters.

Brandon from 1995 & 2008; similar rich tones and even striped waistcoats

Elinor 2008

Elinor & Marianne in 1995

There was also the very odd choice of making Mrs. Dashwood sensible and suspicious of Willoughby, which is the complete opposite of her character in the novel and in every adaptation. Austen describes Mrs. John Dashwood as being very much like Marianne-romantic, flighty, emotional. She is charmed by Willoughby and cannot think ill of him. To have her be suspicious of him is just wrong on so many levels. Then the trip to Allenham that Willoughby takes Marianne to is weird. There are no servants ever seen and the place looks deserted. For a place he visits every year that belongs to his aunt (and we assume she lives there year round), doesn’t it seem very unlikely that there would be no one around, especially his aunt, when they arrive? Plus her hair is down the entire time and that just bothers me to no end. She comes off of some kind of cheap floozy instead of a gentleman’s daughter.

Miss Eliza Williams (Caroline Hayes)

I don’t mind showing Eliza and the baby in this adaptation. I think it’s nice to see Brandon react and show that he forgives his ward for her mistake and that he will always see that they are taken care of. I believe I mentioned earlier that the seduction scene was not needed and I stand by that. I do think David Morrisey did a decent job of portraying Brandon, but I felt there was no connection between him and and the actress who portrayed Marianne. This Marianne just is too crazed, too unpredictable to be likable. She’s too over the top that it’s really hard to have any kind of sympathy for her. This Marianne is selfish, a bit cruel, and uncaring. One kind of hope she dies of her illness, to be honest.

Miss Steele (Daisy Haggard) and Lucy Steele (Ann Madeley)

There are some good points in this production. Lucy Steele comes across as a young girl who is unsure of Edward’s affections and is worried he is in love with another (Elinor) and so confides in Elinor hoping to persuade said woman to not pursue the man she loves. She is pitiable in her own way. Her sister is crude, they are not wealthy, and her only chance to escape the poverty she is from is to marry a rich man. Lucy comes across as being less evil and more of someone who is trying to survive.

Mrs. Dashwood & Margaret

I do like Janet McTeer as Mrs. Dashwood. While I don’t agree with the script changes, I do like the inner strength she conveys. If this was an interpretation instead of an adaptation, I would like it much better. She would make a fantastic Lady Catherine de Burgh. Margaret likewise is really good. She isn’t as charming as the 1995 Margaret, but she is a little bit more mature, which is fine too. Though the obsession with sea shells was something I didn’t understand. And I thought it would have been nice to see Margaret being taught language and other subjects like they did in Ang Lee’s version because while it’s not int the novel, it would have been a part of a daily routine.

I have to say that this Willoughby by far was the worst I’ve ever seen on screen and I’ve seen this actor before, so I know he can act. The script played an issue here. As well the hair and costume. The hair was awful, the seduction scene just killed any kind of sympathy we may have had for him. And having Marianne overhear his confession to Elinor just didn’t make any sense. He played a straight up cad who was unredeemable and Austen does give him some redeeming qualities. A few, but they are there. Andrew Davis stripped him of those qualities.

The ending is just weird, but what else can we expect from this hyper-sexualized version. Edward proposes to Elinor, but it doesn’t end with a wedding. That would be too easy and simple. No, we must end with Brandon taming some horses while Marianne is watching. Clearly a euphemism about how he will be taming her sexually (or dominating her sexually) very soon. So, do I recommend this version? Absolutely not! I don’t understand why it got the high praise that it did, unless people just really went for the sex and completely forgot that the sex wasn’t in Austen to begin with. It really saddens me as a person who loves Jane Austen to see this progression to push more and more more sex into literature that never had it to begin with. 2005’s Pride and Prejudice, for example, pushed a more heightened sense of sexuality into the novel that wasn’t there because they felt the novel needed it in order to make it relevant to modern audiences. Actually, it doesn’t Modern audiences just want a good, faithful adaptation that’s done well and done historically well. We don’t want sex added to it. We don’t want modern ideals put into it. We want it done faithfully and respectfully. That’s  it.

Plus, there was that weird trip to LYME COBB that is no where in the NOVEL! What the Hell Andrew Davis?! Lyme is in Persuasion! Not Sense and Sensibility!

Sense & Sensibility: 1995 Adaptation

We now come to what most of us have probably all ready seen. The screenplay was adapted by Emma Thompson, who won an Oscar for it and the film was directed by Ang Lee (a golden globe winner at this time). Costumes were designed by Jenny Beaven and John Bright (they both designed the costumes for Room with a View in 1986 and won Oscars for their designs). So, this production had impressive talent behind the screen and in front of it.

Mrs. Dashwood (Gemma Jones), Marianne (Kate Winslet), Margaret (Emilie François), and Elinor (Emma Thompson) in front of Barton Cottage.

So, unlike previous adaptations, it starts off with the father dying (Tom Wilkinson is a brief cameo) and extracting a promise from his son to look after his stepmother and his half-sisters. This is from the novel and is also spoken of but never seen. I actually like seeing it because it makes the nest scene, where John and Fanny are discussing it, all the more evil for not anting to abide by the promise he made to his dead father. It really highlights just how miserly the pair of them area as to deny helping his half sisters even though he promised his own father on the man’s deathbed.

Fanny Dashwood (Harriet Walter) and John Dashwood (James Fleet)

There is no mention of them having a son (it’s in the novel) and this isn’t the first adaptation to not have him present. I don’t think the son really adds to anything other than to give them a slight excuse for being so miserly (wanting to save the money of their son). Not having him just allows them to be seen as being greedy and for who they truly are. Though I do love the substitution of a lapdog for the son. It’s period correct that wealthy women had ornamental lap dogs and who’s to say that they don’t have a son, but he was sent away for schooling by this time? This is also the first adaptation to include Margaret, the youngest sister, which makes the meagerly 500£ for four people seem even more strained (as it should be).

Sir John Middleton (Robert Hardy) and Mrs. Jennings (Elizabeth Spriggs)

Next to his role in All Creatures Great and Small, this has to be my favorite role for Robert Hardy (others will remember him as Cornelius Fudge from the Harry Potter films). He was also an expert on the Medieval Longbow and wrote two books on the subject. But in this role, he really sparkled as Sir John. He’s funny, charismatic, playful, and does everything he can to be of assistance to his cousins and neighbors. I actually don’t mind that he’s a widow as Lady Middleton really does play no significant part in the novel other than to be annoying. As for the Middleton children, I would assume that if there are any, they are being taken care of at a local farm (if they are too young which was customary) or are of an age that they are away at school. If not, then he probably has a cousin who will inherit. He seems to be happy nonetheless. Elizabeth Spriggs portrayal of Mrs. Jennings is as lighthearted and fun as Patrica Routledge’s version from 1971. She is also overly bubbly, vivacious, and has grand gestures and it works for her character. She is also sweet natured and kind, which does endear this character to you.

Elinor, Margaret, and Marianne

The hair in this film was extremely well researched and done very well. Now, if one is gong to have children with their hair down, this is how to do it properly. Girls who were not out could have their hair down, but it had to look neat and tidy as well. Once a girl has transitioned from the school room and was “out”, her hair was up. So, notice how Elinor and Marianne have hair that is up, but Margaret, being only 12 and still in the schoolroom, is allowed to have her hair down. Also let’s talk about how they all, at a glance, look like sisters. All have similar colored hair and texture. Margaret has the curliest, with Marianne with curls as well, Elinor, one presumes, has more wavy hair. Yet they all look like they are related. Plus the use of natural light in this film makes it stand out more than any other adaptation. One can truly see the colors and textures without a lot of influence of gels on top (gels being colored filters). Though some filters were probably used to soften the light, there was a push to try and use or mimic natural light for this film by the director. It gives it a freshness and clean look that was not seen before.

Willoughby (Greg Wise) and Marianne

Willoughby’s hair is also very well done. The fading of the mutton chops highlights his cheekbones, which plays up his mouth. He is a rake, but is meant to be romantic at the same time. Very Lord Byron with his hair and the colors used on  him are very warm, very autumnal, which was a nice contrast with Edward, who was very cool (and so mimicked Elinor).

Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman)

Brandon likewise had a nice fade and while his hair was longer, I think the intent was to show he was not as fashionable as Willoughby, so perhaps didn’t get his hair cut and styled as often, which is in line with the character. This is probably the first film most people know Alan Rickman from and fell in love with him. I liked him in Die Hard and didn’t like it when they killed his character off (also didn’t like it when he died in Robin Hood either-he made villains seem more charismatic). This version of Brandon is less like Darcy and more in like the character from the novel. He’s more in tune with his feelings, more soft spoken and more romantic. Less brooding too, which I appreciated. Brandon should be allowed to be his own person and not some kind of Darcy wannabe, which is what the previous versions have done.

Elinor and Edward Ferrars (High Grant); Norland is shown to have a working farm on it.

Now, some critics didn’t like that the scene where Elinor and Edward go riding was added as it’s not in the novel. I think it worked for the film because it shows these two spending time together away from the house. People did ride horses on their estates as a form of exercise. And it shows Norland to be a working estate with the sheep and cows in the background. All of these things are period correct. So they changed Elinor drawing to her riding a horse and I don’t mind. It’s a minor change and doesn’t affect the main story at all. Likewise, they cut the scene where the Dashwood sisters meet Mrs. Ferrars, which isn’t important to the plot, and they cut Nancy Steele as well. Again, not important to the plot as long as Lucy Steele is still there (which she is and somehow making her responsible for revealing her own secret is somehow much more poetic).

Marianne, Margaret, and Elinor; notice all three are wearing aprons.

I really cannot find fault at all with the costumes. A lot of detail went into them and a lot of research as well. I can tell that period undergarments were being worn based on the silhouettes. The attention to detail in having them all wearing aprons or smocks when when teaching Margaret as to protect their gown from ink is such a little, tiny historical accuracy that I wish more productions put in. Especially when you see all the correct period instruments like the pounce, and ink bottle is there.

Lucy Steele (Imogen Stubbs) and Elinor

There are some key scenes that were cut that some people do complain about, but I think given the restrictions of time, they were not so pivotal to the plot. One being Edward visiting them on his way back from Plymouth. Yes, it’s a nice scene in the novel and other adaptations have included it, but this is a film and if it comes down to Edward visiting the Dashwoods or the Dashwoods going to Cleveland Park, the latter is the more important scene. People also didn’t like that Willoughby didn’t come and visit Elinor to confess and, therefore, redeem himself. But, in a way, Brandon redeems Willoughby when he informs Elinor that he heard from Lady Allen that Willoughby’s intentions towards Marianne were honorable. So, while that scene was cut, the information that he did love Marianne, that he was going to marry her, is still related to Elinor so she can inform Marianne. And it’s done in a way that works and still fits the world of the novel.

The Dashwoods around the Pianoforte

The only complaint I can make is the gift of the pianoforte by Colonel Brandon. In the novel, they all ready have one. Willoughby spends time at the Cottage signing and sharing music with Marianne over the instrument. This gifting of the piano actually comes more from Emma than Sense & Sensibility and in that case, such a gift was considered highly inappropriate by Jane Austen herself. However, I can see how the filmmakers wanted Brandon to make some kind of grand romantic gesture and decided that this would be his way of declaring his intentions to Marianne in a way that she would understand.

That uniform is so beautiful it makes me want to cry! Oh, and her veil is attached to a bonnet.

So, I do recommend this film because it’s the only film adaptation we have. And I do mean ONLY. There are 3 loose adaptations (Material Girls, From Prada to Nada, Scents & Sensibility), but I am only concerned with actual adaptations, not so loose as to be practically unrecognizable, which these are. I’ve checked and there are no plans to do another film version anytime soon. It’s actually weird because it seems filmmakers tend to focus on Emma and Pride & Prejudice than any other novel. If you love Austen, then this should be in your collection. If you’ve never watched it, please go and rent it from your local library. It’s charming, beautiful, and such an amazing adaptation of the novel. Plus you get the infinite joy of seeing Hugh Laurie as Mr. Palmer (which makes me laugh every time).

How to Research (Part 2)

Let’s talk about the least favorite subject of mine: organization. First, I must admit that I am not the most organized person int the world. My bedroom routinely mimic the after effects of WWIII meets a tornado mixed in with an Earthquake on a good day. Yet I like to keep my books, records (yes, VINYL people), CDs, comic books, and art supplies organized (apparently because that it important to me). I try and keep the sewing and crochet/knitting stuff organized too. But I am trying to be better in all things organized. No one is perfect.

One thing I am notorious for, and very skilled at, is organizing my computer files. I have a mega file on my portable HD called Costume History with I believe a hundred files inside of it with names like 1600-1700, 1800-1900, etc. Then each file, when you open it, is broken down into subsections like Court Dress, Shoes, portraits, etc. It’s why I was always told I excelled at Costume research at both graduate schools I attended. I started this mega database during my undergrad days and was just saving images from places like JSTOR. Now, that’s all and good, but I have no idea where I got the images from because all I have are the images and no way of verifying that they are authentic. So, it’s a reason why I abandoned the project some time during my second graduate school and turned to Pinterest (I believe if you search for Sabaah Jauhar-Rizvi in Pinterest, you will find me).

An example of Pinterest Boards

So, basically I’ve sort of replicated my portable HD in Pinterest, but in a different way. I cannot have a massive board called Costume History with sub folders upon subfolders. Instead, I have boards like Costume History: 2000s, with a subheading that is for the years 2000-2009, and folders inside have labels such as Trends, Gucci, Miu Miu, etc. Now, I don’t have everything under the sun, but enough to have a basic selection in case I ever design a show based in that time period or someone who follows me needs reference pictures from that time period. Most likely, a theatre friend needs help researching and I send them a link to their heart’s content (it’s what I do and I enjoy doing it because I like knowing that I helped someone).

I found this on Pinterest!

While Pinterest is great, and it is especially to help organize things like potential images for character references, tips for writing, prompts, research images, etc, it’s also a den of misinformation. This brings us to vetting information. or verifying if the information you are taking in is truthful and accurate. The great thing about the Internet is everything is accessible. The terrible thing about the Internet is there’s a ton of misinformation out there that it can be scary to navigate. You really can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Wikipedia, for example, is a decent resource BUT keep in mind they have volunteers correcting the pages.  I myself have tried to go and correct pages, with book and scholarly journal citations, only to have them rejected as not being true (even though they were true), which was extremely frustrating. Also, how they modify pages is very confusing is you are not a computer programmer (it’s not user friendly to those of us who are not technologically inclined is what I am saying).

So, what is a writer, or anyone trying to do any kind of research to do? Thankfully there are these great places called Museums that have exhibits available on-line. While not the same as going there in person, having access to images and artifacts that are kept in the archives available on-line is a terrific things. Take, for example, Brazil’s National Museum. It tragically burned down in 2018 and so much was destroyed and lost. Thankfully, Google did a virtual tour and those artifacts are now preserved digitally as well as people submitting videos and photographs to Brazil in order to preserve what was once a beautiful museum. So there is hope that one day there will be a digital version of the original National Museum for all to visit.

One of the exhibits at Brazil’s National Museum that was destroyed. Courtesy of thisiscolossal.com

Luckily, Museums don’t often get destroyed (though we are all still reeling from the loss of Notre Dame). Museum websites and heritage websites are some of the best resources for finding all sorts of information. Portraits, extant clothing (clothing from that time period), furniture, jewelry, even samples of preserved food sometimes makes an appearance in a museum. Heritage sites will showcase how reactors (or historians) explain how people lived, sometimes setting tables or bedrooms up in period correct ways, which is really nice to see as the earliest photograph wasn’t taken until 1826 or 1827 (the date is up for debate). I also like heritage sites because they will show the places people don’t necessarily ever talk about in history books, such as the outhouses, the ice house, where laundry was done. The places you’d think people would want to know about, but are rarely ever seen in any historical film, which is why we never think people had toliets back in Ancient Rome.

Public Toilets in Ancient Rome.Yes, they did exist. Hollywood lies. HBO lies. Courtesy of Science Magazine

So, an example of a site you can’t trust is one that is telling you that everything that is well documented is a lie. One that is stating that every known image, known portrait, known account is a lie and only they know the truth. In layman’s terms, this is known as fake history. In scholarly terms, we call it revisionist history.

Original picture of King George III of Great Britain, he was not an Albino (European) he was a Moor (so-called black). Here is the mailing address authentication of this depiction. Write to "Science Museum of London Exhibition Rd London SW7 2DD, United Kingdom.

So, let’s test your critical thinking skills here. Take this image I’ve posted above. It’s from the website momoafrica.com and has been shared on other websites including Pinterest. People are posting this as FACT. Now, IF you know basis English history, you will nkow that King George III (also known as tghe Mad King) lived from 1738-1820. And remember earlier when I stated when the fist known photograph was taken? Hard to take a photograph of a dead guy 6 or 7 years after he’s buried. Then there is the question of clothing. The clothes shown are clearly 1850s-1870s, making this thirty to forty years after the death of the King. And finally, the picture is of an African American. King George was of German, Austrian , and Welsh decent. The man was White and I do mean White in the most courteous of terms.

Detail view of King George when he was crowned. Courtesy of the Royal Family’s website.

Now, I have gotten into an argument with the website stating that the picture is fake and they are guilty of revisionist history. They replied that I am part of the conspiracy and every person who has been in charge throughout history has been black (or of color) and it’s been whitewashed to keep black people down. Now, let’s un-package this nonsense. If everyone throughout history has been of color, then why would they have allowed Slavery? Allowed the British to colonize places like Asia, India, Africa, Australia? Why would they have allowed the Trail of Tears to occur? See how quickly and easily it is to see how what they are stating as fact isn’t?

Offered as proof of King George’s “blackness” by momoafrica.com

I was then sent the above image as “proof” of King George’s “blackness” by the same website with this above image. First, this is an engraving. This doesn’t indicate he was black or of color at all. The process of engraving is using lines or dots to indicate shadow and dimension. The same process if used on paper currency. By this logic, we can then conclude that George Washington was Green because he’s green on American Currency.

Another engraving done by another artist at the same time as the one I was sent. Same pose, different interpretation. Based off the same portrait. Courtesy of the Royal Family’s website.

So, while I am saying use Pinterest to help organize your thoughts, organize research images, be aware that there are some sketchy and weird information floating out there. If it sounds really weird and too good to be true, it probably is. If you want to double check before pinning, Google it. If it comes up with hits that seem to come from verified sources like museums and scholarly journals telling you that this is true, then go ahead and pin it. If it comes back as hitting a bunch of conspiracy theory sites, then avoid like the plague. Trust me, this will only help you in the long run.

Places I have actually found to be really good resources are auction houses. I know, it seems like a weird resource to use, but think about it for a minute. The people who work there are experts, they research the items for authenticity and verify that they are what they say they are. Next to a Museum website, this is a really good and underused resource in the community. I love using Bonham’s, Christies, Augusta, and other verifiable, high end auction houses for research purposes. Any of them you can follow on Pinterest (which is nice) and you get to see a wide variety of items that you may never see in a museum. I’ve come across scissors from the 1600s that are meant to cut leather. I had no idea those existed. Of course, logically, they MUST have existed, but seeing an image of them was pretty neat. And they are really good about giving a nice detailed history of the item including what it is made of, dimensions, and where it was possibly made. It’s like having a cheat sheet but without you having to do all the hard work.

University and college websites are also a great resource. Sometimes lectures on certain subjects are made available to the public on the websites and are posted on Pinterst, sometimes you find them via Google. It’s really good to keep an eye out for these because not only is it valuable for giving you a goldmine of information from an academic who’s a specialist in the field, they generally list where they are getting this information (as in a bibliography) at the end or on the course website, which can lead you down further paths of research!

This comes to the last bit of research. Blogs can be great. I follow some blogs written by historians and some written by Theatre people. But there are some blogs that just copy and paste from other blogs. I’ve come across Regency blogs that copy and paste blog posts from other blogs topics you know that person probably researched and put together years ago and that’s dishonest. But that’s the nature of having a blog. Those sites generally don’t copy and paste where the information came from (as in museum sites or books), which is how you know it’s probably not a good site. Now, in the beginning of this blog, I was still learning the ropes, so if you come across one with not many entries, they may just be leanring the ropes as well (it’s a learning curve), and I generally now state where I get my images (unless it’s clipart, then I just don’t because it’s clipart).

So now you have all these great on-line resources, it’s best to organize (ha! you thought I forgot about that) them. Bookmarking them in general folders is going to be a time saver and also give you a smaller window when you first pull up the bookmark window. I just stick to the basics. One is just Museums, the other Auction Websites, then I have one that’s Social (where I have my Facebook, Blog, Twitter, Pinterest, and Email websites saved). I have one that is for my Library, but I also keep my Goodreads account there (it makes sense in my mind). I also have the Thesaurus and Dictionary website saved under Library because you can’t always be lugging them around if you are typing in a Panera or Starbucks.  I also have folders for each of the my novels with a subfolder that specifically says characters. And for that, there two folders, one says tearsheets and the other is for cheatsheets (word documents with basic information I can pull up when typing without having to have a notebook on me-I will write about all of that soon!). the point is to have as much as possible in your notebooks to help you write, but also have some of that available on-line and on your PC or laptop so you don’t have to have this massive pile on your desk when typing. I use my notebooks when writing (I wrote most of my novel out by hand then typed it, which I think was helpful because I could edit and add at that point, so I consider it my first edit and I’ve done 7 more since then and yes, that’s normal). Just keep in mind this is a process. And it’s long and tedious. Even though I’ve done 20 years of research for my time period, that was very generic and basic. For each novel, because I am focusing on a specific time frame, I do have to go through my research and sometimes have to search for specific things for each one. So while one is done and being queried, I am now in that early stage of another. Most of all, have some fun looking around and finding what sites are out there.

Pinterest

 

How to Research (Part 1)

I’d thought it would be good to take a break from the adaptations (only 2 left and then 2 bonus reviews!) to talk about research. Research is one of those weird topics that if you try and Google or go to the library and find just basic steps on how to to it, you’ll probably go insane like poor Ophelia and we wouldn’t want that!

John Everet Millias’s interpretation of Ophelia. Don’t feel overwhelmed when it comes to research!

So, not everyone who wants to write is going to have the advantage (or the curse) or having gone to a graduate school where you get taught how to research things like Thesis and Dissertations and Papers for Conferences! It’s OK, I’m not going to bore you will all of that. However, there were quite a few tips that I find from my grad school days that do end up being quite useful. One is get to know your local library and the librarians who work there. Trust me, these people will become your best friends in the world. You may never learn their first names or exchange phone numbers, but going there and being someone they learn to recognize is helpful. Especially when you need help researching something really obscure and cannot find it in the library and are unsure how to proceed. Because they can track that sucker down through Interlibrary Loan.

The research library and archive at Sir John Soane’s Museum. I can smell the books! (soane.org)

Now, where to start? Firstly, if you have a computer at home, start a Pinterest board. I have several actually and I can talk about how to organize and what is a good pin versus a bad pin at a later time (because yes, it should be discussed). Let’s say we’re going to research Dragons because we want to write a YA novel involving Dragons. So, you might start a Board on Pinterest called Dragons and pin things like sculptures, art (anime, medieval manuscripts, etc), links to legends and myths, perhaps even books or films that feature dragons (even TV shows like GOT). Basically, Pinterest is used like a giant corkboard of where you collect ideas, even random ones, to start that complex journey into the realm of research. Good thing is that in that general board, you can then organize those pins into different categories however you see fit.

An image from a PS3/4 game called Dragon’s Crown found on Pinterest and was featured in Forbes Magazine. Pinterest is handy!

 

Secondly, go to the dollar store and buy a few notebooks, pens, post-its flags or paperclips if you don’t have any. Pens in at least 2 different colors is nice, but purchasing some highlighters or even some colored pencils or crayons will work just as well because you will take one of those notebooks with you to the library when you start to do some serious research. For notebooks, I prefer those composition books because they have a hardcover and don’t have that annoying metal spiral to contend with. Some composition books are not hardcover and that’s OK too. If you have an old spiral notebook laying around, use it! Don’t go out and buy a bunch of stuff if you all ready have it laying around. Only go and buy it if you need it (because writing is not a money maker folks).

I try to find college ruled in these, which is not always easy.

Now that you have a notebook and pens, let’s go back to researching Dragons at the library. Now, some of you are thinking that this is going to be a really hard topic to research because Dragons aren’t real and I am more of a historical person. Yes, that is true but I did work in a college library at both the undergraduate and graduate level (the undergraduate college also had a children’s section for teachers, so I was used to finding things like fairy tales, etc for both students and the public). If you know your way around the library, you’d head over to the electronic card catalog and probably type in “dragons”. You’ll come up with a lot of hits featuring children related materials, so don’t stress out! If you need, help, ask a librarian because they can show you how to change the search parameters to only feature adult related books and help narrow that filed of study for you. Though don’t discount the children’s books entirely since you are interested in writing for that YA group, it helps to read books in that field to get a sense of what is expected in terms of writing, but also what agents & publishers are looking for. Plus some of the most enjoyable books are considered YA (like The Hobbit for example, which features a dragon).

The modern card catalog is entirely an electronic database. Some of us still remember the good old fashioned card catalogs & their cabinets!

This is how you used to search!

Sticking to our theme of Dragons, places you may want to start researching would be mythology. Chinese, Japanese, British mythology featuring dragons would be an ideal place to start and take notes as to physical characteristics, habitat, eating habits, range of domain, and any pertinent information such as communication, hoarding behavior, etc. From there, one could branch out into specific areas like Arthurian legends (which are a mixture of Welsh and French), looking at the Greek origins, the Mesopotamian God Dagon, Vietnamese mythology, Norse myths, Hindu Nagas, Roman mythology (which is a rehash of Greek mythos), then modern usage. This could also incorporate a look into Sea creatures of mythology, like the Lock Ness and the Champlain Lake Monster, and could meld into a look at real creatures like Dinosaurs for comparison.

Researching a Ptesosaur could assist in Dragon research when trying to visualize the size because if there was any living creature that could come close to a Dragon, Ptresosaurs came close. (courtesy of dinoaminals.com)

 

Now, back to the library side of things. You are going to have to learn to enjoy the tedious pleasure known as reading and taking notes. Since we are researching Dragons, a good tool would be to watch how they are recreated on film and take notes (yes, I am being serious). The library may have BBC or Discovery Channel DVDs like Walking with Dinosaurs that you can check out and watch. There was this wonderful film in 2004 called Dragons: Fantasy Made Real which really went through the biological process of dragons. So if one was to research dragons, that would be an excellent place to start. So, while in the beginning, it seemed like it would be impossible to really have any real research on Dragons, hopefully I have shown that pretty quickly, one can easily have notebooks filled with bits and pieces of information just from mythology and looking into dinosaurs. We haven’t even discussed looking at scholarly journal articles that existed discussing the topic. And they exist on all sort of subjects ranging from the importance of dragons in literature to the significance of dragons on medieval tapestries. Any of these can broaden your research and led you down paths to creating a world wholly unique yet grounded in some form of reality.

An image from Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real showing skeletal structure.

When it comes to organizing the notes, this is where the highlighters, etc come in handy. Chose a color for a specific things, say physical characteristic, and go through all the notes and highlight the start of each area that pertains to that subject. And just keep doing that. And hopefully, you also kept a log of where you got all your information. Now, this is what I did, which sounds insane, but it’s how I work and if it helps you, great, if not, also great. Target has these composition books called Yoobi which are college ruled and contain much more paper than the average composition notebook. I then took all my notes and on a clean sheet of paper, write down how I wanted them organized, like how you would see it in a book (basically, I have a section called Finances, and underneath are things like pay for servants, coinage of the realm, banks, etc). So I then wrote out everything in these notebooks, sticking to my prearranged format. Each heading is written in one color, each subheading in another and the notes in general are in black ink. Each heading is also flagged with a post it note for easy access. And yes, I have the index for each notebook written inside the front cover. As for the sources, all that information is in it’s own section (a bibliography). Now I made the mistake of not indicating where each note came from (my error and I regret that I made it), but at least I do have a complete list of all the sources I used and looked at, which is where I perhaps differ from others. I write down books and places I looked and read that I didn’t take any notes from. Now, you don’t have to write down all the books you looked at and didn’t use, but it makes it handy when going back to the library and not wanting to keep checking out the same materials over and over again.

These are my preferred notebooks for compiling massive amounts of notes. I only had to buy one package to contain all my notes for 1790-1830 for my 6 novels. And those notes are all generic. I also have a notebook specific to each novel with more specific notes (I use a regular composition notebook for them though).

A hold over from my college days. These come in all sorts of shapes and colors and are useful in flagging pages of interest in books as well. Also you can find versions of these everywhere.

 

Basically, if you’ve never done any kind of research, it’s going to take some time for you to get used to doing it. And while I research actual history, I’ve hope I’ve proven that you can research anything if you have the determination and the perseverance to do this. Even if you just want to research your family tree, the same rules apply. The library is a great place to start and the librarians working there are wonderful people who are there to assist you! It’s their job and they love to do it! I cannot tell you how much attention I got when I went in one day asking for help in finding books to finish my thesis. They fawned over me and were only too happy to assist. This is what they are trained to do folks, Allow them to help you.

Book Review: War of the Roses by Dan Jones

While I really enjoyed The Plantagenets by Dan Jones, I was a bit let down by this follow up. Dan Jones still wrote exceptionally well and did his best to be engaging. And there were certain items of interest that I found fascinating. For instance, I had never known that Catherine Valois was most likely all ready sleeping with Edmund Beaufort, cousin to her dead husband Henry V and cousin to Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. Apparently, according to Jones, the widowed Queen was known to be exceptionally horny. So when she married Owen Tudor, it was permitted because he was a political nobody (while of Welsh nobility, his family was stripped of their titles and lands, thus making him a non entity in the Court). So I did appreciate a little bit of this information on not only how Catherine could marry Owen Tudor, but why it was allowed. Though I did think the assumption she was just a horn dog was uncalled for. Yes, I realize it was something that the men at that time were referring to her as, but Jones could have stated that the men around her had issues with her youth instead of making it sound like she was a royal slut. Because it’s fine when a man of royal blood does it, but not a woman (Edward IV cough cough).

Funeral Effigy of Catherine Valois at Westminster Abbey

Another issue I had with this book is the lack of any information on Henry IV and Henry V. His previous book ends with Henry IV being crowned and this book is said to be the sequel and the continuation of that book. This book starts off with Henry VI’s coronation as an infant. That’s a lot of years missing between Henry IV being crowned and Henry V’s death that Jones has not covered at all. To me, it feels he’s done an incomplete story of the Plantagenets by not covering those two Kings and their successes and failures. Jones spent more time focused on the sex life of Henry V’s widow than on Henry V. And I find that troublesome. The only information most of us have out there about Henry IV and Henry V is from Shakespeare’s Hollow Crown series. While I love Shakespeare (and I do), his plays are part history and part entertainment. They were meant to be Tudor propaganda and, therefore, are not historically accurate (though I will admit that I cried at the beauty that is Hiddleston’s Henry V’s St Crispin’s Day Speech because it felt more realistic than any I have ever heard or seen as a Theatre person).

The Real Henry V (Courtesy of the National Portrait Galley); actually, he’s not bad looking.

So once again I feel cheated by not having a complete history of the Plantagents written by historians and it’s infuriating. In America, we are not given a good background in History. At the grade school level, we are repeatedly given lessons on the Pilgrims (who are always good, kind Christian folks who never did anything so reprehensible as give Native American’s blankets laced with smallpox), the Revolutionary War (and told it was because the British were taxing us to death when the truth is we were asking for representation and the ability to self-rule and make laws without having to wait for permission which is what Canada and Australia do), and good old Christopher Columbus, who discovered America (even though it’s named after America Vespucci, the Vikings were here before either of them and Columbus couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag).

Vikings: these bad-asses were here before Columbus, didn’t kill the Native People, some stayed, others went back. These guys deserve a holiday.

Also, Dan Jones basically told the same story I’ve read in countless other books. Practically every book on the War of the Roses focuses on the men. Henry VI is an idiot, his wife has a son that Jones states is Henry VI’s (though many historians don’t believe it since Henry VI was a known celibate and cringed at the mere suggestion of seeing a woman’s breast). Henry VI was also known to have stated that his wife must have gotten impregnated by God himself, which tells you that he never slept with his wife and died a virgin. Also, Jones basically repeats what everyone believes thanks to Tudor propaganda-Richard III is evil.

Reconstruction of Richard III based on his skull (courtesy of the Richard III Society)

Portrait of Richard III (most likely as Duke of Gloucester); Courtesy of Richard III Society

This is where Mr. Jones and I have a big disagreement. He will state prior to becoming King, Richard, Duke of Gloucester was known to his contemporaries as a kind man, big hearted (contemporary court historian John Rous), pious, generous, friend to the poor and downtrodden (contemporary Dominic Mancini), loyal to the Crown (contemporary Robert Fabyan), loyal to his family, and a man who always did what was best for the people, not the titled (Mancini again, writing to an Archbishop). He gives evidence of how Richard set up laws so poor people could petition the courts even when they didn’t have money due to a defense fund created for the duration of the life of one man (a clerk) so the poor would always have the means to seek redress. Jones points out how Richard refused money from towns when he visited and always asked that the funds be returned to those who gave it. Richard spent his own money fixing churches in poor areas, donating to ensure the poor could be buried properly, and always making sure his own bastard children were well looked after and loved. Contrast this with his two elder brothers, Edward IV and Clarence, Earl of Warwick.

Edward IV courtesy of the Richard III Society & Royal.Co.UK

No where in this book do I have any sympathy for Edward IV. He decides to take the crown from Henry VI because his father, Richard of York failed to. He was known to promise well-born ladies marriage in order to sleep with them, which was legal and considered a binding contract in those days. He was known to have promised something to Eleanor Butler (also known as Eleanor Talbot after the death of her husband), Elizabeth Lucy (also known as Elizabeth Wyte, who did bear him a son) and Elizabeth Grey (also known as Elizabeth Woodville). It is documented that he promised Elizabeth Woodville marriage IF he could sleep with her. So is it beyond the realm of possibilities that he did so with two other women? Does it make his children with Elizabeth Woodville illegitimate? Yes and no. If he promised Eleanor Butler first, then after the woman’s death in 1468, all he had to do was remarry Elizabeth Woodville. That’s it. But he was arrogant and cheated on her numerous times and had a favorite mistress, Jane Shore, that he paraded in court AFTER his marriage. His brother, Clarence was no better. Clarence married Isobel Neville to spite Edward. When she died unexpectedly due to childbirth, he murdered one of her servants (a woman) for no reason. Clarence himself wanted the Crown and hated Edward’s children. Edward retaliated by having Clarence put to death and drowned in a tub of wine (not kidding, Edward killed his own brother). No wonder their mother, Cecily, didn’t like either of them.

Death of Clarence (illustration from the 1900s) [Public Domain Image]

This then brings us to the two princes in the tower. Except there was another boy in the tower. Clarence’s son was also in the tower and had been since his dad’s death. As for the princes, Dan Jones fails to recognize that there was one person who really wanted those boys dead-Margaret Beaufort. She decided when her son Henry was six, he would be King one day. She was descendant from John of Gaunt through illegitimacy and married Edward Tudor. He died and she gave birth at the age of thirteen. Henry was her only child. She quickly married another husband as her son was basically put on house arrest and shuffled around. And when that husband died, she married another less than six months later. But she wanted him to be King.

Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond & Derry, Psedo Queen (Courtesy of Royal.Co.UK)

Having Edward IV’s sons declared illegitimate was one thing, but I don’t think Richard III would have his own nephews killed. If they died, it’s possible they died of the flu, which recently came to the shores of england around that time (1480s) . His own son died from the flu or pneumonia. Children died of illnesses all the time. Vaccines really weren’t available. Margaret Beaufort was petitioning Elizabeth Woodville in secret at this time to marry off Elizabeth of York to Henry WITH the promise he would be KING. Sounds like a good plan except by making Elizabeth of York legitimate, you are making those two boys legitimate as well, and Henry can’t be king. But Henry MUST be king. It was something Jones never discusses because like most male historians, he refuses to think women are capable of murder or of plotting to murder. But it’s much easier to buy into the Tudor propaganda that Richard III is just evil, even though he posts all these contradictory statements from historians at the time telling us Richard was actually a pretty decent guy and a better king than his brother.

Henry VIII (Royal .CO.UK)

At least Jones goes on to state how after the death of Elizabeth York, Henry VII then goes about killing anyone with the remote linkage to the York or Plantagenets, because nothing says be a good role model for your son and heir, Henry VIII, than a good old fashioned murdering spree. Henry VII killed Margaret Poole, daughter of Clarence (remember Clarence). She was old and in her 60s. And Henry VII had her beheaded because her blood was a threat to him. At least know we know where Henry VIII got his paranoia from.

So, do I recommend this book? I think it’s fine. It’s not badly written and Jones does a good job of weaving together the different strands of history together. I do wish he had actually given us Henry IV and Henry V since he references them so much in this book and his previous book. It’s really hard to appreciate both of those men when one has very little knowledge of them. And I liked the book written about the women during this time period much more than this one. This one just seemed more of the standard, run of the mill kind of book. this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t purchase it. It IS the other half to the previous book and if I get that one, I feel obligated to purchase this one. I just wouldn’t rank this one high on being personally enjoyable for me.

Sense & Sensibility 1981 (or haven’t I seen this version somewhere before?)

The 1981 BBC adaptation of Sense & Sensibility is the one which is included in the Jane Austen collection. After watching the 1971 version, on some level I had felt that I had seen it somewhere before, yet knew I had never watched the earliest version in my life. The reason for this being, oddly enough, is the 1981 adaptation was dramatized by Alexander Baron who used the 1971 outline by Denis Constanduros. So the 1981 version is an adaptation of an adaptation. In fact, many of the scenes are eerily familiar as are the characters that are used and the ones that are cut. Watching this gave me a sense of déjà vu. Rodney Bennett is the director (his name is familiar to me as he directed some Dr. Who episodes in the 1970s).

Marianne Dashwood (Tracey Childs) and Elinor Dashwood (Irene Richard)

This adaptation starts out differently and at first, one thinks the Dashwoods are coming from the funeral of the late John Dashwood. They are all in mounring, in a carriage, and heading away from a location back towards Norland Park. You find out during their conversation that they have in fact been inspecting a house in the neighborhood that is far above their means, since they have only 500£ to live on a year. Like the 1971 version, Margaret doesn’t exist, which means that amount of funds seems a little more manageable between three ladies instead of four. The money, of course, leads to the great discussion brother John has with Fanny and the possibility of giving them money; knowing how little they have, 100£ more a year would really have benefited the Dashwoods and would not have inconvenienced John at all. Though we must recall Fanny is a skinflint as the son is not in existence in this version either.

Elinor and Edward Ferrars (Bosco Hogan) at Norland Park

Elinor shown drawing on very nice rustic benches. I do appreciate showing the drawing as it was something I could connect to Elinor over.

Like the 1971 version, Elinor is shown as someone who draws, which is straight from the novel. I did enjoy the way in which she was trying to educate Edward in trying to see things with an artistic eye, because it was sweet and showed how theire relationship could have started. Bosco Hogan is wonderful as Edward, has no stutter, but does have moments of hesitation in his actions which is appropriate for that character. Marianne is mentioned as not yet being 17 (though do recall she is 15 at the beginning of the novel), so this is an attempt to making her closer in age with her novel counterpart. Like the 1971 interpretation, Marianne is overly dramatic in the ways in which she says farewell to Norland Park, which is something she never does in the novel. Fanny is perfectly evil though.

Fanny Dashwood (Amanda Boxer)- perfectly evil in every way

Elinor and Marianne in London

The hair in this version was pretty good. We don’t have that overly puffy look on the men and the women seem to have decent hairdos with curls and buns. Some variety is obtained with the use of mobcaps, braids, and occasionally bonnets when outdoors. Now, we do have mutton chops on the men, but they are not overly large and are more inline with what would be period appropriate (for the most part). There are, of course, portraits of men during this time period with massive mutton chops, which people have emailed me to point out my fallacy, Trust me and believe me when I state that I am well aware of these portraits. But these portraits are few and far in-between and the norm seems to be smaller to no mutton chops rather than the bushy examples that tend to be used. Having a few men here and there with the bigger versions would not bother me as a designer and as a historian. It bothers me when it’s practically all the men.

Colonel Brandon (Robert Swann) looking very Darcy-esque with massive mutton chops

John Willoughby (Peter Woodward) with smaller, more delicate mutton chops

French, "Miniature Portrait of an Unknown Officer", c. 1815. Gift of Herbert DuPuy

1815 Miniature of an Unknown Soldier (French I believe); no mutton chops but a really sweet Mustache & Soul Patch combo (courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art)

Captain Gilbert Heathcote RN (1779-1831) ~ William Owen

Captain Gilbert Heathcote RN (1779-1831) ~ William Owen; pretty decently sized mutton chops [Public Domain Image]

The costumes as well aren’t bad. There seems to be an attempt to use more cotton or cotton blend fabrics to get more of that airy, light feel we associate with the Regency dresses. They do seem to use silk (or at least something that resembles silk) for the most dressier gowns worn by Fanny or Mrs. Jennings at times. A few of the dresses used by the extras in the background looked familiar and were no doubt dresses from previous adaptations, so could be from the 1970s or be stock costumes from local theatrical agencies as well. The colors were sometimes a bit too pastel and while that isn’t historically accurate, at least the use of cotton instead of polyester is an improvement.

Elinor, Marianne with Mrs. Charlotte Palmer (Hetty Baynes); I believe Charlotte is meant to look pregnant, but it’s hard to tell. The dresses do look to be of cotton or cotton blends,just very pastel in coloration.

Lucy Steele (Julia Chambers) in a red Spencer and bonnet. The material looks velvet, but I believe to be more of a polyester blend. The red is also too dark; reds at this time were more bright like a poppy red.

I did like the use of jewelry, even if some of the necklaces looked to be too tight and short. Too often adaptations today shy away from the use of jewelry and makeup, thinking they weren’t used nor worn. They were very much in use at this time.

Empress Josephine's Malachite Parure

Empress Josephine’s Malachite Parure (Jewelry Set: 2 Bracelets, Chocker, Necklace, Pin/Brooch, Tiara, 6 Hairpins, Smaller Pin); most sets included 2 bracelets, a necklace, a brooch/pin, and possibly a tiara or hair pins.

Georgian set of Pink Topaz. From the book “Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830”

Pink Topaz dating from the Georgian Era (from the book Georgian Jewelry 1714-1830); one would fully expect a Regency lady to still wear something like this if it was an item passed down ion her family. This set is a pair of earrings, necklace and a brooch/pin.

Queen Louise's set of make up powder.

Makeup set belonging to Queen Louise (1776-1810); courtesy of stadtmorgen.de (my German is rudimentary at best)

So yes, jewelry was worn, as was makeup which is something we have got to acknowledge and push for when it comes to adaptations of not only novels written during this time, but any films being set during these times as well. It’s ludicrous to presume that people stopped wearing jewelry and makeup during the American and French Revolution only to pick it up again during the reign of Queen Victoria. All I am saying is due better research costumers. I know you often have to also be in charge of makeup and hair, but expect better research from assistants. I may add I am always available to do this research for you and would gladly do it for money (I do have bills to pay as do so many of us, so might as well put such skills to good use!).

Mrs. Dashwood and Edward at Barton Cottage

What makes this version different from the 1971 one is Edward does visit the Dashwood family at Barton Cottage after visiting Lucy at Plymouth nearby. It’s mentioned he visited Plymouth in the 1971 version but never stopped to see them, even though Plymouth is near Exeter. First, this does happen in the novel, so that’s nice and it’s good because it introduces Edward to the Middletons and Mrs. Jennings, which allows them to kid Elinor about him when they go to London in front of Lucy Steele, not knowing it’s Lucy Edward is engaged to. It helps create that little bit of chaos in the Edward-Elinor relationship that we all do enjoy, even though we find it heartbreaking. Lucy is shown to be very pretty, if not spiteful and cruel in her own way, while Ann (Nancy in the novel) is very coarse and spinsterish, which fits with how they act and how Austen seems to describe them. You also feel some pity for Lucy because she is faithful to Edward for so long and he is not the best correspondent.

Lucy Steele

Ann Steele (Pippa Sparks) in the Striped Dress with Lucy (Julia Chambers) in Pale Yellow.

There are some weird choices in this version as there were in the previous one. Margaret is gone and doesn’t exist. John and Fanny have no child, and therefore no reason to not want to give any monetary assistance away. Nancy Steele’s name was changed to Ann, which I am puzzled over. Sir John and his wife only have one child, a son, and no other kids. Sir John also doesn’t have any dogs, but at least they show Willoughby out hunting with one (that bitch of a pointer flossy line which always makes me smile). They did include Robert Ferrars and his quest for the perfect toothpick case through is talking (which almost is always cut even though it’s really a funny little tidbit on his character). Charlotte Palmer used to have a really green bedroom in London. I’m not kidding (seriously, it’s GREEN). And as for the dresses, it’s really hard for me to tell if the back of them are buttoned, laced, or have zippers. I suspect that it’s a mixture of all three and depends on if they are a main character, secondary, or just background extras.

Elinor, Marianne, and Willoughby. At least this time, Marianne really does fall down a hill.

I did have to suppress a giggle when they show Marianne writing letters on thick parchment paper (and I mean thick paper). I suspect the paper was art paper meant for watercolour, perhaps charcoal or pen and ink because of the thickness and coarseness that I could surmise. I giggled because whenever they received a letter, it was on extremely thin onion skin type paper. Somehow, magically, thick coarse paper was used by everyone to write letters, but through th magic of the post-chaise, they all became smooth and delicate pieces of paper. There was also the obligatory nightgown with hair all free flowing and loose scene because of course there is. Considering women didn’t wash their hair every day, and probably more like once to twice a month if they qwere lucky, they kept that hair plaited (braided) and in caps when sleeping to keep it clean and free from things like fleas and lice. Free flowing and loose looks romantic and erotic on screen, but not very realistic.

Marianne & Elinor in front of Barton Cottage. I do like the rustic benches.

So while this is very familiar to anyone who’s watched the 1971 version, it’s just slightly different, and updated enough in terms of costumes and hair to be worth watching. I found some of the scenes and lines to be almost exactly like the 1971 version that I was hard pressed to not roll my eyes. While this version is the one most people believe to be the first adaptation of Sense & Sensibility, it is the first one that was shown in the US and it’s probably why it was included int he Jane Austen collection over the 1971 version. So yes, do try and find it and watch it. It’s seven episodes, but each one is short and one can watch this in a day. You don’t have to, but you can.

This version has one of the best Fanny freak out scenes ever.

Marianne and Bradon bonding over books; he looks very Darcy-esque in this version.

Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood pouring out cordials. Not often this is shown as most show tea.

The Dashwoods leaving Norland Park

Sense & Sensibility: 1971 BBC Version

I am actually excited about reviewing these adaptations because Sense & Sensibility was the first Jane Austen novel I ever read at the age of twelve, brought to my good attention by my local librarian (who is still at the same library coincidentally over 20 years later). It was published in 1811 anonymously, but was written sometime during the 1790s. Elinor in the novel starts out to be 19, Marianne is 15 (some places say 16), and Margaret is 13. The novel takes course over a period of two years, which no one ever seems to recall, so most action is speed up. The adaptation was done by Denis Constandorus (who did another Austen adaptation) and directed by David Giles (who, again, did another Austen adaptation). This early version is unique in that it’s not included in the Jane Austen Classic Collection (the 1980 version supplants it) and it was never made available here in the US until recently. I had the hardest time tracking a copy down (it had a long wait time on Netflix), so I did the only logical solution available to me-I watched each 45 minute episode on YouTube.

Image result for 1971 sense and sensibility

Elinor Dashwood (Joanna David) and Marianne Dashwood (Ciaran Madden)

Many people have long espoused this first version to be well worth viewing because it is charming and accurate to the novel. While it does have it’s charm, it’s not entirely accurate to the novel. Joanna David is perfectly cast as Elinor, cool, collected, sensible, but does have emotions when pressed (Joanna David portrayed Mrs. Gardiner in the 1995 Pride & Prejudice adaptation). Richard Owens makes a fairly decent Colonel Brandon; he’s handsome, a little morose at times, but attractive in his own way. Patricia Routeledge sparkles as Mrs. Jennings (she’s better known as Hyacinth Bucket) with her over the top performance which works because it’s done so well. Most of the others are decent in the roles, but not as memorable. Overall, the ensemble works and it’s enjoyable. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any issues.

Image result for 1971 sense and sensibility

Mrs. Dashwood (Isabel Dean) with Mrs. Jennings

Right from the start, Marianne is over the top dramatic and not in a way that is enjoyable. While I love and appreciate Mrs. Jennings being over the top and exuberant in her movements, Marianne comes across as selfish, cruel, and does things to an unhealthy excess. While this works in the novel (recall Marianne is 15-16 years of age), they portray her being 17 in all adaptations (because a 35 yr old man lusting after a 15 yr old is creepy), it’s just too much. It makes her seem childish and wholly unattractive. There is nothing about how she is portrayed that makes it at all probable for Brandon to want to be with her. The way Marianne acts should be a reasonable turn off for Willoughby as well (and I don’t blame him if that’s how she acts).

Image result for 1971 sense and sensibility

Elinor trying to control Marianne as the latter is actually throwing a fit over Willoughby’s rejection at the ball. It was a scene of hysterics worthy of Ophelia. Marianne’s dress is from 1818.

Dress and shawl, 1818. By the beginning of the 1820s, the waistline had started to move down. New historical influences are visible in dress styles. This particular example has a gathered collar in imitation of the ruffs of 16th century dress. The sleeve with a series of puffs down the arm was known as a ‘Marie’ sleeve, after a similar style worn by Marie de Médicis, Queen of France at the beginning of the 17th century.

Embroidered Muslin Dress 1818, Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum

Another issue is Edward seems to have a stutter. Now, some people don’t like it but actually I don’t mind. I myself have had issues with pronouncing certain words and cannot to this day say “anemone”  without screwing it up by adding extra syllables. And I’ve taken so many acting classes as a Theatre major and have sung as part of a College choir that it shouldn’t be an issue (but it is). So, for me, it doesn’t bother me. The stutter isn’t done all the time, just in times of stress or when he’s uncomfortable and put in the spotlight, which does seem to suit his character. Edward Ferrars, after all, is being pushed by his mother to enter into a profession such as Parliament or the Law, which would require him to be really good at public speaking. In the novel, as well as every adaptation I’ve seen, he is very reluctant to do so. Having an issue with public speaking on a grand scale would be a reason why Edward would prefer the Church (smaller and more intimate arena for speaking). [FYI, for a good article on what it’s like to have a stutter, I highly recommend this article by friend and fellow author Ewan Morrison: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/word-less/201904/feared-words-and-free-words]

Image result for 1971 sense and sensibility

Edward Ferrars (Robin Ellis); I appreciate he’s given period correct glasses, but very large mutton chops and puffy hair.

Like 1971’s Persuasion, we’ve got an interesting selection of puffy hair for the men, with HUGE mutton chops, and puffy hair (with curls) for the ladies. I suspect most of the hair for the ladies is some of their own with wig pieces added, but it’s very 1960’s bouffant-esque. I do applaud the effort though, even though it’s wrong. The hair in this adaptation is at least slightly better than Persuasion, but only slight. The men have more lift, but they do have some curls and layers too. Mutton chops did exist, just not Victorian style ones. We must keep in mind that this was the beginning of trying to do research and designers did not have access to all the information we have available today.

Boris Golytsin, 1791

1791 Miniature Portrait of Boris Golystin [Public Domain]; most men in this adaptations seem to have hair more along the lines of this man, which wouldn’t be so bad if the novel was being set in the 1790s. Though the adaptation seems to be set closer to 1810).

Rubens Peale 1807 by Rembrandt Peale [Public Domain Image]

1807 Rubens Peale; I chose this because it resembles Robin Ellis as Edward Ferras with the spectacles, it shows the close cropped curly hair and yes, he has mutton chops, but notice how delicate it is (there are images of bigger ones too, but I like this image).

Image result for 1971 sense and sensibility

Marianne with Colonel Brandon; notice the massive mutton chops. Massive. Though he’s got a nice M notch collar.

Besides the hair, which we must make allowances for because it’s a product of the times, we should then discuss the costumes as well. Like 1971’s Persuasion, the dresses were probably made from polyester blends and you can see some were made fr0m prints that were more late 1960s than late Georgian. The silhouette tells me they were going for a 1808-1810 era, but Mrs. Dashwood was dressed in a style a bit more consistent with the 1790s to possibly the 1800s. Then again, Marianne has fashions dating from after 1815. It’s hard to tell at times because some of the costumes were most likely pulled from storage and altered, which makes it difficult to assess from what period it was originally meant to look like. And that’s OK. While I tend to be harsher on period films starting around 1980, I make allowances for period pieces done prior to the 1980s simply because the information wasn’t as available. I know because I’ve looked into it. Most costume history books before 1980 are full of misinformation and generalities that we now know are just wrong. Extant clothing in museums wasn’t always made available to designers like they are now, and photographs of them weren’t of the best quality when they were available. Technology has really made it possible to have better quality period clothing for stage and screen than previously.

Taffeta “Round Gown”, About 1795-1800  The round gown” style is updated further with a raised waist and gathered bodice which ties at center front. Vestiges of an older style of fitted bodice are visible on the inside. Internal stitching reveals the waistline was raised about three inches. A stiff taffeta material like this still suits the dress, but lighter, softer fabrics will be needed for the slim, clinging styles on the horizon.

1795-1800 Silk Taffeta Round Gown; this gown was adapted from an earlier gown (which is what us costume historians love to see) because the waistline was raised 3 inches up from where it was previously. I think this is what Mrs. Dashwood is wearing. Courtesy of agreeabletyrant.dar.org

Coat Date: 1787 - 1792

1785-1792 Coat (and ensemble pieces) courtesy of the Met; chosen to show the elaborate neck frills as this was shown quite a lot in this adaptation, which again would be fine if it was set in the 1790s.

Image result for 1971 sense and sensibility

Robert Ferrars (David Belcher), Lady Middleton (Shelia Ballantine), and Sir John Middleton (Michael Aldridge); yes both men are wearing the frilly neck pieces as shown previously.

Image result for 1971 sense and sensibility

Elinor in a very 1960s Print gown; the garden is lovely though

An interesting decision made in this adaptation was to include Lady Middleton and the mentioning of one child (William), but none of the others. They cut Margaret (she doesn’t exist), replaced the servant Sarah with an elderly one named Mary (of which I am unsure as to why), and showed both of the Miss Steeles (Nancy and Lucy). It was also fascinating to hear that Brandon’s ward was made to be older at age 18 and had become his niece and not the natural daughter of his first love. They also have Eliza attempting to commit suicide while pregnant, which is not in the novel at all. We also meet Mrs. Ferrars, Elinor is shown drawing, and John Dashwood has no son. So many changes made to fit the novel into four 45 minute episodes, but also some weird choices as well. While I do not mind keeping both of the Miss Steeles, I don’t understand why remove Margaret? She’s a sweet, fun little character who’s barely in it (but in it more than Nancy Steele). They also made the decision to show Charlotte Palmer pregnant and then later on sow her with the child after it’s born (and very slim afterwards too). I think it was wise to show Charlotte pregnant because she is so in the novel, but to then show her being extremely thin afterwards is a bit of a lie (she had no bust, which any woman can tell you is just wrong).

Image result for 1971 sense and sensibility

The Miss Dashwoods meeting a pregnant Charlotte Palmer (Jo Kendall) with Mr. Palmer (David Strong) right where her hand is.

Image result for 1971 sense and sensibility

The Miss Dashwoods in very matchy-matchy traveling outfits with Lady Middleton

Not everything about this adaptation is all bad. The inside shots are done very well and while some of them (if not all of them) are done on sets, they seem to have been done well enough to resemble actual rooms proportion wise and are not so vast and empty as 1971’s Persuasion. While some spaces still seem a trifle large, tis was most likely done in order to maneuver lighting equipment and the cameras, so I am not bothered by it. The outside scenes are noticeably different in terms of filming (which cannot be helped due to technology at the time) but are very lovely and I enjoy the scenery. It’s quite nice to see the views of the countryside. Though I did giggle a bit during the scene where Marianne injures herself while Elinor complains that it’s raining while the scene is perfectly clear with no visible rain drops are seen.  Granted, a fine misting rain would not be visible but it was sunny and dramatically raining in mere seconds.

Related image

Elinor swears it’s raining mere moments before Marianne trips and injures her ankle on this hill. Yes, they called it a hill.

Image result for 1971 sense and sensibility

The dashing Willoughby (Clive Francis) after carrying Marianne in the rain with nary a drop on him.

Image result for 1971 sense and sensibility

The garden outside of Barton Cottage was lovely though.

So, what do I think? I don’t regret watching this adaptation and I think that it’s a product of it’s time. But I also appreciate that some thought went into the script to try and adapt this novel for television. This isn’t an easy novel to adapt because it spans two years in the life of the two elder sisters. Decision were made to cut Margaret out as well as the other young children. But characters that are kind of useless, like Nancy Steele and Lady Middleton, are kept. Mrs. Ferrars is seen and while I don’t mind it, I can easily do with her being mentioned since she really adds nothing to the story other than being a cruel lady who always wishes to get he own way while disregarding the happiness of her children (the opposite of Mrs. Dashwood who puts the happiness of her children first, so it’s a pity these two mothers never meet in the novel). I can also see why people who’ve watched it today don’t like it because they are used to better scripts and costumes, but also why people who first watched it years ago are adamant pothers are missing out. There are some fie performances in this version and while I don’t like some of the performances on their own, when it comes together as an ensemble piece, it’s quite satisfying as a whole. So, if you can find a copy, watch it. If you can’t, then YouTube is the way to go (though do find the ones that play an entire episode and not sections of it). While this is not my favorite interpretation of Sense & Sensibility, I wouldn’t mind purchasing a copy of it for my own enjoyment.

Image result for 1971 sense and sensibility

Marianne, Willoughby, Edward, and Elinor.

Image result for 1971 sense and sensibility

Brandon in a very Fall/Halloween coat

Pride & Prejudice 2005 Adaptation

Now we’ve come to the last adaptation of Pride & Prejudice and the second film version (films like Bride & Prejudice, Bridget Jone’s Diary are variations of the novel and I didn’t review them as they are not true novel to screen adaptations, though Bride & Prejudice is a great Bollywood take and highly recommended if you’ve ever wanted a musical version). The 2005 version was adapted by Deborah Moggach who was going to remain faithful to the novel, but was then told to not be by the director Joe Wright. This was a huge mistake.Joe Wright also decided he wanted a “muddy” Regency world and not a clean version. I have no idea what he means by that, but I think it means he decided to not use the novel as a resource and just do whatever the hell he wished to do. And it shows.

Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet

There are those who absolutely love this version. I believe it’s because they’ve never bothered to read the novel and approve of the utter ruination this movie is and to all the other adaptations out there. Bride & Prejudice is more accurate and it’s a Bollywood film set in the modern day. So yes, this film IS this bad. First, let’s go with the terrible script. the Bennets are shown to be filthy, poor, uncouth, and ill-mannered. Lydia comes off as being half-inebriated at all times, which should be a concern considering she’s only 15 and, therefore, should be drinking lemon barley water, tea, and hot chocolate, not all the booze that’s available (even though, historically, the alcohol was watered down). Farm animals would not be let loose in the Bennet household. They are also shown to be living in almost abject poverty. If they are that poor, then why would Mr. Collins even ant to inherit the place? In the novel (and in every other adaptation), the Bennets are landowners. Mr. Bennet owns land, of which he rents out to farmers and probably has people work his own land. This generates a comfortable income and according to the novel, Mr. Bennet earns 2,000 a year (modern equivalent is 160K). That’s not a pittance nor is he a poor man. To show him and his family as such is a slap in the face to Jane Austen herself. In comparison, Darcy has 10K (or 800K in modern terms), Lizzie will get about 40 a year (4K), Wickham inherited 1,000 (80K)  from his father and received an additional 3,000 (240K)  from Darcy to dissolve his claim to the clergy living being held for him, Georgiana’s inheritance of 30K (2.4 Million) know makes much more sense if you see the potential it had.

A pig allowed to wander the Bennet home is completely wrong. Also notice the flilth evidence everywhere-the floors, the walls, the doors. There is no way Darcy would even consider Elizabeth Bennet as a potential spouse as it shows she is extremely beneath him socially. The Bennets are not shown to be of the gentry class, but of the poor.

Another major issue is the casting. I love Donald Sutherland, but his Mr. Bennet was so poorly written that is was beneath a man of his talents to take on the role. Brenda Blethyn is likewise a terrific actress. She is always wonderful, but in this, the script did her no justice as Mrs. Bennet. She comes off with weird one liners that are not based at all on anything written by Jane Austen. She’s made into a character to be ridiculed for her lowness. While Mrs. Bennet is funny in the novel, she should not be made into a caricature. This is an adaptation here, not a pantomime. Keira Knightly as well was completely miscast. I don’t like her Lizzie-she’s cruel, she’s a bitch, and has nothing to recommend her to any man, let alone Darcy. I don’t see anything abut her portrayal which would attract Mr. Darcy or even George Wickham. And as for Mr. Collins proposing to her, while that’s in the novel there’s nothing about her character that even remotely makes sense as the wife of a clergyman. Dame Judi Dench is always lovely, but Lady Catherine seemed to be written to be almost exactly like a previous role she played, Lady Bracknell. there are so many talented people in this cast that because the script was so terrible, their performances suffered.

Jane Bennet (Rosamund Pike), Lizzie, Lydia (Jenna Malone), George Wickham (Rupert Friend), Kitty (Carey Mulligan).

Other issue is the costumes, which were designed by Jacqueline Durran. Because there seems to be no set time period for the film, she used fashions from before 1790s to fashions from 1813. In the same film. While I respect Ms. Durran as a fellow Costume Designer and for winning a BAFTA for her designs for Vera Drake, the costumes for this film were atrocious to put it mildly. While I can potentially see Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine sticking to the fashions of their youth (1750-1770 apparently), it still doesn’t make any logical sense. Now, I can see a woman wearing clothes from her youth that she thought flattered her better than modern fashions. I’ve written a character who does this in my novel, but I also stress it’s because she prefers that style BECAUSE it’s a way for her to hold onto her memories of youth. Yet I have her children dressed in fashion benefiting the time period. For this film, you have fashions from all sorts of time periods existing in one film, in one family, and it’s sloppy design work. Because they all ready messed with the Bennet’s finances, the clothing the family wears is all over the place. Mr. Bennet dresses like a Georgian man, just without the wig, so his style is probably about 1760s. His wife dresses from about 1770s, possibly 1780s at the latest. Jane has a silhouette of the 1810s, while Lizzie is wearing the futuristic silhouette of the 1820s, yet also dresses in clothes from the 1790s (that’s a forty year span).

One of Lizzie’s dresses with a waistline that wouldn’t appear until the mid 1820s, but a dress that feels more 1930s. The novel was published in 1813. Let me repeat that. The NOVEL was published in 1813.

Based on the neckline, I would guess this is an attempt to do a round gown, which was sometimes worn with a sash. Except the sash was worn under the bust, not at the natural waist. Also, the corset she is wearing is Victorian, not Georgian, not Regency. Victorian (yes, they show it in the film and it was Victorian).

A compilation of the costumes worn by Kitty and Lydia. their outfits are more Little House on the Prairie than Jane Austen. Plus they have hair down, which since they are OUT in society, would be up.

Kelly Riley as Caroline Bingley. Her outfits were more correct in terms of waistline. She’s not wearing period undergarments and her ball dress is sleeveless. Sleeveless indicates an under dress, so where’s the rest of her dress?

A better look at the incorrect and inappropriate dress Caroline is wearing. Unless it’s the 1970s.

 

Lady Catherine is more Marie Antoinette than Austen. While I don’t mind the hair and jewelery, I don’t think Lady Catherine would be that out of date in terms of fashion.

So, you may be wondering, are there any good points? I make an effort to find the positive in all of the adaptations. Wickham’s outfit was period correct (it was also worn by the previous Wickham Adrian Lukas-yes, it’s the same exact coat folk from 1995). I thought Andrew Macfayden’s costumes were fairly decent. His hair irked me as it seemed more appropriate for Mr. Collins than Mr. Darcy. If they wanted something different from the previous three Darcys, then a nice, short a la Titus would have looked nice and nice on him. I actually enjoyed his portrayal of Darcy. He seemed less arrogant than Elizabeth and came across as being more of an intellectual, more of a Romantic (think Wordsworth, Lord Byron) than others have portrayed him. He tried so hard to have any sport of chemistry with Keira Knightly is was quite painful to watch. I have always been of an opinion Keira would have excelled in the role of Caroline Bingley and I think she would have enjoyed that role much more and made more of it.

Fitzwilliam Darcy; instead of a pond scene, we get the Romantic man crossing the moors, which I actually like. Its more Bronte than Austen, but I think Austen would not have minded this.

This shot really shows by what I mean by his hair did him no justice. Macfayden has a wonderful profile and beautiful eyes. the hair and the use of black on him wash him out. He deserved better because he was a decent Darcy.

Portrait of a Man 1809 by Francois-Xavier Fabre

Portrait of a Man 1809; this kind of choppy, but loose and textured a la Titus would have suited Macfayden. Curls would not have to be there, but the rough texture would have been really great looking on him.

Rosamund Pike is a lovely Jane Bennet, but her relationship with Bingley is regulated to the background as to be almost non existent. This novel is about Jane and Lizzie for the most part, but the focus was on Lizzie and Darcy. And that’s a shame.

Jane, in a gown made to appear to be around 1810, though the waistline is still too low (I believe that is Mary in the background)

Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, Lydia, and Mary (Talulah Riley); Mary is about 20 years too early for true Gothic aesthetic.

Other fine points is the dancing as it’s accurate. It’s fast, loud, rowdy, vigorous and seems to be enjoyed by those participating in it. Another fine point is they show a large breakfast being served around 10AM, which is accurate (for more details, please find my blog about Breakfast). For a family that has been written in this version to be so poor, it’s then weird to have Mrs. Bennet inform Mr. Collins that they have a maid. there are so many contradictions in this version it truly does bother me. If you look at the extras in the film, you can see they are all wearing fashions with waistlines from 1808-1810, which I find a bit humorous that the extras are more period correct than the cast.

The Netherfield Ball; Jane’s dress is more of a round gown, but the waist sash is too low. Lizzie’s dress is too modern. the person right next to Lizzie is wearing a gown with a waistline right under her bust, which is period correct.

Hair, like costumes, is an issue. Wickham’s hair has a greasy ponytail for some reason. Men weren’t wearing ponytails after the 1800s. Again, there is nothing about this film that makes sense. Lizzie walks to Meryton with her hair down, which is just wrong on so many levels. She also goes to see Darcy in her nightgown, so there’s that as well. Bingley’s hair is straight from the 1980s meets Harry Styles. It makes no sense. His hair also goes from being a dark red to a reddish blond, which either indicates the scenes were filmed at different times or the lighting was just as weird as the script.

Charles Bingley (Simon Woods)

The 1940 film version

The 1940 Film Version: I recommend this version. It’s still charming and fun. Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson sparkle as Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. While it’s not very accurate, it’s more accurate than the 2005 version and has a much better script. Plus every Darcy since Olivier has been made to look like Olivier (except Macfayden), so there’s a reason for that.

The 1980 (UK) or 1983 (US) BBC Version

The 1980/1983 BBC Version: Again, I recommend this version. While it’s the longest version out there, it’s worth it. We have costumes that were trying to accurate and they succeed for the most part. We have a wonderful script and terrific cast. A few odd choices here and there, but we also get the only (in my opinion) age appropriate Lady Catherine. It’s by no means perfect (no adaptation is), but it still holds up over 30 years later.

1995 BBC/A&E Version

1995 BBC/A&E Version: This really is one of the most perfect adaptations of Pride & Prejudice to date. We have an excellent script, wonderful cast and crew, lovely costumes and breathtaking locations. While the dancing in it isn’t always period correct, it’s still lovely to watch. This is a very hard version to find any flaws with. Colin Firth was worried he would not be taken seriously as Darcy because of Laurence Olivier (you did well Mr. Firth).

2005 Film Version

2005 Film Version: If you are looking for an adaptation that adheres to the novel, this film is not it. The 1940 version has a better script than this one. And I wanted to like this one because I have admired Andrew Macfayden ever since I saw him in Spooks (I watch a lot of British television). But I think a poor script, poor direction, a lot of errors in casting, and all the wrong historical elements (as in being ignored) made this film painful to watch. While Pride & Prejudice is not my favorite Austen novel, it’s one that I do enjoy. If this film was called Lizzie Bennet or Lizzie & Darcy with the premise that this would be a very loose adaptation of the novel, I could see it an enjoy it for the extremely loose usage of the novel in the script. But this was presented and advertised as a fresh new adaptation of the novel. So, while I love Andrew Macfayden as an actor and really did think he made a very decent Darcy, I cannot recommend this film in good conscious. It is a disservice to Jane Austen and the other adaptations that exist out there. Not even the 1987’s Northanger Abbey was this bad (and that adaptation had serious issues of which I have all ready written about).