Persuasion adaptations

Jane Austen’s Persuasion is one of my favourite books. It’s a toss up for me whether I like Pride & Prejudice or Persuasion more. In 1995 there was a near perfect Persuasion adaptation made by the BBC, starring Amanda Root as Anne Elliot and Ciaran Hinds as Captain Frederick Wentworth.

I can’t tell you how often I have watched this version of Persuasion, I just love it. I also love how into the ending they also incorporated a little bit of the ending Jane Austen had orginially written before she changed it to the current ending (which is much better and contains that beautiful letter). If you’ve seen this adaptation, it’s the scene near the end where Captain Wentworth comes to speak to Anne in the name of his Admiral Croft and asks painfully whether Anne is indeed to marry her cousin Mr. Elliot. They are interrupted and she can never answer but that little scene is so nicely incorporated into the plot. I could go on about this adaptaion for ages, but I won’t right now.

In 2007 ITV made another adaptation with Sally Hawkins as Anne and Rupert Penry-Jones as Frederick.

While the main actors were lovely, some of the supporting cast was not (most notably the one who played Anne’s sister Mary) and they gave some good quotes out of sequence to other characters (why?). Also, what was up with the mad dash Anne did at the end through Bath? Despite it’s deficiencies I have gone back to this adaptation now and again and I like it well enough.

I even got my hands on a 1971 miniseries of Persuasion starring Ann Firbank as Anne and Bryan Marshall as Frederick.

Ann Firbank, by the way, was also with Richard Armitage in The Crucible.

That Persuasion version I only saw once, it was quite close to the book if I recall correctly but also slow moving and a little too serene. I did like Firbank and Marshall in their roles, though, with the right amount of unease and awkwardness and long silent looks.

There is also a 1960 miniseries, but according to Wikipedia that version is most likely lost. Seeing how popular Emma or Pride and Prejudice are, there haven’t been quite as many Persuasion adaptations but it looks like that is changing.

There is a new Persuasion movie in the making, starring Sarah Snook and Joel Fry. I’ve never heard of Sarah Snook before but I do ‘know’ Joel Fry from his supporting role in the fun movie Yesterday. The actors do look interesting, I hope they’ll be good and that the story/movie will be good as well.

There’s also a Netflix Persuasion movie in the making, starring Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot. Apparently it’s a modern retelling of the story and just yesterday I read that it will also star Henry Golding as Anne’s cousin Mr. Elliot. Gotta say I could see him in the role of Frederick as well. I really like Henry Golding.

No mention yet on who will play Frederick, so I am very curious to find that out. I’m also feeling a bit iffy about this project. Will it be any good? I’m neutral on Dakota Johnson but not so neutral on modern setting remakes. I’ve seen a few and many are not so great. Most notably, in the recent two or three years, Hallmark has been making some modern setting Austen movies that are loosely based on Jane Austen’s novels (though no Persuasion as yet) and they are all terrible. Sometimes I only recognize the names, the characters just aren’t there and the stories are so bare bone Austen, you could hardly call them Austen either.

Yesterday I watched another modern Austen adaptation made last year, this time a Persuasion one which is not Hallmark, but not far off that mark either. It’s called Modern Persuasion (uninspired title) and nope, that movie really wasn’t it. It tried a little too hard to be witty (although some jokes did make me smile). The story was there, the characters sort of as well but I have no idea why it was necessary to change the names so much. Anne Elliot (played by Alicia Witt) was called Wren Cosgrove and Frederick Wentworth (played by Shane McRae) was called Owen Jasper (really, how is that an improvement?). Witt was alright, even if a little too pouty, but McRae sadly had no Wentworth charisma whatsover, he looked uncomfortable in the role.

I have a feeling that the man who played the Captain Benwick character (actor Dominic Rains), named Sam Benson here, would have made a much better Captain Wentworth or Owen Jasper as he was called here.

I found most of this movie to be awkward, I hope the modern Netflix version that is being filmed will be much better than this.

There are a few good modern adaptations of Austen novels out there. I quite loved the Bollywood meets Hollywood Bride and Prejudice, I loved Bridget Jones’s Diary, I loved the YouTube webseries The Lizzie Bennett Diaries and Clueless is a pretty good modern Emma adaptation. Heck, I even (very surprisingly) enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that, despite being a costume drama, is very modern with the zombies added in. I so hope the new Persuasion set in modern times adaptation can fit in with those and won’t be like the Hallmark ones or the Modern Persuasion movie I just saw. The more traditional Persuasion that is being filmed has big shoes to fill and I have slightly higher hopes for that one. In any case, I am quite happy these adaptations are coming and I’m looking forward to seeing them.

24 thoughts on “Persuasion adaptations

  1. Oh, this is interesting. Persuasion is my favourite Austen book – I recently had an Irish actress read the Wentworth letter to me over the phone for a theatre fundraiser; it was glorious – and the Hinds/Root version is my favourite film adaptation. (No doubt because I saw the film in the cinema when it came out – early 90s???) Anyway, I had never heard of those modern adaptations, but I guess they could be fun. Dakota Johnson is a bit tainted for me because of 50 Shades (although I have never seen the films), but well, open mind. Or maybe just a little Hinds/Root rewatch, with a little side interest in Sam West as the duplicitous Mr Elliott… I’ve come to really like him since All Creatures…

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    1. The Root/Hinds version is from 1995, I don’t think it ever ran in the cinema here but I do remember video taping it from TV at the time on our VHS video recorder which was quickly going out of fashion. Have you seen the 2007 ITV version? I have much to criticize with that one but the leads are good and it has its moments.
      Dakota Johnson – yeah, same about 50 shades, never seen it but prejudiced against it. Last year my daughter and I saw her in The High Note and I liked her in that so that gives me hope (if the script is good).
      I have yet to see All Creatures, I hear good things.

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      1. Ah, already 1995!!! – Yep, it made it into an arthouse cinema in my student town back then. I had not read the book before then, but fell in love with the story by way of the film.
        The 2017 version is the one with Rupert Penry-Jones? I have seen snippets, but not the whole thing. (I admit I am reluctant to let go of Ciaran Hinds as Wentworth. Not least because I think a blonde Wentworth really doesn’t fit the description, however attractive RPJ might be…)
        All Creatures is good, old-fashioned family TV, much like the earlier, 1970s series. It’s the sort of thing you can easily get into, good story-telling, interesting lead characters, and plots that are neither overly brutal nor disturbing. Easy watching in the best sense of the word. And Sam West is just perfect as Siegfried.

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        1. The 2007 adaptation is indeed with Rupert Penry-Jones. It’s alright but can’t really hold a candle to the Hinds/Root version, in my humble opinion. Yes, Ciaran Hinds is still the ultimate Captain Wentworth to me as well. πŸ™‚

          I started following Sam West on Twitter a few weeks ago because I heard good things. They’re filming a new season right now. I will definitely check it out.

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      2. Servetus

        I disagree with Guylty about Siegfried (the character is poorly written compared to both the books and the previous series and I don’t care for Sam West in the role) but emphatically agree with regard to the show — it’s very throwback 1970s TV but it was just the right thing to watch this year. Very soothing, and most of the updates are positive changes. Was I talking about this with you? I know I left an extensive comment on someone’s blog about it. Maybe it was Herba’s.

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        1. I think it must indeed have been over on Herba’s blog, I don’t think I ever discussed Sam West or All Creatures over here. By the way, I find it hard to imagine Sam West as Siegfried, as I still sort of see him as a young man like he was in Persuasion.
          Gosh, the books! I have them but read them so very long ago I barely remember the characterizations.

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          1. Servetus

            Every time he comes on screen, I miss Robert Hardy. I think one distinction I can make to the 70s series is that the 70s series was funnier. This one is more earnest in tone.

            We’re dealing here with a fictionalization of a fictionalization (Wight fictionalized significant details about his own life in creating the Herriot stories, and now the process develops. The closest structural parallel I can think of is Laura Ingalls Wilder, i.e., she fictionalized her real experiences in books– and then in the 80s the tv series went on with that, also similarly adding back in some real historical detail that hadn’t made it into her books). I mostly don’t have an issue with it, although the micro-focus of this version bugs me. In the books it’s pretty clear that WWII is impending; here you’d never know it’s 1938, Edward VII has recently abdicated, and the Munich Agreement is happening as they speak. Even rural Yorkshire was not that cut off from national events; they had radios.

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  2. I had a huge crush on Ciaran Hinds in Persuasion – he looked like my perfect leading man (although oddly his Rochester in Jane Eyre did little for me) . It was funny seeing him in the flesh later for UV. I looked up the cast of the Rupert P J version and so many of the actors have worked with Richard Armitage, including RPJ of course, the sister you didn’t like – Amanda Hale; Anthony Head, Peter Wight. Updating versions to the modern day is an amusing idea but I do get infuriated when they say adaptions have been updated for a 21st century audience (like UV and with the forthcoming Pursuit of Love over here). Why? Are we so narcissistic that we cannot watch anything without relating it to ourselves and our experience?

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    1. I didn’t like Hinds’s Rochester either.
      Gotta say, I actually do like updates but only if they’re done well. If the story is good, it’s good in any time. I’ve never read The Pursuit of Love.

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  3. confession time…i’ve never watched Persuasion! eep
    i really want to though! and after Ciaran Hinds being so wonderful at stage door, it makes me want to even more!
    also love Henry Golding-major crush after watching Last Christmas
    when ACGAS was remade my chap was vehemently against watching-he’s a big fan of Herriots writing and we both watched the original and he couldn’t see the point of a remake. However, he ended up watching because I wanted to and he was genuinely surprised at how good the remake is. I love the new series and also think Samuel West is splendid as Siegfried. It’s very gentle watching, which last year hit the spot

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  4. I share your worry about the new Persuasions, but will watch them. For me nothing can ever exceed the Hinds/Root version, but I welcome anyone else who wants to try. I feel the same about Robert Hardy and ACGS, yet I thoroughly enjoyed Sam West and was surprised at how well he inhabited the character.

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    1. So far nothing can exceed the Hinds/Root version for me either but I’m always interested in new takes on the story.
      General consensus to most people on here is that Sam West really seems to be doing something right with this role. πŸ™‚

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      1. Servetus

        I think you’ll like him better if you don’t consider the earlier versions. Some of it may be the writing — in the novels and the original series, Siegfried is an eccentric with occasional moral outbursts and Robert Hardy caught that perfectly; it was what made him bearable and lovable. In the latest version, he is a moralist who’s blind to his own faults, with occasional outbursts of mercy and we’re supposed to sympathize with him because he’s a widower (new, ahistorical detail added for this series). It’s not that the latter is unbelievable as a character, just that to me this character is not Siegfried, and I miss the old (dare I say “real”) Siegfried. Some of it may be Sam West — I just saw him in The Crown and he plays Anthony Blunt the same way (which is more plausible to me). He seems to have an innate superciliousness that is a serious turnoff imo.

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  5. Mezz

    I’m happily claiming Sarah Snook as a fellow Aussie, so I’m looking forward to seeing her in the new Persuasion version. She was very good in The Beautiful Lie.
    P&P and Sense & Sensibility are my favourite Austens, Persuasion takes a back seat along with Emma (I’ve yet to watch the latest version with Anya Taylor-Joy), Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey. Having said that, I did prefer the Root/Hinds version over the later one. Sally Hawkins may be an excellent actress but I can only describe her Anne as “wet” and I’m not a fan of RPJ.

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    1. I’m glad to hear she’s good!
      I re-watched bits of that 2007 Persuasion after I posted this and they really messed up that ending with the letter and the running and that kiss was just weird.
      I never liked Emma the character much although I could always appreciate Mr. Knightley. Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park are my two least fave Austens. I really like S&S too.

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