I absolutely love Jane Austen's book "Persuasion" and have re-read it several times and no doubt will again. This latest version is quite nice - though Sally Hawkins is a very put-upon dowdy Anne Elliot while Rupert Penry-Jones positively smoulders as Captain Wentworth, and Alice Krige is the meddling Lady Russell. Anne is only 28 after all but is practically an old maid as she missed her chance with the dashing Captain 8 years previously when she was persuaded to give him up as he had no fortune. Now he is back, wealthy and looking for a wife .... we travel from her estate to Bath and Lyme Regis with its famous cobb where that silly Louisa Musgrove famously falls from, as our star-crossed lovers slowly rediscover each other. For me it is a perfect romance. Anne, as Lady Russell knows, is so much better than her frivolous father and bitchy sisters.
The 1971 version is in 4 parts so can take its time and Ann Firbank and Bryan Marshall are quite ideal but looking at it now it has that bright over-lit look of 70s television. The best version for me is the 1995 BBC production where Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds (below) are quietly excellent, it is nicely condensed and is a real film, as directed by Roger Michell, with able support from Corin Redgrave, Fiona Shaw, Phoebe Nicholls and Susan Fleetwood etc. The most recent version also alters the ending with our heroine running all over Bath to catch up with Wentworth - but then Austen wrote two endings both perfect but not very filmable for a romantic climax!
The recent SENSE & SENSIBILITY is also a treat, nice to look at - I love their idea of the cottage the poor Dashwoods have to make do with! Dan Stevens and David Morrissey are ideal romantic leads and it all looks a treat.
Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman and a top-notch cast even in the small parts (Gemma Jones, Elizabth Spriggs, Harriet Walter, Imelda Staunton, Hugh Laurie) all make Ang Lee's 1995 film the definitive version, as scriped by Emma (whose playing of the final scene is a delight).
And of course the only definitive version of PRIDE & PREJUDICE is the BBC's 1995 version, ideally cast too with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, plus of course Alison Steadman and Benjamin Whitrow as the Bennetts and the fearsome Lady Catherine De Burgh of Barbara Leigh-Hunt and the oily Mr Collins of David Bamber, and Susannah Harker and Anna Chancellor. The 2005 film by Joe Wright with Keira Knightley enraged me with it's filleted version of the book, major characters reduced to the sidelines and its period all over the place. THAT version ended up in the trash can! - despite sterling work by Tom Hollander as Mr Collins and Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland and Judi Dench. The 1940 film has it's pleasures too though one can hardly take it seriously, Olivier and Garson sparkle though. (A shame though to see Ehle in just the small part of Mrs Logue in Firth's success THE KING'S SPEECH).
The 1999 version of MANSFIELD PARK is also very entertaining with the likes of Sheila Gish, Lindsay Duncan, James Purefoy and Harold Pinter - though Fanny Price is the most priggish, least likeable of Austen's heroines. EMMA and NORTHANGER ABBEY though do not interest me at all! Then of course there are those Merchant-Ivory productions like A ROOM WITH A VIEW, MAURICE, QUARTET, HEAT AND DUST, HOWARD'S END, THE EUROPEANS, THE BOSTONIANS and the great tradition of costume drama continued with CRANFORD and Julian Fellowes' DOWNTON ABBEY, we will be waiting for that second series, let's hope Maggie Smith gets some more great moments. Hmm, maybe it's time to re-visit those '70s hits: Lee Remick as JENNIE Churchill and Francesca Annis as LILLIE Langtry (which also has a sterling Oscar Wilde by Peter Egan)...