Jane Austen’s Matchmaking Heroine

Illustrations by C.E. Brock

 
 

Emma, by Jane Austen, is a novel about youthful hubris and the perils of misconstrued romance. The novel was first published in December 1815. Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” In the very first sentence she introduces the title character as “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich.” Emma, however, is also rather spoiled, headstrong, and self-satisfied; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people’s lives; and her imagination and perceptions often lead her astray.

Emma Woodhouse is the first Austen heroine with no financial concerns, which, she declares to the naïve Miss Smith, is the reason that she has no inducement to marry. This is a great departure from Austen’s other novels, in which the quest for marriage and financial security are often important themes in the stories. Emma’s ample financial resources put her in a much more privileged position than the heroines of Austen’s earlier works, such as Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Jane Fairfax’s prospects, in contrast, are bleak.

 
 

(Douglas McGrath, 1996)

 
 

Douglas McGrath “fell in love” with Jane Austen‘s 1815 novel Emma, while he was an undergraduate at Princeton University. He believed the book would make a great film, but it was not until a decade later that he was given a chance to work on the idea. After receiving an Academy Award nomination in 1995 for his work on Bullets Over Broadway (Woody Allen, 1994), McGrath decided to make the most of the moment and took his script idea for a film adaptation of Emma to Miramax Films. McGrath had initially wanted to write a modern version of the novel, set on the Upper East Side of New York City. Miramax’s co-chairman, Harvey Weinstein, liked the idea of a contemporary take on the novel. McGrath was unaware that Amy Heckerling‘s Clueless was already in production, until plans for Emma were well underway.

Although in general staying close to the plot of the book, the screenplay by Douglas McGrath enlivens the banter between the staid Mr. Knightley and the vivacious Emma, making the basis of their attraction more apparent.

Austen’s original novel deals with Emma’s false sense of class superiority, for which she is eventually chastised. In an essay from Jane Austen in Hollywood, Nora Nachumi writes that, due partly to Paltrow’s star status, Emma appears less humbled by the end of this film than she does in the novel.

 
 

(Diarmuid Lawrence, 1996)

 
 

This production of Emma stars Kate Beckinsale as the titular character, and also features Samantha Morton as Harriet Smith and Mark Strong as Mr. Knightley.  Previously, Andrew Davies was the screenwriter for the successful 1995 BBC TV serial Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Davies offered to adapt Emma for the BBC, but it had already commissioned Sandy Welch as screenwriter.

 
 

(Amy Heckerling, 1995)

 
 

This comedy film is loosely based on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma. Heckerling later described Silverstone as having “that Marilyn Monroe thing” as a “pretty, sweet blonde who, in spite of being the American ideal, people still really like.” 

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Fashionable Bunnies

Dorian Leigh in a hat by Paulette. Harper’s Bazaar, October, 1949

 
 

Halston black velvet dress with mink trim, 1966. Collection Museum of The City of New York

 
 

Alber Elbaz

 
 

Stella Tenant and Charles Guislain, photographed by Tim Walker, Tim Walker

 
 

Candice Bergen at Truman Capote’s Black-and-White Ball. The Plaza Hotel, New York. November 28, 1966

 
 

Liza Minnelli, Truman Capote and Studio 54 owner, Steve Rubell

 
 

Andy Warhol and Eddie Sedgwick

 
 

Elsa Peretti in a Halston-designed Bunny costume, photographed by Helmut Newton in New York City, 1975

 
 

Lauren Hutton

 
 

Playboy-inspired logo bathing suit

 
 

 Yasmin Le Bon for Ralph Lauren Fall 1985 “Rabbit Hole” ad campaign

 
 

Betsey Johnson

 
 

Reese Whiterspoon in a still from Legally Blonde (Robert Luketic, 2001)

 
 

Hilary Swank. Photo: Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, 2007

 
 

Marc Jacobs. Photo: Craig McDean for the CFDA

 
 

Madonna. Louis Vuitton, 2009 Fall-Winter ad campaign photographed by Steven Meisel.

Lady Gaga in the cover of Neo2 Magazine. September 2009 issue. Photo: Olivier Rauh

 
 

Dita Von Teese

 
 

Beth Ditto

 
 

Emma Watson for Elle UK. November 2011. Photo: Rankin

 
 

Ewan McGregor. Photo: Alexi Lubomirski

 
 

Helena Bonham Carter. The Sunday Times, April 2012

 
 

Carolina Herrera’s Bunny Print dress 2013 Resort Collection

Come Together

The Beatles crossing Abbey Road from another angle

 
 

Fragment of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover. Although Let it Be was released afterwards, Abbey Road was actually the last album recorded by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

 
 

abbeyroad_mix1

The Fab Four taking a break. The album opener Come Together was a Lennon contribution. The chorus was inspired by a song Lennon originally wrote for Timothy Leary’s campaign for governor of California titled Let’s Get It Together.

 
 

English tailor Tommy Nutter designed the suits worn by John, Ringo and Paul.

 
 

In one of the firsts outtakes they were walking in the opposite side of the street

 
 

That August 8th 1969 only six shots were taken for the cover of the album

 
 

The front cover design, a photograph of the group traversing a zebra crossing, was based on sketched ideas by McCartney and taken outside EMI Studios on Abbey Road. At around 11:30 that morning, photographer Iain Macmillan was given only ten minutes to take the photo whilst he stood on a step-ladder and a policeman held up the traffic

 
 

McMillan revisited the scene for the front cover of Paul is Live (1993)

 
 

(1988)

 
 

Still from Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996)

 
 

Drawing by Al Hirshfeld

 
 

The Simpsons

 
 

Antwerp Six. From left: Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk Van Saene, Marina Yee, Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck y Dirk Bikkembergs.

 
 

Halston with his collaborators. New York, August 22, 1968. From left: Halston,Frances Stein, Joel Schumacher and Joanne Creveling. Photo: Sal Traina.

 
 

Still from Imagine Dragons’ On Top of the World music video (Matt Eastin and Corey Fox, 2013).