The Complete Jane Austen
Masterpiece Theater on PBS is in the midst of a several months long presentation of the complete works of Jane Austen. The series also includes a new film Miss Austen Regrets, an imagined look at Jane Austen's life as she approaches 40. The film stars Olivia Williams and Greta Scacchi and airs this Sunday at 9pm on PBS.
If you like Jane Austen at all you will enjoy this film which is very well done with an excellent portrayal of Jane Austen by Olivia Williams. I know that I have asked myself the question about Jane Austen's life and this film gives you a glimpse (using the limited correspondence she had with her sister Cassandra) into the life Jane may have led as a published, successful author who was never a complete success since she did not marry.
Rebecca Eaton, Executive Producer of Masterpiece Theater took some questions from Women & Hollywood about the series.
Women & Hollywood: Why did you want to air the complete Jane Austen?
Rebecca Eaton: It was an unmissable opportunity because you rarely get a chance to do the complete works of any author on TV. She wrote 6 books, all of which are film friendly and it just seemed like a perfect opportunity.W&H: I see there is a new host (Gillian Anderson) for the series. Why was now the right time to update?
RE: This is a part of a whole rebranding of Masterpiece Theater. We did a lot ofW&H: Have you announced the hosts of the other genres yet?
research and realized that there were some perceptions that we could improve on. One of the things we have done is to organize the programming into three different genres: Masterpiece Classics, Masterpiece Mystery, and Masterpiece Contemporary. We always had those kinds of programs anyway but they were all mixed together. So we put all our classic programming together and in this case its Jane Austen and then we will do mysteries in the summer and contemporaries next fall.
We realized that each of these groups has an opportunity to have its own identity and hosts are ambassadors to the program. That's the signature of the series. And we thought that Gillian Anderson would be the perfect ambassador because she's lived in this country as well as England, because she's done classics like Bleak House as well as the X-Files.
RE: No, not yet.W&H: Why do you think that Jane Austen still resonates so much with people?
RE: I think she always has. Her books have never been out of print and I think its a combination of elegant writing and satisfying story. There is depth to them, they are social commentaries, comedies and love stories all rolled into one. Her voice is so elegant and clear and you are sort of swept along. I think that in some ways she only wrote one story, the story of a marriageable woman who faces the possibility of either not marrying or marrying the wrong person or not recognizing the right person when she sees him. And I think choosing a mate, for men or women, is one of life's great adventures and that's what this is about.W&H: How does the Miss Austen Regrets fit into the series?
In Jane's day, choosing a mate was more than an emotional experience it was also economic because sometimes your whole family's economic future depended on whether you could find someone to support you.
RE: I just thought it was very plausible. Whether it was true or not we'll never know as Gillian Anderson says in her introduction because there are so few diaries and letters left that we can only imagine. I think it's a very respectful imagining of what might have happened, and it does ask the question - if this woman understood men and women so well and was fascinated by love, why didn't she have it in her own life? I think with the fragments of fact that the writer had they put this together in a very plausible way and you can see that she made a choice and her choice was probably made in order to preserve her own sense of self. It put her family at great economic disadvantage, yet she did have a love of her life who was arguably her sister Cassandra. They had a very deep and wonderful relationship.
What we are hoping that people who have come to Masterpiece Theater for the first time because of Jane Austen will stay because coming up in April is A Room with a View (new production) and My Boy Jack with Daniel Radcliffe and Kim Cattrall. Then comes Cranford with Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins and Imelda Staunton.W&H: You were inducted into the Paley Center's She Made it Hall of Fame this year. Any comment?
RE: I was very proud and surprised. There should be more of us.Schedule for Masterpiece Theater:
Feb 3 - Miss Austen Regrets
Feb 10, 17 and 24 -Pride and Prejudice (The really good one with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett
Mar 23 -Emma (with Kate Beckinsale)
Mar 30, Apr 6 - Sense and Sensibility
Apr 13 - A Room with A View
Apr 20 - My Boy Jack
May 4, 11 and 18 - Cranford
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