Top Ten Goofs in Northanger Abbey (2007)

Top Ten Goofs in Northanger Abbey (2007)

Discovering goofs in Austen adaptations can be a challenging endeavor, especially as production quality rises, requiring repeated viewings. This can become something of a chore, keeping an eye on background details and questioning everything repeatedly rather than relaxing into an enjoyable suspension of disbelief. I admit that this time around, I enjoyed every viewing of Northanger Abbey (2007) and almost hate to expose its flaws. I found myself utterly charmed by the lead characters, and appropriately disgusted with both the Thorpe siblings and the Tilney father and first son. I thought the casting was brilliant. I did manage to find a few rather blaring goofs in spite of my delight in the production. For the purpose of establishing the foundation for a few of the goofs, remember that the novel Northanger Abbey is set in the months of January through April 1798.

10.) Out of season apples. In a playful scene, Henry Tilney climbs into an apple tree on the Northanger Abbey estate and tosses apples down to Catherine and Eleanor, who catch the fruit with their dresses as they laugh. I missed the problem with this scene the first few times I watched, but then I recalled when apples are harvested in the United States. Are there green apples that ripen in the spring in the UK? In my first pass at searching, I thought perhaps this scene might be explained by the Bramley apple, cited as a year-round apple. Additional digging, however, revealed that there is no year-round harvest of this variety – it’s kept fresh in cold storage and is merely available year-round. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, since the first Bramley apple tree wasn’t planted until 1809. I’m open to being corrected on this goof if someone in the UK knows of an apple ready to be picked in spring there.

9.) Why didn’t Mr. Morland baptize Catherine? The source material, Jane Austen’s novel, doesn’t give us any information about the baptism or christening of baby Catherine, but it does inform us, in the first paragraph, that her father was a clergyman. I questioned whether there was some reason that a clergyman wouldn’t baptize his own children during that time. That was when I learned that Austen’s father, who was also a clergyman, baptized every one of his children privately within a few days of their birth and again in a formal christening a month later. I think it’s fair to say that Austen would have had Mr. Morland perform the ceremony for his daughter, the heroine of her novel.

8.) A musical mix-up. This goof was a fun one to track. The name of the dance in question is actually “Upon a Summers Day.” We first encounter this dance when John Thorpe takes Catherine to the dance floor and puts his face uncomfortably close to hers when the pair draws together. The next time the dance is performed is at the ball where Isabella Thorpe has told Catherine that she would not be dancing since James Moreland isn’t there. When their group is approached by the Tilney family, the music can be heard in the background although the dancing is happening in another room. We hear an announcement that the next dance will be “On a Summer’s Day,” which not gets the title wrong, but it’s also the dance that has just concluded. The dance that Henry and Catherine perform is an entirely different one.

Catherine dances “Upon a Summers Day” with John Thorpe.
“Upon a Summers Day” is playing in the background in this scene.
Although announced as “On a Summer’s Day” the dance Henry and Catherine perform has different music and steps.

7.) Is the black cravat supposed to be a metaphor? The black cravats seen on both General Tilney and John Thorpe were not yet on the horizon in the fashionable man’s wardrobe in 1798.  Colored cravats were introduced into men’s fashion by Count d’Orsay after his introduction into society in 1821. I almost wonder if, similar to the white-hat/black-hat signal in old westerns, the black cravat was used to mark the bad guys in this production.

6.) What’s wrong with this picture? Don’t get me wrong. The scene is campy and fun. Catherine is reading Radcliff’s Romance of the Forest in the carriage and her imagination cooks up a highwayman scene to rival anything she’s been reading. The goof is that she’s reading in the carriage. She is in the backward-facing seat in dim light, jostling down a bumpy road. Does anyone actually believe one can read in such conditions? One doesn’t need the physical book in hand to venture into flights of fancy.

5.) Mr. Tilney’s magic goblet. Keep your eye on the liquid in the cup. First, he makes it disappear. Then it reappears. Then it disappears again. I feel sorry for the people in charge of continuity. They have a tough job.

He sips first, then nearly drains his cup in one big gulp.
Not to worry – the cup is full again.
Oops. Spoke too soon. The cup is empty again.

4.) Mary Poppin’s carpet bag has nothing on Catherine Morland’s trunk. Small wonder that she harbors expectations of finding something mysterious in the trunk at the foot of her bed in her Northanger Abbey chambers. Catherine Moreland is the proud owner of a magical trunk herself. Her only trunk is the small one you see at her feet as she waits to be picked up by the public coach. The wardrobe she has sported over the course of weeks could not possibly fit in this trunk. At least six garments of the pelisse, spencer, and capelet varieties, thirteen different gowns, along with gloves, slippers, nightgowns, undergarments, and slippers would have to be crammed into the confines of that little crate.  Either the trunk has an interior like the TARDIS, or the prop people did not consult with the costume department. It seems as though she might, at some point, have stuffed the hatbox in there too, since, upon her arrival at Fullerton, the hatbox is nowhere to be seen.

Behold the magic trunk.
Poof. No hatbox.

3.) The mysteries of … The Monk? One can only assume that the screenwriter, Andrew Davies, could not find content salacious enough in The Mysteries of Udolpho, the book Catherine is reading in bed, so he substituted a passage from The Monk for her candlelight fare and the ensuing bathtub dream. The light of day verifies that the book in her hand was Udolpho, so the voiceover we hear of her reading material was from the wrong book entirely.

Reading in bed makes for curious dreams.
Catherine’s Gothic dream.
Her dream was from “The Monk” but her reading material was The Mysteries of Udolpho.

2.) Back again so soon? As Henry leaves in this scene, he calls over his shoulder to Catherine and Eleanor, “I’ll see you tomorrow for dinner.” Having cited his desire to set off for Woodston before nightfall, there is no reason to suppose he would be in the house any time until the next day. We next see Catherine go up the stairs to Mrs. Tilney’s room, where she is almost immediately “caught” by Henry. Unlike in the novel, where he had returned from Woodston a day earlier than expected, he provides no explanation for his sudden appearance. Since both Catherine and Henry are in the same clothing as they were when he rode away, and since it is still daylight, the scene obviously takes place very soon after he was seen leaving. This is a matter of introducing a plot hole by condensing the timeline.

1.) Where did this hat come from? In the scene where Henry shows Woodston to Catherine from a distance, Catherine is wearing a riding hat. She looks rather adorable in it, and as costumes go, I loved it, however, one must ask, did she have sufficient expectations of riding horses when she went to Bath to warrant packing such a hat? She isn’t wearing a habit – her spencer and gown are part of her regular wardrobe, yet we see this particular hat only once, where her other bonnets were worn repeatedly. Would she have even been able to fit it in the hatbox with her bonnets? It would have been easy to establish that it was a loaner from Eleanor, but they didn’t. Of course, the scene itself has other issues, such as Catherine challenging Henry to a horse race back to Northanger Abbey from the Woodston parsonage–a distance of twenty miles–in the rain.

There you have it. Have you spotted any of these goofs or illogical story elements before, or asked yourself the questions that led to exposing them? Do you know of any other goofs I missed? If so, please share them in the comments, along with any thoughts or observations you have about this list or the Northanger Abbey (2007) production.

22 Responses to Top Ten Goofs in Northanger Abbey (2007)

  1. Wow! As always, you have the best posts. I love this version of NA. However, I don’t think I have the same edit that you do. Mine did not have the apple scene [although I have seen it in previews] nor that nude scene. I was shocked to see it in your line up as I’ve never seen it before. I’m going to have to watch this again just to see if it is there. I did catch the goblet goof. As for her habit… or lack thereof… I thought she borrowed something from the former mistress… Mrs. Tilney. Or that is what I remember from the other movie. As for her clothes, perhaps Miss Tilney said she would send her the rest. It could happen.

    These aren’t goofs but other observations I’ve had on this version. When Miss Tilney and Catherine are walking in the garden… when she receives her letter… the hat Miss Tilney is wearing looks so much like the one Jane Bennet [Rosamund Pike] wore in the 2005 P&P movie. The next one is your #4 that entryway and perhaps the house was used in the movie Becoming Jane. I think that is the same one. I just remember her walking down that lane toward the house. Funny how things stick in your brain. I could be wrong. Thanks for the giggle.

    • Oh wow. I didn’t know there were different versions of it out there. The apple scene is wonderful, Henry Tilney is so charming in it. As for the dream scene, it isn’t as shocking as that image might make it seem. I considered using a shot of Catherine neck-deep in the cloudy water of the bathtub, but I wanted a picture that had both characters in the frame, and it was back and forth between them until she stands up. It’s interesting that in the dream, Tilney only looks at her face so it doesn’t feel as gratuitous as that screen capture might seem. Again, I think Davies was using the Gothic themes as representative of Catherine’s transition from a complete innocent into a girl who at least has some stirrings of womanhood. I’ll have to check on the points you mentioned for next month’s trivia post. I love the overlap we sometimes see in these historical films. Thanks for your lovely comment.

  2. The missing hatbox: I think it was still in the wagon in the shot you referenced. Maybe the driver was too lazy to carry both items in one trip, or maybe one of Catherine’s siblings fetched it off-camera.

    • I love this comment. This was actually my first thought too, when I first noticed that the hat box wasn’t there. I watched the clip several times, however, and between the size of the cart, and the way he pulled the trunk out of it I realized that it was unlikely that the hat box was there. The way you looked for a plausible explanation put a huge smile on my face though, because I had considered exactly the same scenarios at first. I do think that a lazy driver would carry both items in one trip, to save the steps. The weight of the hat box would be insignificant compared to the trunk, and wouldn’t block his view either. Generally, I think that people who deal with unloading and managing baggage look for the most efficient approach that will take the fewest trips. The reason I love this comment so much is that you have done to me exactly what I did to the production. Question. Well done!

  3. I wouldn’t catch any of these as I watch things for enjoyment only. I’d have to sit down again and watch it with your list in front of me. I love this version of Northanger Abbey. Love these posts too!!

    • Thank you, Teresa. My default is to watch for enjoyment too. I have found that looking for these goofs in the adaptations has made me better at picking up issues in my writing too. Questioning everything makes me think deeper on things that may seem fine superficially. I guess what I’m saying is that I think I’m the one who benefits the most from writing these posts. I always appreciate your comments. 🙂

  4. I love these goof posts. You have such careful eyes – I would never catch a tenth of those things!
    I do like this version of NA, though. I find it captures the characters so nicely.

    • We are in agreement on this version – the actors truly inhabited their roles to perfection. I found myself crushing on JJ Field as Mr. Tilney in a big way, and Felicity Jones’ portrayal of a wide-eyed innocent coming into maturity was so well done. As for the goofs posts, their days are numbered. I’m going to run out of Austen adaptations to cover fairly soon, but it’s been a fun series to do.

  5. I need to see a version of Northhanger Abbey! You have good eyes I probably wouldn’t notice things like that!lol

      • Cindie, this particular work of Austen’s doesn’t have a lot of adaptations out there. Just two that are from the Georgian era, and one modern. Of them, this one, 2007. with Felicity Jones and JJ Field is the one I would recommend.

  6. Andrew Davies seems to have to have something rather salacious in his Austen adaptations, and I’m rather insulted for Jane Austen. As to goofs, one wonders if they are just due to human imperfection or just sheer carelessness. I guess we may never know.

    • You are right. Adding undertones of sexuality does seem to be part of Andrew Davies’ particular brand. In this adaptation, he uses the racier passages from “The Monk” as a plot device to show us that the innocent Catherine is experiencing something of an awakening by proxy in reading the Gothic novels. There is one scene where she confesses to having rather wicked dreams to Eleanor, who just smiles knowingly. As to the question of goofs, some are the result of carelessness, others from cutting together pieces from multiple takes into one scene. I suspect that is what happened with Henry’s beverage. Other goofs appear to be intentional, such as using text from “The Monk” instead of “The Mysteries of Udolpho.” I believe that they took a gamble that modern readers wouldn’t have read these novels, and wouldn’t know the difference. Same thing with the dance. It’s highly possible that they realized the errors but assumed that nobody would notice, and in some ways they are right. Most people don’t.

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