Trivia Challenge Emma (1972)

Trivia Challenge Emma (1972)

If you’re a regular reader of the Austen Authors blog, you know that for the past couple of years my posts have been primarily dedicated to Austen adaptations. I create a matched set for each title. I start with a “goofs” post, and four weeks later, the “trivia challenge” post on the same production. A few weeks ago, as I was organizing my Austen Authors files, I discovered a goof of my own. Somehow, and I really don’t know how it happened, after I posted goofs on the 1972 television adaptation of Emma, I skipped right on to a different title. Oops. I considered just letting it be – it seemed that nobody even noticed, but it’s niggling at me now, so today we are going back to the 1970s to revisit Emma trivia. As I learned with the other Austen adaptations from this era, production details are sparse, but I did manage to discover a few interesting bits of trivia. Relax and enjoy as we go back nearly fifty years to explore this early BBC offering. This quiz is entirely true/false questions, so feel free to guess. You may get some right just by luck!

Quiz: (True or False)

  1. Doran Godwin, who played Emma, was the oldest of all the actresses who have portrayed the title role television and film productions of Emma.
  2. The only cast member who has been involved with other Austen adaptations was the screenwriter.
  3. The entire production was filmed in television studios.
  4. The actress who played Mrs. Goddard, Mollie Sugden, gained international fame the same year as Emma was released, but for another role.
  5. All major cast members from Emma 1972 are either deceased or retired.
  6. The actors who played John and Isabella Knightley are brother and sister in real life.
  7. The theme song for Emma 1972 was written for the series by British composer, Benjamin Britten.
  8. There is more than a ten-year difference in age between Doran Godwin (Emma) and Ania Marson (Jane Fairfax).
  9. The green dress looks better on Mrs. Hurst than it did on Mrs. Elton.
  10. The white dress looks better on Emma than it did on Caroline Bingley.

Time to check your answers.

10.) The Polish Audrey Hepburn. Ania Marson, the actress who portrayed Jane Fairfax, is one of two cast members from Emma 1972 still working in the film industry. The other is her on-screen love interest, Robert East, who played Frank Churchill. His most recent role was on the Netflix series, The Crown. Ania was born in Poland, and her ethereal beauty reputedly earned her the descriptor “The Polish Audrey Hepburn.” Click here to see some of her recent work.

Ania Marson as Jane Fairfax.

9.) The sole Austen crossover in the cast. Denis Constanduros, the screenwriter of Emma 1972, also wrote the screenplay for Sense and Sensibility 1971 and outlined the screenplay for Sense and Sensibility 1981. His involvement in the 1981 screenplay was short-lived because the outline is as far as he got before he passed away in 1978. He also wrote the screenplays for several other classic novels, as well as books and scripts for radio.

Denis Constanduros, screenwriter.

8.) The Twenty-ninth of May. The theme song for the series isn’t a modern composition, but a song first published in 1651 in John Playford’s “The English Dancing Master,” and therefore in the public domain. In addition to being the theme song of the Emma 1972 television series, the tune is played by Mrs. Weston for dancing at the Cole’s dinner party at the end of the third episode. It is also used for the opening dance at the Crown ball, and the next day, Emma hums the tune as she puts cloves into an orange. The title of the song is a reference to the arrival of King Charles II in London.

7.) Who wore it better #1 There is a green gown and overdress with vandyke points trim at the neckline that Fiona Walker as Mrs. Elton wears to dine at Hartfield in Emma. The same costume was worn eight years later to the Netherfield Ball by Jennifer Granville as Mrs. Hurst in Pride and Prejudice. She is seen as a background character at the ball, so there are two different images, one is dancing, the other in conversation by the fireplace.

The left panel is the green dress on Mrs. Elton. The center and right panels are the dress on Mrs. Hurst.

6.) Mrs. Goddard’s next position. In 1972, Mollie Sugden, the actress who portrayed Mrs. Goddard, went from being a headmistress in Emma, to Mrs. Slocombe, the “Senior of the Ladies Department” in the BBC comedy series, Are You Being Served? a role that gained her international fame.

Mollie Sugden as the very proper Mrs. Goddard and as the less proper Mrs. Slocombe.

5.) Robbing the cradle. John Carson (Mr. Knightley) was 45 and Doran Godwin (Emma Woodhouse) 22 was when the series was first aired in 1972. Doran was likely twenty-one when filming was underway, which would put her at the same age as the character she portrayed. This also gives Doran the distinction of being younger than Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Beckinsale, Romola Garai, or Anya Taylor-Joy when they were also playing the same character. While Doran was the youngest, John Carson was the oldest to portray Mr. Knightley. Johnny Flynn and Jonny Lee Miller were both 37, the same age as their character. Jeremy Northam was 35 and Mark Strong was 33. The age difference between Doran Godwin and John Carson is 23 years.


Mr. Knightley proposes to Emma

4.) An eight-month age span. Doran Godwin (Emma Woodhouse) was born in a different decade than Ania Marson (Jane Fairfax) by only a day, having been born on New Year’s day, 1950, while Ania was born in May of 1949. Basically, both actresses were around 22 when the series was first aired, putting them quite near their character’s actual age. This is appropriate since they are the same age in the novel also. I read a number of reviews claiming that Doran was in her thirties, but the math doesn’t lie.

3.) Keeping it in the family. The three children of John and Isabella Knightley are named in the credits on IMDB as Henry, John, and Bella Knightley. I found a few references that reported that the actors who played John and Isabella were real-life brother and sister, no doubt because the children’s names echoed the parents. It is the children of the Knightley family who are in fact siblings, Arran, Yves, and Belinda Tighe, listed in the series credit as “The Tighe Family.”

2.) Who wore it better #2 There is a white muslin gown with pearls on the bodice that Doran Godwin as Emma Woodhouse wears to the Crown Ball. The same frock is worn in Pride and Prejudice (1980) by Caroline Bingley the first evening Elizabeth is at Netherfield after Jane has become ill. Who wore it better?

White muslin with pearl detail worn by Emma (left) and Caroline Bingley (right).

1.) Unspecified location. Most of the sources I found on this series indicated that the production was filmed entirely in television studios, but the opening scene clearly shows a carriage pulling up to a stately home. There are also outdoor scenes at Box Hill, and on the grounds at Hartfield. Other Austen adaptations list the credit to locations even if they were only a brief exterior shot. I did some sleuthing and found that the credit should go to Uppark House in West Sussex. Although it is harder to verify, it seems likely that the garden scene at the end was filmed on the grounds there as well. I’ve included the link to the National Trust web pages, which presents a fascinating and drama-filled history of this lovely house. I’ve added it to my list of must-see destinations for when I finally make it to England. It’s unclear how much of the interior set design was inspired by this house, but after looking at a number of pictures, I think the entire set was definitely inspired by it. Even the views from windows and doors reflect the position of Uppark House on high ground with a vast vista before it.

Uppark House

Well, that’s a wrap on this series, unless there are some modern adaptations you’d like to see included. Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed one of your favorites. Oh yes, back to the quiz. How did you do? Were you surprised by any of the answers?

Quiz Answers: 1.) False. 2.) True.  3.) False. 4.) True.  5.) False.  6.) False. 7.) False.  8.) False.  9.) Your answer is correct. 10.) Your answer is correct.

10 Responses to Trivia Challenge Emma (1972)

  1. I never watched this adaptation but enjoyed learning these interesting tidbits about it.

  2. What fun! I love trivia! I had forgotten Molly Sugden was in that I love her as Mrs. Alpine she is so funny!

    • She’s hilarious. When I was watching this adaptation, it was niggling at me. I knew that her face was familiar, but I just couldn’t figure out where I knew her from. It was such a fun realization to sort out where I knew her from.

  3. I love these posts. They are so informative. You really have to dig to find these tidbits. I appreciate learning behind-the-scenes information. LOL! Thanks for sharing. Blessings, stay safe and healthy.

    • You are right that I had to do some digging for this one. Last month’s post spoiled me, thanks to so much available information I had to pick and choose from the best ones. This time, I came close to internet stalking on some of the cast members! I am sincerely glad that you enjoyed it.

  4. These posts are always so fun. I’ll have to find that adaptation and see if it’s available to watch. I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen it.

    • Considering the technology they were working with, it’s actually very well done, in my opinion. It’s quite faithful to the novel, and there isn’t any overacting by minor characters to steal the scenes. Emma’s arc is more nuanced than in some of the other adaptations but she has an organic growth that really shows how her newly-gained maturity has prepared her for marriage. According to IMDB, it isn’t on any of the streaming platforms at present, but if you’re interested, I know you can still get the DVD on sites like Amazon and Ebay.

      My copy is part of a boxed set of early TV adaptations from the BBC (1970’s and 80’s) that includes six titles – Sense & Sensibility, Emma, ??Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey.

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