On this day: the premiere of Little Women

little-women-is-a-1933-american-pre-code-drama-film-directed-by-george-cukor-and-starring-katharine-hepburn-joan-bennett-frances-dee-and-jean-parker

The 1933 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic book Little Women premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York on the 16th of November. Starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo, Frances Dee as Meg, Jean Parker as Beth, and Joan Bennett as Amy, all of the girls’ characters were played by women significantly older. Spring Byington played Marmee.

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In its initial run, the film broke attendance records, and it went on to be nominated for a number of Academy Awards. Husband-and-wife scriptwriting team Victor Heerman and Sarah Y. Mason won for their screenplay.

 

 

Pride and Prejudice Adaptations: BBC’s 1980 Production

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Garvie David Rintoul Elizabeth Bennet Mr Darcy

I think it would be accurate to say that at first, with its low production values and the I feel like I’m watching a play sense it gives off, I didn’t love the 1980 Pride and Prejudice. However, it has grown on me so much I now consider Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul to be the real Elizabeth and Darcy, and each time I watch it I find another little moment that makes me enjoy the production more.

 Pride and Prejudice 1980 Final Proposal Scene Sonya Heaney

The second proposal.

This version is often touted as the one that is closest to the book, and I think people mean in spirit rather than page by page, as there are plenty of differences. The silliest one would have to be Elizabeth running all the way to Pemberley when she finds out her sister has taken off with a man, though the scene that follows really works for me.

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Despite occasionally looking like a young woman straight out of the late 1970s, complete with shoulder-length frizzy hair, Elizabeth Garvie captures the archness and the manners of the Elizabeth Bennet of the book. She is polite but also witty, and she has the youthfulness and growth that I find sorely missing from Jennifer Ehle’s interpretation in 1995.

I can see why Darcy was confused when she rejected his first proposal, as unlike Ehle, who scowled and rolled her eyes whenever Darcy was within shouting distance, Garvie’s Elizabeth is a lovely young woman trapped in an embarrassing family with poor finances.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 David Rintoul Mr Darcy Rosings Sonya Heaney

Darcy sees Elizabeth at Rosings

David Rintoul is the only Darcy I find physically attractive (though don’t do what I did and Google recent images of him!). He is tall and intimidating and oh so aristocratic. Criticisms of him playing the role too stiff and dull are probably justified, but the more I watch him, the more I catch his subtle smiles and his meaningful looks. By the end, when he is shocked and happily surprised Elizabeth wants to marry him, he does much more with the scene than fan favourite Colin Firth ever did in the 1995 version.

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You see him change over the course of the story, and gradually see what’s going on beneath that exterior and that posh, posh voice. I’d marry him. Even if this version of his house is in desperate need of a clean! Those black stains on the exterior!

Elizabeth runs to Pemberley Pride and Prejudice 1980  Sonya Heaney

Elizabeth runs to a rather dirty Pemberley!

Together, they work perfectly for me. They didn’t toss all the social rules out the window, and when Elizabeth starts crying about Lydia’s elopement, all Darcy can do is hover, unable to touch her to comfort her.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Darcy Lydia's Elopement Pemberley Sonya Heaney

I love when period dramas can capture that total absence of physical contact and the strain it causes, and I’d love to see more of that in historical romance books.

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Elizabeth and Jane

Jane and Bingley work for me in this version. Jane is pretty and smiling and has lovely manners without being insipid. The scene where she first glimpses Bingley from a window and starts waxing poetic about him after two seconds is utterly ridiculous, but I don’t have any other complaints.

Pride and prejudice 1980 Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley Episode One

Bingley is a bit of a dorky oaf, but he is also a genuinely nice man. He is the only Bingley out of the 1980, 1995 and 2005 versions who isn’t a bumbling idiot. While I don’t think he’s even remotely handsome, he’s a good person, has a physical presence, and is the only one who is a match for Darcy.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Mr and Mrs Bennet Episode One

Mr and Mrs Bennet are the closest to the characters from the book. Most adaptations make Mr Bennet too nice, and I like what was done in this version. It should never be forgotten he has made some selfish decisions that have put the ladies’ futures in jeopardy.

As for Mrs Bennet, she over-talks without being a screeching idiot (a la 1995). She remembers who she is and what social customs need to be followed – as she would have! – but still manages to overdo things. She’s the best version of this character I have seen.

P&P19806Mrs Bennet Lydia Bennet

A very old-looking Lydia!

The rest of the Bennet girls are not so good. Though I believe the actresses were close to the ages of the characters they were playing, both Lydia and Kitty look middle-aged and I can never tell them apart.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 The Bennet Sisters Episode One

Mary Bennet Pride and Prejudice 1980

God only knows what they were thinking giving Mary that hairstyle. She looks out of place in the family. Could they have made the nerdy one look any more clichéd? It’s a little offensive.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Lrida and Mr Wickham

Mr Wickham is too unattractive for his role, sorry!

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Mr Collins Charlotte Lucas

I loved what they did with Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins. This is the ONLY Mr Collins who matches the description from the book. And he’s a dope without being a slimy paedophile. Charlotte is not ugly, but plain, and she is a lovely friend for Elizabeth.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Chalrotte Elizabeth Episode Three

There’s a totally made-up scene where the two girls laugh over a floatation hat, and though it’s a huge departure from the book, it gets a laugh out of me every time.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Episode One Mr Darcy Caroline Bingley Sonya Heaney

I believe the actress playing Miss Bingley is a direct descendant of the aristocracy, and I think she was perfect in her role.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth bennet Lady Catherine de Bourgh

Just as I think this Lady Catherine de Bourgh is perfect in hers.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 David Rintoul Mr Darcy Rosings Park Sonya HeaneyPride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Garvie Elizabeth Bennet Rosings Park Sonya Heaney

A shared smile as Lady Catherine drones on.

The way she holds court in her scenes is perfect, and I especially love the smile shared between Elizabeth and Darcy when the woman just keeps droning on.

 Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Bennet Mr Bingley

Questionable costuming and décor:

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Bingley at Netherfield Park

It has to be said that overall this production looks pretty dreadful. It’s not grand enough, and some of the costumes are odd. Though I am glad they didn’t try to make all the day dresses for the girls overly sexy, because that just wasn’t how it was (there’s A LOT of cleavage on display during the day in the 1995 version). However, the buildings are rundown and the filming looks cheap.

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I suppose though, in the end it doesn’t matter. This is a character-based story, and I fell in love with this Elizabeth and Darcy more than any other.

Outlander 1×12 – Or the episode where we wonder why everyone has stopped speaking Gaelic!

This is also posted HERE.

Outlander 1x12 Jamie Claire Sonya Heaney

This seems to be the episode that made even diehard Outlander fans admit the show has lost sight of the book. The funny thing is that while I had a few issues, it didn’t offend me and I wasn’t as worked up about it as I was about some others.

One thing I wasn’t thrilled with was the penises. Sorry, but I’m serious. I get that Black Jack Randall is trying to rape Jamie’s sister, Jenny. What I don’t need to see is the actor whipping out his penis and rubbing it to try and… you know… in order to do the deed. Remember in the past when people equated actresses with prostitutes? Well, I think these days it’s fair to say actors have rather a lot in common with porn stars… I don’t think it makes me a prude to say I don’t want to watch actors actually masturbating on television.

Outlander 1x12 Jenny Black Jack Randall Sonya Heaney

Don’t worry, I spared you the penis shots…

And then we had naked Jamie in all his glory in the stream.

Yeah. I don’t need to see that.

As for the rest of the episode?

Outlander 1x12 Scottish Scenery Sonya Heaney

I thought they did a good job with the scenery in this one. I also liked that they didn’t portray the English as totally evil (rather, they were helping) in the one scene they appeared in.

Outlander 1x12 Claire Sonya Heaney

I was complaining that we never saw the discussions about Claire and Jamie’s ages, a discussion that should have been in the last episode. Now that they put it in, I wish they hadn’t. Neither actor looks young for their age (in fact, I’d say Balfe was older), and trying to claim they’re a decade younger… did not work.

I’ve seen it mentioned that the actress playing Jamie’s sister would have made a better Claire than Caitriona Balfe. I agree. Firstly, we have the size difference (which is a big thing in the books):

Outlander 1x12 Jenny Jamie Sonya Heaney

She is also a more passionate character – as Claire is in the books. And there’s no way in hell I believe these two are siblings. They don’t share a single physical characteristic!

Outlander 1x12 Jenny Sonya Heaney

However, both Jenny and Claire came off as nagging and a bit nasty in this episode. I’m not sure why this show is being lauded as a “Girl Power!!” show when they portray women so badly. There was no need for their first scene together to result in Claire being called a trollop!

And then we have one of my big issues: why is nobody speaking Gaelic??!! When this show started, there was a big deal made about Claire not understanding anyone. And the promotional videos featured the language expert teaching us phrases.

And they’ve dumped it! Everyone is not only (unrealistically) fluent in English, but they’re ONLY speaking English.

Outlander 1x12 British English Soldiers Redcoats Sonya Heaney

This is basically a filler episode. I can see why fans are complaining about it, because not much happens. HOWEVER, this is following the book, and this is a slow part of Outlander, so I’m not sure what viewers expected!

Finally, I was a little bit pissed off with the supposed joke about the food offered at the dinner table. Basically, it was something we eat in Ukrainian culture on a regular basis. And – seriously – Claire from 1940s England does NOT get to joke about anyone else’s food!

Outlander 1×11 – or the episode where they conveniently had a witch trial years after Scotland stopped trying and burning witches.

Outlander 1x11 Claire and Jamie Sonya Heaney

This is also posted HERE.

This article suggests that many long-term Outlander fans are projecting their expectations onto their experiences watching the show, because the adaptation is failing on a few levels. People are seeing what they wish they were seeing, rather than what they’re actually seeing. I agree.

The reason I – and people who aren’t thrilled with every aspect of the adaptation – continue to watch Outlander is for the big moments. This episode had a couple of the biggies we wanted to see taken from the book and put onto the screen.

It’s the episode where Jamie finds out Claire is from the future. It is also the episode Claire decides to stay in the past with Jamie.

Outlander 1x11 Jamie Sonya Heaney

Did they get it right? Yes and no. Sam Heughan got Jamie just right – he was perfect. I loved his genuine regret for beating her. Better than the book, I think. However, they wasted so much time on the witch trial we missed some of the Big Moments from the Jamie and Claire story.

Outlander 1x11 Geillis Claire Trial Court Sonya Heaney

I do love how the television show tried to fix historical errors made by Diana Gabaldon (the so-called queen of historical accuracy!) in this episode. It was very clunky, but at least they acknowledged that trying people for witchcraft was indeed outlawed in Britain before 1743. It’s such a crucial part of the story, but also very much an anachronism.

Outlander 1x11 Crowd Sonya Heaney

The lack of head-coverings for the women is really starting to bug me!

The beginning of the episode is all about the trial. It’s different from the book, playing up Laoghaire’s villainy, which is a little disappointing. This so-called feminist show is doing a wonderful job demonising the pretty teenage girl. It’s bad enough the book’s fans (who are old enough to know better) already childishly call her “Leg Hair”. We don’t need to encourage more of that nonsense.

Outlander 1x11 Geillis Duncan Trial Court Sonya Heaney

Lotte Verbeek is perfect as Geillis in this episode. I did wonder why she wasn’t even mentioned when both she and Claire were standing there on trial together (all the evidence was against Claire) but she made the most of the scenes.

However, they left out crucial things – where did Jamie suddenly come from when he was supposed to be days away?!

And then they added others – Ned with a flipping gun?!

Outlander 1x11 Claire and Jamie 2 Sonya Heaney

But what we were all waiting for was the big revelation: Claire is from the future.

Was it done right? Well… no, it wasn’t.

I doubt many people who have read the book expected Claire’s big revelations about her time-travelling to be as it was done in the show. What I always remember from that scene in the book is Claire’s hysterical laughter, and Jamie’s goosebumps, and much more drama.

Claire’s quiet, emotionless revelations didn’t have much of an impact for what is supposed to be one of the BIGGEST moments of the entire show.

Jamie’s reactions were brilliant, but there was just so much missing from the whole thing. For example, show Claire might have shown the same courtesy as book Claire and warned Jamie about Culloden!

More importantly, we never got to see Claire start to disappear through the stones. This is how Jamie is convinced Claire is from a different time. In the show Jamie never gets any proof.

Less trial and more emotional time-travelling scenes were definitely needed!

Hmm. It seems Ron Moore really has no idea what is important to the story. I get that he wants to give his secondary actors something to do, but it should never be at the expense of the good stuff.

Outlander 1×10

This has also been posted HERE.

 Jamie Claire Outlander 1x10 Sonya Heaney.

My first thought about this episode was: where’d the book go??

There’s adaptation, and then there’s throwing the book out the window and just making stuff up. I specialised in scriptwriting and book adaptation at university, and so I understand better than almost anyone the importance of not simply putting a book onto the screen. That’s not how it works. But I also know it could have been done better.

Oddly, characters from many episodes were suddenly brought back for big storylines, without any build-up.

Outlander 1x10 Claire Jamie Murtagh Sonya Heaney

The opening scene was… weird. Surely it wasn’t necessary for Murtagh to barge in on Jamie and Claire – naked – in their bedroom! It was really, really odd how nobody seemed to have a problem with it. Jamie and Claire aren’t peasants; they’d have expected a little more respect than that!

Geillis Duncan Dance Outlander 1x10 Sonya Heaney

My biggest disappointment was what they’ve done with Geillis, because the big reveals about her character were either given away here, too early in the story, or were ruined by a bizarre naked (always with the naked women in this show!) dance in the forest. Surely I wasn’t the only one worried she was going to set all that floaty fabric – or her hair! – on fire during that scene.

I’m going to spoil you here if you haven’t read the book.

So. Don’t read unless you want to know:

Geillis Duncan is from the future, just as Claire is. In fact, she’s from further ahead in time than Claire, and this is revealed in a shocking scene where Claire sees her immunisation scarring just before Geillis is taken away, condemned to death.

This – one of the best moments of the whole book – was ruined by this episode. How can they ever do that scene now Claire has already seen Geillis frolicking around with no clothes on? And her pregnancy has also been revealed too early. All the cool stuff from the book – gone!

Outlander 1x10 Sonya Heaney Simon Callow Duke

On a better note, Simon Callow is a great addition to the cast. I also like the glimpse we were given at the life of a Georgian era aristocrat. Up until now, the lives of the Outlander characters have almost looked mediaeval. In fact, I’ve read some magazine articles that accidentally attribute that time period to the show.

Outlander 1x10 Duke Simon Callow Sonya Heaney.

Well, the lives have looked bleak apart from the fact the costume designer continues to dress Claire in a wardrobe fit for royalty (mixed with some very modern knitwear). Where the holy hell are all those clothes coming from? Who is paying for them, who is making them, and don’t try and tell me they’re hand-me-downs when Claire is twice as tall as every other woman in the show!

Outlander 1x10 Claire and Geillis Sonya Heaney

Geillis’ costumes and hairstyling are so incorrect for the time period it makes Reign look historically accurate! This wouldn’t be an issue if both author Diana Gabaldon and the people working on the show didn’t keep bragging about how historically accurate they are!

Outlander 1x10 Geillis and Claire Sonya Heaney

This is a choppy episode. That’s what tends to happen when you start adding in stuff that isn’t part of the original story. There’s good and bad and there’s some pretty stuff to look at, but too much of it was made up for no reason I can understand.

Some of the best scenes from the book have been omitted from the show, apparently so the producers can bore us with the nuances of Scottish politics and the main female characters’ breasts. So much for the much-lauded “female gaze” the show is supposed to have!

Argh! It’s so annoying. I want to love this show and I really want to see the book coming to life on the screen. But more often than not these days, Ron Moore has totally missed the mark.

Outlander 1×09 – the infamous wife-beating episode

This has also been posted HERE.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Domestic Abuse Wife Beating 2 Sonya Heaney

This is THE episode. The one book readers have known would be difficult to do. It’s the one I decided would help me determine if I wanted to continue with the show or not, because – to be honest – I thought up to here Outlander was getting consistently less-good, rather than better.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Jamie Sonya Heaney

To begin with a negative: the voiceover. It needs to go. It’s no different to a bad author who tells everything instead of showing it, and it’s especially bad in a situation where you’re already seeing the story play out in front of you.

Handing voiceover duties to Jamie instead of Claire is a huge departure from the first book, and while Sam Heughan is ten times the actor Caitriona Balfe is, his voiceovers add nothing at all to the show. Why would they when they’re totally unnecessary?

However, I did like to see a bit more Jamie, because he’s practically been a background character for much of the show so far. Talent wasted until now.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Start Scottish Scenery Sonya Heaney

My next thought about this episode was that they finally made the most of the Scottish countryside. Everyone has been praising Outlander for this from the beginning, but until this episode I didn’t think they had done Scotland justice. 1×09 fixed that. It was gorgeous.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Scottish Scenery Sonya Heaney

I thought they did a good job with the whole fort rescue thing, but Ron Moore is so obsessed with having Balfe’s breasts on display (or another woman’s if Claire’s not in the scene!) that it’s starting to really annoy me.

However, the whole scene looked as expensive and exciting as you’d expect from a movie.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Rescue Redcoats Sonya Heaney

After this, we hit the part of the book where author Diana Gabaldon had a field day with her misogynistic beliefs (her comments about feminists and women under forty make my blood boil!) and her pseudo-historical accuracy arguments. I found this comment on The New York Times review of the episode to explain my thoughts better than I could articulate them:

 Outlander 1x09 Historical Accuracy Diana Gabaldon Wife Beating Rape Domestic Abuse

However, the vast majority of people also lived fairly limited lives. They stayed in one place. They were born, they lived, they died, and they did it within small, local communities. Women were at risk from the men in their own family, not from every stray male in Scotland and half the British army. They did not go traipsing all over Europe encountering sexual peril from strange men at every turn. I enjoy Outlander, for the most part, but let’s be honest about the role of history here. Galbadon preserves those aspects of the 18th century that facilitate violence and disregards the rest (ie, all the bits where Claire wouldn’t have ever been in any of these situations to start with, because she would have been at home, by the fire). History isn’t a shield against criticism when it’s selective history… 

The point is, Outlander is semi-historical fantasy and the author made choices – most of which maximize the potential for violence, particularly sexual violence. It wasn’t a necessity dictated by historical correctness, and it’s completely fair to question and critique those choices as a reader/viewer.

The show really changed the book’s scenes around a lot, which I’m sort of disappointed about. Because the whole Outlander franchise is continually lauded as a feminist’s dream, I’d have liked for more people to see this part of the story as Gabaldon insisted on telling it. There’s a lot about the story that has nothing feminist about it.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Sonya Heaney

For example, the show’s producers removed the part where Jamie shook Claire so hard she had bruises all over her arms. In the show, they have Claire slapping Jamie instead. I was horrified to see a lot of men commenting on this episode, saying what a ‘stupid bitch’ Claire was. The show is making Claire out to be annoying rather than an abuse victim.

In the book, there are some sex scenes with very dubious consent – which many say constitutes the rape of Claire. In the show, that’s all gone. Show Claire is practically a dominatrix!

What viewers should stop and remember is that the show badly screwed up the timeline so it is very condensed. In the space of twenty-four hours, Claire has been sexually assaulted by two different men, had to kill someone in self-defence, been abducted by Black Jack, physically assaulted, generally traumatised. And then her husband – and the other men – thinks she deserves to be physically punished for nearly getting raped twice.

 Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Domestic Abuse 1 Sonya Heaney

All on the same freaking day!

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Domestic Abuse Wife Beating 2 Sonya Heaney - Copy

However, even with attempting to add a feminist bend to a misogynistic theme, they DID keep the wife-beating in. And it pissed me off that it was presented as the episode’s comedic relief, complete with clichéd Scottish music blasting through the entire scene. Even with them leaving in Jamie’s line about enjoying beating her with a leather sword belt, it was clearly supposed to be funny.

This is the best reaction to this sexist scene I have read:

The theater went fucking wild when they realized what this scene was—apparently it’s a fan favorite from the books. I of course had no idea what was coming. I listened to the disturbingly upbeat musical score underlying the scene and assumed Jamie was intentionally riling up Claire to protest loudly, so as to make the men downstairs think he had beaten her when he actually hadn’t.

Jamie eventually corners his new bride, rails on her ass with his leather belt, and grins his head off as she screams and writhes in pain. “I said I was going to punish you, I didn’t say I wasn’t going to enjoy it,” he says.

…It was a fascinating moment of cognitive dissonance: we both knew the show had crossed a line, but no one else seemed to. Violence against women in the media is disappointing but never surprising. A theater full of women delighted by violence against women is the height of disturbing.

The way this was dealt with in the show, it made the beating seem even less necessary than it did in the book.

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Snow Sonya Heaney

Following this they really departed from the book and things got turned around. The episode segues into a lot of scenes involving Scottish politics, which I’m just not in it for. I know some people are happy for a break from the Claire and Jamie soap opera, but I’m seriously not at all interested in the secondary characters!

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Laoghaire and Jamie 1 Sonya Heaney

They’ve (probably wisely, because this is a bit of a loose end in the book) done a bit more with the Jamie/Laoghaire relationship, but I’m not sure I like what it does to his connection with his wife!

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Laoghaire and Jamie 2 Sonya Heaney

Now, we have a mega sex scene at the end. Done well, but I NEVER need to see the lead actor sucking on the breasts of the lead actress. This is not porn!! Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Outlander 1x09 The Reckoning Claire and Jamie Sex Sonya Heaney

The tamest screenshot you’ll find!

Will I keep watching? I’ll finish the season. Some things were better than I expected, but I just don’t know if I plan to invest in this any further. It’s a gorgeous-looking show, but I never much cared for the books beyond the first one, either. The level of sexual sadism Gabaldon revels in is unnecessary and upsets me.