Emma 1972 Review

10 Dec

It took me quite a bit longer to rewatch this than I intended. I was just so woozy and tired from being sick that it was hard to pay attention for long periods of time. It definitely didn’t help that this is my least favorite Emma adaptation, either.

It wasn’t terrible, it really wasn’t. Yes, it’s got the usual sub-par production values and theater-like acting custom from the period dramas of the time, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed  other adaptations made in the same way. Despite its length, it made a few changes to the story (such as making the Dixons a couple who wanted to hire Jane…?) that puzzled me. And it felt slightly boring and draggy at times as well. But I think the main reason I couldn’t connect with it was the actors. Or really, one main actress- Emma herself. I’ll get into that in detail below.

The Characters

Doran Godwin as Emma Woodhouse

She was my main problem with the series. I just couldn’t connect with her at all. In this picture she looks rather youthful, but during the series she came off as much older and more mature than the Emma of the book. I was shocked to read she was only 22 at the time, because I would have guessed her to be at least 30. I think it was the way she spoke- a very clipped, fakey aristocratic accent. At least I hope it was faked and that she didn’t really talk like that in real life! I never saw any real emotion from her- it was all so artificial.

John Carson as George Knightley

Well, he was better than Emma. He wasn’t awful, but he was a bit too old for the part (45 to Knightley’s 36) and looked it. Still, he played the part decently enough. He was stern with Emma when he needed to be but you could tell he was fond of her too. Still, it didn’t look like a romantic interest to me. Maybe because of his age? He seemed more like a father figure in my eyes.

Donald Eccles as Mr. Woodhouse

I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but his Mr. Woodhouse was way too nimble and active. He’d be curled up in a chair blabbering about gruel and the next second he’d be jumping all around the room, giving warnings to the other characters not to eat certain things. Was it supposed to be funny or did they just not get it? I just found it puzzling, because he was obviously not the weak old man he claimed to be.

Debbie Bowan as Harriet Smith

I thought she looked the part but all I really ever remember her doing is saying “Miss Woodhouse!’ all the time. It’s also strongly implied that Emma pretty much dictated her refusal to Robert Martin word for word. And we don’t actually see Robert until close to the very end either.

Robert East as Frank Churchill

Perfectly adequate. He wasn’t bad; he wasn’t great.

Constance Chapman as Miss Bates

She was quite a bit older than I imaged Miss Bates but she played the part well. I found it interesting (and not really in a good way) that when Emma goes to see her after Box Hill, she apologizes outright for what she said. Yet Miss Bates was totally clueless and seemed to have forgotten all about it, despite being upset at the time.

Ania Marson as Jane Fairfax

I actually thought she was pretty good. Very reserved to the point of coldness at times. It was weird that she told Emma at the end, after her engagement was public, that it was all an act to keep up appearances. Um…okay. I was pretty sure that it was because she and Emma had never been intimate and she was upset and jealous about Frank and Emma’s flirtations.

Fiona Walker as Mrs. Elton

I thought she was great as Mrs. Elton. Really obnoxious and stuck-up, always blabbering about Maple Grove and trying to control everything. Unfortunately her husband wasn’t very memorable at all so I’m not even going to bother posting a picture of Mr. Elton.

?? as Isabella Knightley

I couldn’t even find this actress’s name in the cast list. I only posted a picture of her because I thought she looked more like she could be Emma’s mother, rather than her sister. I wanted to see how old she was, but no dice.


The Westons were decent. I especially liked Mr. Weston. Unfortunately it seems like the only ones who made an impression on me were negative. This is really one adaptation that I found so boring a lot of the time that I couldn’t even find enough to say about it. I can’t really recommend it except to complete a Jane Austen collection.

My Rating: 5/10

One Response to “Emma 1972 Review”

  1. Rosie February 17, 2011 at 2:18 AM #

    This is not my favorite adaptation of “EMMA”. But it is not my least favorite either. My least favorite is the A&E movie with Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong.

    I agree that Doran Godwin came off as a bit too mature for the role of Emma Woodhouse, despite being at least 22 years old at the time. I am well aware that John Carson was 45 years old at the time. But I must admit that I really enjoyed his performance as George Knightley.

    In all, this is a pretty solid adaptation that is closer to the novel than any of the other versions. My only problems with this production is Doran Godwin and Fiona Walker, who came off as an obnoxious 1970s divorcee.

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