Persuasion 1971 Review

6 Apr

I intended to have this miniseries watched and the review written by Sunday night, but I didn’t even get to finish watching it until last night. Oopsies. It’s “only” about four hours long but I guess I underestimated how long it would take me.

I’ve seen this adaptation twice before now. The first time I just found it a dead bore. Other than Anne’s ridiculous bee hive hairdo and green plaid dress, it didn’t leave much of an impression. The second time I tried to pay closer attention and I did find a couple things to like. This time, my opinion remained pretty much unchanged, except I was able to notice some of the changes made from the novel. You’d think with such a long run-time, it would be extremely faithful. Is it? Well, yes and no. It does follow the novel pretty closely for the most part. Unfortunately, sometimes this can lead to really boring and dull scenes that are good on paper but don’t translate that well to the screen. For example, the adaptation starts with Sir Walter reading aloud from The Baronetage as it introduces the characters he mentions. I found this a bit awkward. Who was he supposed to be reading to? Himself? And on the other hand, this version still managed to cut some things out- such as little Charles breaking his collar bone and the whole aftermath with Anne having to miss the party. I thought that was a somewhat important scene, so I was really confused when I noticed it was cut altogether.

The Characters

Ann Firbank as Anne Elliot

The only things that stood out about her were that horrible hair style and dress. None of the costumes were really that great, yet for some reason the main character has to get stuck with the worst one! And none of the other women had such a horrible hairstyle either. Definitely 1970s, not 1810s!  Her acting left something to be desired as well. For one thing, she was about ten years too old for the character and looked it. I laughed in the beginning when Lady Russell mentioned that Anne kept her good looks and figure by not marrying….Um, what? She looks like the oldest sister here. She had a little bit of Anne’s inner strength, but most of the time she just looked…maybe complacent is a good word for it. She had a slight smile, like in the above picture, all the time. Like she could never show too much emotion. So not a horrible performance, but not great either.

Bryan Marshall as Frederick Wentworth

He was decent but nothing special. He was good-looking and charming enough so you could understand why all the ladies were charmed with him. I don’t get those huge sideburns though.

Basil Dignam as Sir Walter Elliot

I found his performance (aside from the reading of the Baronetage) to be fine, but I was confused by his appearance. Wasn’t Sir Walter supposed to be a very good-looking man who doesn’t look his age? This guy was in his 60s and looked it.

Valerie Gearon as Elizabeth Elliot

She was the best thing about this adaptation for me. She gave a great portrayal of the cold, haughty, proud Elizabeth of the book. She’s beautiful and full of herself and oblivious to Mrs. Clay’s true intentions.

Morag Hood as Mary Musgrove

Her performance was pretty good. We got to see both the whiny hypochondriac side of her as well as some scenes were she’s a bit more cheerful. Thanks to the extended length of the miniseries, this lets us understand a bit more how Charles can tolerate her (compared to the later, shorter adaptations).

Marian Spencer as Lady Russell

Her acting was perfectly adequate- but I don’t remember Lady Russell being old enough to be Anne’s grandmother! She also tells Anne that she only accepted Wentworth’s proposal 8 years ago because he was the first man who had paid her such attentions. Um, what? I don’t remember anything like that in her reasoning in the book!

David Savile as William Elliot

He was okay. I really have to strain my memory to even remember him. He probably made the least impression on me than any other character in this, even the really minor ones.

Rowland Davies as Charles Musgrove

He really looked like an immature boy to me. I don’t know how old Charles was supposed to be in the book but maybe it was just Davies’ pudgy baby face.

Zhivila Roche and Mel Martin as Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove

Henrietta was pretty good, but the actress for Louisa was just a bit too over the top. She was just too immature and girlish that it was really a stretch to think that anyone would take her seriously as a potential partner for Wentworth.

Noel Dyson and William Kendall as Mrs. and Mr. Musgrove

They were both fine in their small roles but I have to mention one thing. Look at how slender Mrs. Musgrove is. Mr. Musgrove does have a bit of a gut, but is still not that huge. Yet Mary’s complaint about being squashed in the carriage with the girls because these two are apparently so large and take up too much room was left in. Um, what?

Polly Murch as Mrs. Smith

Her acting was okay, but her scenes were too drawn out.

Charlotte Mitchell as Mrs. Clay

She was just too old for the role. I don’t think Mrs. Clay is supposed to be in her 40s. I did like the addition of the scene of her and Mr. Elliot eloping- the night Elizabeth was holding a party too, haha!

Michael Culver as Captain Harville

He was adequate but I just included his picture because I thought he was good-looking.

Georgine Anderson and Richard Vernon as Sophia and Admiral Croft

The actors weren’t actually that old, but they looked older and therefore more like Wentworth’s parents than sister and brother-in-law.

?? as Captain Benwicke

Who is this mysterious man? He’s not even in the cast list on IMDB! Anyway, I thought he looked weird, like a mannequin or something, with the orange skin, weird bone structure, and the hairstyle.

Final Thoughts

I don’t know if you could tell by my less than enthusiastic comments, but this adaptation did not leave much of an impression on me. I thought it was a bit of a bore, despite liking other older adaptations. Some of the actors were good, others were bla. Some of the scenes were good, others went on too long.

My Rating: 6/10

5 Responses to “Persuasion 1971 Review”

  1. Julie April 6, 2011 at 6:35 AM #

    Surprise! I agree with you. Bo. Ring.

    • Amanda Bruce July 8, 2014 at 7:29 PM #

      I don’t think it was boring at all! They did change it somewhat, ’tis true, and although I wasn’t entirely satisfied, I don’t agree that it was boring. On a side note, Captain Benwicke was portrayed by a British actor by the name of Paul Chapman. Look him up!

  2. drush76 July 7, 2011 at 4:15 PM #

    It’s not a bad adaptation. It’s pretty decent, if you want to spend a rainy day watching a 3-4 hours miniseries.

  3. Ava August 27, 2014 at 7:19 PM #

    The 1960s and 70s managed to make it into this Jane Austen adaptation. The high-rise hairdo and granny dresses were staples of that era. Elizabeth’s dresses seemed more the. Regency style. I like this adaptation more each time I see it; I think it’s simply because I love anything. Austen.


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