Before Pride and Prejudice, there was Sense and Sensibility. Though written first, it was not the first version of Jane Austen’s work filmed. Instead, it was the capping production of the BBC’s 1970-1980’s spate of Austen adaptations. First shown in 1985, with a screenplay by Alexander Baron (known for his 1980’s productions of Poldark, Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist and Vanity Fair...he seems almost to mirror Andrew Davies' proclivity!) and directed by Rodney Bennett (Dr. Who, Madame Bovary), this Sense and Sensibility is a much more complete or true to the book version than it’s 1995 counterpart. While entirely leaving out the character of Margaret Dashwood, this version does contain several other scenes which were cut for the Thompson version, including: Willoughby singing with Marianne, Edward visiting the Dashwoods for a week, and Willoughby attempting to see Marianne in the middle of the night. This last scene, I feel, is crucial to the story and I could not understand why it was omitted in the later version. As one viewer remarked: "The BBC adaptation of this novel tells the story in a more careful, smooth way, true to the novel, few thrilling scenes, but more charming ones. There is time to look at the characters, to feel with them, to see Jane Austen's English humour in some scenes and her feeling for romance. Sometimes I think there are real people on the screen, not heroes." The character of Elinor is played by Irene Richards, already a seasoned Jane Austen actress with her portrayal of Charlotte Lucas in the 1979 version of Pride and Prejudice. It is interesting to note the similarities in these characters:
- Both were characterized by "sense", though Charlotte's lot seems a little grim from that respect. One cannot, however see Marianne marrying a Mr. Collins.
- Both married tolerably well off, though by no means wealthy parsons, who were dependent on their respective patrons.
- Both were "past their first bloom", however one is tempted to attribute Elinor’s "fade" to her brother’s imagination...she was only 23 compared with Charlotte’s 27.
- Both parsons had to be turned down in marriage by others before proposing to their respective wives.