Emma (1972)

TV Mini-Series  |   |  Comedy, Romance
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This BBC production, set in the small town of Highbury depicts the often hilarious attempts of Miss Emma Woodhouse to make proper marital matches for all of her friends. Though often ... See full summary »

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Complete series cast summary:
Doran Godwin ...
 Emma Woodhouse (6 episodes, 1972)
John Carson ...
 Mr. Knightley (6 episodes, 1972)
Donald Eccles ...
 Mr. Woodhouse (6 episodes, 1972)
Constance Chapman ...
 Miss Bates (6 episodes, 1972)
Ellen Dryden ...
 Mrs. Weston (6 episodes, 1972)
Debbie Bowen ...
 Harriet Smith (6 episodes, 1972)
Raymond Adamson ...
 Mr. Weston (6 episodes, 1972)
Timothy Peters ...
 Mr. Elton (5 episodes, 1972)
Vivienne Moore ...
 Williams (5 episodes, 1972)
Robert East ...
 Frank Churchill (4 episodes, 1972)
Ania Marson ...
 Jane Fairfax (4 episodes, 1972)
Mary Holder ...
 Mrs. Bates (4 episodes, 1972)
Fiona Walker ...
 Mrs. Elton (3 episodes, 1972)
 Mrs. Goddard (2 episodes, 1972)
John Alkin ...
 Robert Martin (2 episodes, 1972)
Amber Thomas ...
 Patty (2 episodes, 1972)


This BBC production, set in the small town of Highbury depicts the often hilarious attempts of Miss Emma Woodhouse to make proper marital matches for all of her friends. Though often mistaken in her judgement, she is counseled and criticised by her neighbor and brother-in-law, the wise Mr. Knightley whose attentions to her are motivated by more than brotherly love. Written by Teresa B. O'Donnell <sun.moon.stars@worldnet.att.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Romance


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Release Date:

20 July 1972 (UK)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


(6 parts)


Aspect Ratio:

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Did You Know?


The white floral-print muslin gown with cut-out sleeves Doran Godwin (Emma Woodhouse) wears at Hartfield, while discussing Jane Fairfax's "reserve" with Mr. Knightley, is the same gown Sabina Franklyn (Jane Bennet) wears at Longbourn in Pride and Prejudice (1980) following the Meryton Assembly ball. See more »


The characters are seen playing cards with a modern deck of cards that show both the suit symbol (hearts, clubs, spades, clubs) and a number on each corner. During the time period the movie was set in, playing cards did not show the number of the card in the corners. See more »


Version of Emma (1996) See more »


The Twenty-ninth of May
From John Playford's 'The English Dancing Master', First Edition (1651)
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User Reviews

A very loving and literate adaptation; how Austen would have liked it.
15 October 2009 | by (Germany) – See all my reviews

The appealing nature of this adaptation is its length and its fun. Characterisaton comes close to the work Davies did in 1996 for A&E, although it differs somewhat. That might be down to the literary criticism of the day, though, and particularly in the judgment upon Harriet as a dull, stupid cow. Davies was a little more nuanced in his judgment upon all characters, but nonetheless, the work Denis Constanduros produced was very true to the spirit of the novel and made use of the comedy elements in the original text. Particularly in costume and the one character of Mr Woodhouse Constanduros produced classic comedy that was about words rather than one-liners and ridiculous situations.

Also the age-difference between Emma and her Mr Knightley is very much apparent. Knightley is not as vigorous as Mark Strong in the role, but this Mr Knightley has not the task of radiating sex-appeal, but rather radiating stability and wisdom through experience, like Austen's version.

Despite the lack of technology to make shots and filming on location truly possible, they did well. There is also no music which made it necessary for the actors and director to truly act and film the characters' feelings so the viewer could comprehend them. It is surprising how they managed to still convey the same emotional tension (or even more of it than they do now) through mainly just close-ups. That, though, might slightly bother the modern viewer. However, through it, viewers are compelled to use their own brain more than with modern adaptations of the novel.

Most of the contents is not toned down, only maybe the complicated business with Churchill and Jane when things are going wrong in the end. The main point of Emma and Knightley's blindness to each other stays upward better than in the Miramax version of 1996. And that without all that Miramx had to their disposal.

It is the only adaptation of the work as well, that uses the wordiness of Austen. It is important as a viewer that one listens more than that one watches. We could easily just make the adaptation in a hear-play, it would make little difference. The language is so expressive and the comedy is so much embedded in it that the physical acting matters less. And that is what Austen is about: it is no slapstick, but pure wordy wit. We have come a long way since the 1970s in comedy.

All in all, a satisfactory adaptation without sex-appeal, but with sweetness. I daresay, how Austen would have liked it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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