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Jane Austen in Manhattan (1980)

Two teachers vie for the right to stage a play written by Jane Austen when she was twelve years old.


James Ivory


Jane Austen (libretto Sir Charles Grandison), Samuel Richardson (libretto Sir Charles Grandison) | 2 more credits »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
David Redden David Redden ... Auctioneer
Michael Wager Michael Wager ... George Midash
Robert Powell ... Pierre
Gael Hammer Gael Hammer ... Unsuccessful Bidders
Peter McPherson Peter McPherson ... Unsuccessful Bidders
Nancy New ... Jenny
John Boyle John Boyle ... Chair Carriers
Tim Burke Tim Burke ... Chair Carriers
Philip Lenkowsky ... Fritz
Charles McCaughan ... Billie
Sean Young ... Ariadne
Katrina Hodiak Katrina Hodiak ... Katya
John Guerrasio John Guerrasio ... Gregory
Tim Choate ... Jamie
Kurt Johnson ... Victor


Two teachers vie for the right to stage a play written by Jane Austen when she was twelve years old.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance







Release Date:

July 1980 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Jane Austen See more »

Filming Locations:

Albany, New York, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


According to the Merchant Ivory Productions official website, "The origins of Jane Austen in Manhattan (1980) . . . go back to the sale of the manuscript of Jane Austen's childhood play, based on Samuel Richardson's novel 'Sir Charles Grandison', at a Sothebys auction in London. The manuscript was acquired by David Astor, owner of 'The Observer' newspaper, who was quickly approached by the London Weekend Television [LWT] arts program The South Bank Show (1978) apparently without actually seeing it, for production rights. Melvyn Bragg, who had co-produced Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures (1978) for the program and was at a party for its screening with Merchant and Ivory, mentioned to them that LWT had just acquired an option on the play. Also without having seen the play, they enthusiastically agreed to do the film version. When [director James] Ivory received a photocopy of the manuscript, however, he discovered that it 'wasn't a complete play, just this childish thing'. Yet [screenwriter Ruth Prawer] Jhabvala felt that it could be used as the 'seed' for a film in which theatrical groups compete to acquire and produce the Austen play. After The Europeans (1979) was made, she prepared the screenplay for Jane Austen in Manhattan (1980), and in January-March 1980 the film was shot on location in New York. Its $450,000 cost was underwritten by a group of investors, including London Weekend Television and Polytel, backers previously of Hullabaloo [Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures (1978)]". See more »


Featured in The Wandering Company (1984) See more »

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User Reviews

Austen on Stage
30 April 2016 | by sol-See all my reviews

Having acquired the rights to a play penned by Jane Austen during her childhood, an avant-garde theatre director attempts to do justice to Austen's words and "bring her up-to-date" while a former associate tries to convince his actors to perform the play more traditionally in this little seen Merchant-Ivory film. Robert Powell, fresh from 'Harlequin' (where he played an equally hypnotic character), is solid as the avant-garde director in question who believes that "we all live in clichés" and that his fey vision is faithful. Anne Baxter in her last big screen performance is also well cast as his former associate. It is not, however, always interesting to watch them argue source material fidelity and with much talk and limited atmosphere and action, 'Jane Austen in Manhattan' has found a reputation as Merchant-Ivory's nadir. Such an assessment may be a little harsh, however, this is very much one of those films where the story behind it is more fascinating than the movie itself. Apparently James Ivory acquired the film rights to Austen's play without having even read it. Upon reading the play and finding it insubstantial for motion picture (Austen was, of course, very young when she wrote it), Ivory almost passed it up until Ruth Prawer Jhabvala suggested making a film about those who wish to and attempt to perform the play - not unlike 'Adaptation.', to which the film sometimes has been compared. This in turn renders 'Jane Austen in Manhattan' one of Merchant-Ivory's most intricate efforts, and if a failure, it is certainly an ambitious one.

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