Mansfield Park [1999]

In 1983, the BBC made this 261-minute miniseries from Jane Austen's novel Mansfield Park. Austen explores the well-tread theme of class distinction and the triumph of love, but Fanny Price (Sylvestra Le Touzel) is an original Austen creation. Fanny, from a large and poor family, is taken into the home of her wealthy uncle and aunt, the stoic Sir Thomas Bertram (Bernard Hepton) and the childlike Lady Bertram (Angela Pleasence, daughter of actor Donald). Also residing at the posh Bertram mansion are the oldest son, irresponsible Tom (Christopher Villiers), distant Julia (Liz Crowther), and the kindly Edmund (Nicholas Farrell). If you can get past Le Touzel's odd mannerism of making little chopping movements with her open-palmed hand for emphasis, this is a faithful adaptation of the novel. It's much slower than Northanger Abbey and lacks some of the passionate drama of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, but it still depicts a strong yet very kind heroine who stands up for what she believes in. When popular philanderer Henry Crawford (Robert Burbage) actually falls for and proposes to Fanny, she rejects him, much to the surprise and disdain of the Bertrams--except, of course, for our hero Edmund. For trivia buffs: Jonny Lee Miller, who plays young Charles Price (one of Fanny's brothers), has the role of Edmund Bertram in the 1999 theatrical version of Mansfield Park. --N.F. Mendoza

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