Classic Love Stories for Valentine’s Day: the books and their films

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Wuthering Heights

This is not a feel-good, leaves you smiling and sighing kind of love story. Wuthering Heights is a dark and wintry tale, a story of betrayal, revenge, and misdirected passions. Published in 1847, Wuthering Heights was Emily Bronte’s only published novel; she died a year later at the age of 30. 

There have been several screen adaptations of Emily Bronte’s classic love story, but this is by far, my favorite. No…that’s not stating it strongly enough…this is actually one of my favorite all-time films!  Ralph Fiennes’ performance as Heathcliff is heart-wrenching and unforgettable. The cast, music, and cinematography are remarkable! T’is a dark and wintry tale…well told.  

 1992, rated PG, 105 minutes

Director-Peter Kosminsky 
Juliette Binoche                      Cathy/ Catherine
Ralph Fiennes                          Heathcliff
Janet McTear                            Ellen Dean
Sophie Ward                             Isabella Linton
Simon Shepherd                      Edgar Linton
Jeremy Northam                     Hindley Earnshaw
Jason Riddington                    Hareton Earnshaw
Simon Ward                              Mr. Linton
John Woodvine                       Thomas Earnshaw


Pride and Prejudice

For a lighter, more humorous read, try Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, published in 1813. It has been one of the great romance classics for over two hundred years and never seems to lose momentum. The characters of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are timeless and their witty interactions just plain fun. And you can always count on Austen for a happy ending!

There have been so many film versions it’s hard to count them all but the most lavish production is undoubtedly the 1995 mini-series. At 5 1/2 hours it’s probably best to watch it over several evenings. Jennifer Ehle’s performance may become the definitive Elizabeth Bennet; no one does it better.

Tv mini-series, 327 minutes, 1995

Jennifer Ehle                            Elizabeth Bennet
Colin Firth                                  Mr. Darcy
Susannah Harker                    Jane Bennet
Crispin Bonham-Carter        Mr. Bingley
Adrian Lukis                              Wickham
David Bamber                           Mr. Collins
Lucy Scott                                   Charlotte Lucas


Sense and Sensibility

The first novel published by Jane Austen (1811) it is also one of her best. Marianne Dashwood is especially fascinating, because like so many ladies today, she seems to have a thing for bad boys. And Austen does bad boys rather well.

The 1995 production was nominated for 7 Oscars and 6 Golden Globes including best picture nominations. The film has humor and romance and great performances by a great cast. My favorite is Alan Rickman as the steadfast Colonel Brandon. Tell me where I can order one. And behind the cameras there was Real romance (must have something to do with Austen). Emma Thompson met and later married fellow actor, Greg Wise, who played her sister’s suitor, Willoughby, in the film.

1995, rated PG, 131 min

Ang Lee director-also directed Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi
Emma Thompson                         Elinor Dashwood
Kate Winslet                                   Marianne Dashwood
Gemma Jones                                 Mrs. Dashwood
Hugh Grant                                      Edward Ferrars
Emilie Francois                              Margaret Dashwood
Elizabeth Spriggs                          Mrs. Jennings
Robert Hardy                                  Sir John Middleton
Alan Rickman                                  Colonel Brandon
Greg Wise                                          John Willoughby


Actors Emma Thompson, Gemma Jones, Robert Hardy, Alan Rickman, and Imelda Staunton from the Sense and Sensibility cast, all appeared in the Harry Potter films.


Published by Jane Austen in 1815, Jane warns readers at the beginning of the book of a heroine “whom no one but myself will much like”. And it’s true that Emma is not as likeable as Elizabeth, Jane, Elinor, or Marianne, however by the end of the story she’s catching up (growing up more like) and of course, there’s always the yummy Mr. Knightley. Austen is good at bad boys and good men.

The 1996 version, starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma, won an Oscar for best music and was nominated for best costume design. It’s interesting to watch Tone Collette (the mom in the Sixth Sense) as a 19th century fair maid; I almost didn’t recognize her. It’s a light-hearted romance, maybe not quite as good as some of the other Austen films, but still fun to watch.

1996, rated PG, 121 minutes

Gwyneth Paltrow                                  Emma Woodhouse
Jeremy Northam                                  Mr. Knightley
James Cosmo                                         Mr. Weston
Greta Scacchi                                         Mrs. Weston
Denys Hawthorne                                Mr. Woodhouse
Toni Collette                                           Harriet Smith
Edward Woodall                                   Robert Martin
Phyllida Law*                                          Mrs. Bates
Sophie Thompson*                               Miss Bates


*Phyllidia Law is the mother of sisters Sophie Thompson and Emma Thompson


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