One of the greatest pleasures of costume drama is, of course, the costumes. Stories set in different places and times invite us into their world and tell us about their characters through the details and artistry of the wardrobe. Whether it is a real-life couple who were world-renowned fashion icons like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Edward & Mrs. Simpson or a legendary bawdy heroine like Fanny Hill, the costumes are an integral part of the story-telling. Costume designers study fashion, history, and literature and actors often say that their performances are inspired by the feel of the clothes. Many work closely with costume designers to help create their characters. Whether it is the high collars of the Victorian era or the high waists of Jane Austen’s characters a century earlier, from the exquisite hand embroidery on a lace-trimmed ball gown to the correct placement of the sleeve buttons on a soldier’s uniform, from the lacing on the corset to the plume in a hat and the starch in an apron, the costumes help make the story real and enthralling. On this new DVD, the designers tell their stories, with comments and appearances from stars like Helen Mirren, Alex Kingston, Keira Knightley, Gillian Anderson, Jeremy Irons, John Hurt, Daniel Radcliffe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ioan Gruffudd, and Colin Firth. This is an outstanding behind-the-scenes documentary that is sure to give you a better appreciation of costume drama and remind you of favorites from the BBC you want to re-watch and new series you want to try.
This is a very special contest with not one but two utterly delectable DVD sets, both series based on classic books and both originally shown on PBS.
Emma (2009) is based on the novel by Jane Austen (already filmed with Gwyneth Paltrow and adapted for “Clueless” with Alicia Sliverstone). It is the story of a rich and beautiful young woman who gets into trouble when she tries to arrange the lives of those around her. This luminous new version stars Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller, with Michael Gambon as Emma’s father.
Cranford This gorgeous collection includes both the original miniseries and the sequel, Return to Cranford. Both are based on the Elizabeth Gaskell novels set in the mid-1800’s. The title town is a small traditional English village and the story is a gentle but candid look at the lives of the women in particular as they deal with love, loss, and changes large and small. Sisters Deborah and Matilda Jenkyns (Eileen Atkins and Judi Dench), and their young and slightly more worldly relative Miss Smith (Lisa Dillon) are the kind and understanding center of a community that is sometimes gossipy or prejudiced. Part of its charm is seeing the town adapt to modern ideas and technologies that are both thrilling and terrifying, like the techniques of the new town doctor and the coming of the railroad. The wonderful cast includes Imelda Stanton and Francesca Annis.
TO ENTER: Send an email to email@example.com with Emma/Cranford in the title and answer this question: Who is your favorite Jane Austen character and why? Three winners will be randomly chosen from all eligible entries received before midnight eastern time on February 12. (Legal blah blah below)