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Why I love Northanger Abbey 1986 / scorn me if you dare!

What I love about Northanger Abbey 1986, by an Austen Addict. #janeausten | top ten list | austen movies

“I promise not to oppress you with too much remorse or too much passion, but since you left us the white rose bush has died of grief.” ~Henry Tilney to Catherine Morland, the final scene of Northanger Abbey 1986.

How many times have I heard that line spoken? 100 times? 1000 times? Probably somewhere in between. The final scene of that film used to be on Youtube and I recall watching it over and over, mesmerized. When it was taken down I switched over to the DVD and kept watching. I’m sure it has escaped nobody’s notice that my business name is taken from the Jane Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey. Now you being to see why!

Mr. Tilney's Proposal bar soap
Mr. Tilney’s Proposal bar soap

Most people don’t have a strong attachment to that film version like I do, and I’ll readily admit it has many flaws, is full of creepy men, and is beyond hilarious for its foibles. But. But. But. It has its moments. I saw it at the impressionable age of 10 years old, my very first Austen film and first exposure to her works. I will always adore it and show it to close friends.

The original inspiration for Mr. Tilney’s Proposal, the white rose scented bar soap that I sell in my shop, was indeed this final scene from 1986. However, the proposal scene in the 2007 film with J.J. Feild also takes place along a hedgerow that I am convinced is full of white roses in the summer.

I’ve introduced many friends to the delights of the 1987 adaptation and I hope to continue!

Years ago when I had my first blog as a graduate school student, I compiled a list of what I thought were compelling reasons to watch this lesser known, somewhat creepy version of Northanger Abbey. Peter Firth is definitely no J.J. Feild, and there is no comparison between them in my mind as to who made the better Henry Tilney. But in my heart, the older film was my first love.

Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey gets down from his horse to propose to Catherine #janeausten

Why I love Northanger Abbey (1986) / written by Laura in 2007

  1. The male lead’s last name is Firth. Peter Firth. No relation to Colin Firth, unfortunately, but this point alone is important enough that I need not go on…(yet I do).
  2. The theme music is excessively melodramatic. Quite laughable, actually. Not at all fitting for Jane Austen.
  3. There is a horrific saxophone and soprano duet during a nature walk that you just can’t miss.
  4. Peter Firth sings somewhat painfully out of tune, but at least he tries. With his own voice–which is more than most can claim.
  5. All the actors and actresses are VERY ugly, except for the two leads who are so-so.
  6. The film was made in the 1980s, with hair to match.
  7. The male antagonist, John Thorpe, is super creepy, and far uglier than any other cast member, except possibly for an old guy in the giant yellow wig  you see in a Bath ballroom.
  8. There is a woman in the same ballroom with a beauty spot on her face 1 inch in diameter. One WHOLE inch.
  9. You can hear Darth Vader breathing in the background sometimes.
  10. Catherine (often) wears her hair with tight curls poking out onto her forehead that looks like a claw.
  11. There are nonsensical daydream sequences!
  12. Henry Tilney somehow wins the heart of the female lead by insulting her on the sly (although at first glance, this also happens in the book!)
  13. Henry wrinkles his nose in one scene, which I find delightful.

Really, I could go on and on. I love this film and always will.

But there is one point upon which I will always be confused. There is no mention of a rose bush either in the novel or in the film up until Henry says it has “died of grief.”

I can only imagine Catherine thinking, “What rose bush?” See my next post on this very important topic.

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