The 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen‘s Sense and Sensibility is, for me, one of the ultimate frock flicks. It’s one of a spate of films from the 1990s that made a strong attempt to achieve period accuracy. Its screenplay was thoughtfully adapted by Emma Thompson, and it was directed with care by Ang Lee. The performances — by Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, and more — are strong and pretty much everyone is well cast. I’ve put off doing a real, thorough review of this film because while it’s not the flashiest, it’s so pivotal to me. So I’ve finally decided to break things up, looking at each main character individually, as well as some of the supporting characters in groups. According to Thompson’s script, the filmmakers have chosen the round year of 1800 in which to set the film – at least, the opening scene is March 1800.
In previous posts, I reviewed Elinor’s wardrobe and went over the basics of English women’s dress around 1800; Marianne, and got into how her wardrobe reflects some specific styles of the 1790s; the older ladies, Mrs. Dashwood and Mrs. Jennings; the bad girls, Fanny and Lucy; and then the rest of the female characters.
Today we’re finishing up by looking at the gentlemen. And, sorry kids, but I don’t care about men’s Regency dress! So you’re basically going to get a bit of man candy.
I did find these snippets about the men’s costume design:
“‘Sense and Sensibility’s’ Col. Brandon (Alan Rickman) opens the movie as an older, subdued man, as shown by his grey flannel jackets. When his joyful marriage to Marianne ends the film, he’s dressed in a red military uniform that transforms him into a dashing young groom” (Kathaleen Roberts. “Clothes make the Movies: ‘Fashion in Film’ Showcases Outstanding Period Costumes.” Albuquerque Journal, Oct 12, 2008).
“Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman), in a magnificent red and shiny gold braid-trimmed army uniform. ‘We discussed this point with the National Army Museum in London. Even though Colonel Brandon had left the army by now, he would have worn a new uniform for his wedding made by his military tailor,’ [costume designer Jenny] Beavan explains” (Grecian Formula).
Played by Alan Rickman, he’s the slightly older ex-military colonel.
Played by Greg Wise, he’s the dashing, well-off heartthrob.
Played by Hugh Grant, he’s well off but humble.
Played by Hugh Laurie, he’s long suffering but turns out to be a good egg in the end.
Sir John Middleton
Played by Robert Hardy, he’s older and well-to-do.
Played by James Fleet, he’s just inherited the Dashwood family fortune.
Played by Richard Lumsden, he’s the younger brother of a well-off family; he’s obsequious and status-conscious.
Which is your favorite of the various men’s costumes in Sense and Sensibility?
Oh, how I miss Alan Rickman.
Also, I never much cared for Hugh Grant, but here, in his turn as Edward Ferrars, I just find him so charming. Is there anyone who doesn’t choke up the moment he declares ‘My heart is, and always will be, yours.’?
I love how Alan Rickman’s costumes look genuinely lived in. That’s just his clothes – not a costume, not fancy, it’s what he put on today and then didn’t think about again. Richard Lumbsden has a similar quality of confident ignorance; his clothes were adjudged as correct, fashionable, and of the moment before he put them on so once dressed he needn’t give them another thought.
By contrast Hugh Grant seems to be holding himself in a posture that shows off the clothes – “Look at my collar! Can you believe it?” He shows the discomfort of the character in his public presentation. He can’t relax because he knows he doesn’t fit into what people (his family) expect of him.
I always loved how comfortable in their own skin he and Elinor seemed at the wedding at the end- they’ve presumably been married for a while and are able to just relax and be happy for Marianne and Brandon, no more stiff presentation or self-guarding.
How any woman could prefer that Willoughby to Alan Rickman’s Brandon is beyond me.
Very nice man-candy in this one!
Apparently Emma Thompson did…I love that they met on this movie and have been married ever since. :)
Years ago, I saw Richard Lumsden in a play in London, and I went up to him afterward and said, “You say my favorite line in Sense and Sensibility,” and he looked quizzical, and I said, “Excellent notion.” He cracked up!
Fun fact: he met his future wife, Sophie Thompson (sister of Emma), while making this movie! :)
Ha! His character is hilarious!
I never did like Willoughby; he always seemed too careless of others – in his wild driving, for example. And when we discover that it was he who seduced and abandoned Col. Brandon’s ward, Beth, – well that was that for me. Marianne was much better off with Col. Brandon.
That’s the point, though. Willoughby is the high school quarterback with the flashy car, but his beauty is skin-deep. Whereas Brandon is 30 years older than Marianne — no wonder she doesn’t give him a second glance — but has a real depth of character and passion.
(I was 12 when this movie came out and Willoughby was one of my first celeb crushes. But now, in my mid-30s, I think he’s a jerk and Col. Brandon is one of the greatest romantic heroes in fiction. Because I grew up, and so does Marianne.)
Actually Brandon is only eighteen years older than Marianne. Thirty five to seventeen if I recall correctly.
I always kind of felt the opposite way (note: about the characters, not the actors. I was always a HUGE fan of Rickman’s). For all his other faults, Willoughby really did seem to like Marianne for who she was. COL Brandon always seemed to view her as a replacement goldfish for his old lost love, which I always (and still do) find incredibly creepy.
Who the heck did Jenny Beavan consult at the NAM about the propriety of a retired officer wearing uniform – the cafe manager? It’s nonsense. I totally get that they wanted to make him look dashing and vigorous for the wedding scene, and they could easily have handwaved putting him in military uniform – after retiring from the regular army he might have become an officer in the local volunteers, which was a very proper and patriotic thing for a leading local landowner to do.
But the uniform coat is a joke – because it is actually an impossible coat for any colonel in any British armed force – regular, volunteer, militia or East India Company – ever to have worn. Clearly Jenny Beavan had seen pictures of British officers with only one epaulette and thought ‘cool, clever of me to know this period detail!’, not realising that a single epaulette was the distinctive mark of a subaltern officer (i.e. captains and below)! A colonel would always have had two. And she had seen both gold epaulettes and silver epaulettes, and coats with gold- laced button-loops and coats with silver-laced ones, without clocking that on British uniforms the metal of the epaulette is always the same as the metal of the lace. Mixed metal was used in continental armies, but never in Britain.
Red was worn by many Swiss infantry regiments, so you could just about get away with calling this a uniform for a Swiss subaltern. But a British colonel, no!
Peak Alan Rickman. Still miss him!
I must watch “S&S” again; I remember Hugh Grant as sweet but a little–dim, feckless. In other words, just not good enough for Emma Thompson (but few heroes are). I agree with gelasticjew’s comment about the Colonel’s clothes: very appropriate and handsome without having that fresh-out-of-Wardrobe look.
I only don’t like the stripes on Mr. Palmer’s coat. The other men’s costumes here are looking very nice.
I would prefer if Col. Brandon would have a pigtail as the costumes are set in the late 1790s (no M-notch visible here) and at least some of the guys should have powder on their hair especially when wearing more formal clothing. But that’s nitpicking from a nerd’s perspective.
Brandon was my favorite even as a thirteen year old (my first time seeing the film) — the way he first enters and is just floored by Marianne always is so romantic, and his eyes are so soulful. I miss him.
I’ve never loved Hugh Grant in this movie, though. He seems awkward, stiff, and uncomfortable in his period clothes, as if he has a pole up his backside. I get that the character is awkward and stiff, but I just kept thinking “modern boy doesn’t belong here.”
Sigh, Alan Rickman. Miss him so.
Oh my heart. I still get all swoony when I see Greg Wise.
Fun fact: He’s married to Emma Thompson.
Alan Rickman’s wedding uniform is my favorite costume here (like Mrs Bennet, I’m partial to men in redcoats). And Col. Brandon is my fave male character. This movie is all-around nearly perfect. And Kendra, I can always snack on man candy, no matter the day of the week.
I also love men in red coats – that’s how I first was attracted to my now-husband. But only men in well-cut, authentic red coats: in which qualities my loved one’s uniform qualified, and Rickman’s, sadly, does not. It’s a stupidly inaccurate sack.
Trust me: if you ever do see a man in an authentically period-cut, well-fitting Regency infantry officer’s coat, you’ll know the difference!