With the latest adaptation of Persuasion being released on Netflix and being savaged by critics, I thought it was time to have a look at the previous versions of the novel. As one of Austen’s less popular novels, there have been less adaptations than novels like Pride and Prejudice or Emma.

Persuasion was first published on 20 December 1817, six months after the death of Jane Austen, and it tells the story of Anne Elliot, a young Englishwoman, who falls in love with a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but is persuaded he is not worth marrying due to his lack of social rank. Seven years later, Anne meets Frederick again at the home of his sister and realises she never stopped loving him. Frederick, now a distinguished man, is ready to settle down and is looking for a suitable wife but he still harbours bitterness towards Anne for her previous rejection. After the usual misunderstandings, Wentworth and Anne both realise they can only be happy with each other and they eventually marry.

Persuasion (BBC 1960)

Persuasion (BBC) starring Daphne Slater as Anne and Paul Daneman as Wentworth

The first televised version of the novel was made by the BBC and was a four-part mini-series starring Daphne Slater as Anne Elliot and Paul Daneman as Captain Frederick Wentworth. The series began on 30 December 1960 and was shown weekly in 30 mins episodes. Unfortunately the series appears to have been lost.

Persuasion (ITV 1971)

Persuasion (Granada) starring Ann Firbank as Anne and Bryan Marshall as Wentworth

In 1971, Granada Television produced a five-part series for ITV directed by Howard Baker and starring Ann Firbank as Anne and Bryan Marshall as Wentworth.  The series was first aired on 18 April 1971 to a mixed reception as the leading lady was actually 38 years old when her character was a decade younger. The costumes leave a lot to be desired, as do the hairstyles, but it is awarded bonus points for being filmed in Bath.

Persuasion (BBC 1995)

Persuasion (1995) starring  Amanda Root as protagonist Anne and Ciarán Hinds as Wentworth

It would be more than fifteen years before Persuasion appeared on our TV screens again and it was once again adapted by. the BBC with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds in the starring roles. The film was directed by Roger Michell and adapted from the novel by Nick Dear who was keen to capture the more mature themes of the book. Since the BBC was partnered by  WGBH Boston and a French company, Millesime, the budget was high enough for the filming to take place in the real places mentioned in the novel. 

Persuasion originally aired on 16 April 1995 on BBC Two but was given a theatrical released in the US on 27 September 1995. The film was well received by critics and Root was singled out for her strong performance despite it being her film debut. The film won several awards, including a BAFTA for Best Costume Design, Best Design, Best Original Television Music, Best Photography and Lighting and Best Single Drama.

Persuasion (ITV 2007)

Persuasion (2005) starring Sally Hawkins as Anne and Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth

A decade later, it was ITV’s turn to adapt a new version of the novel starring Sally Hawkins as Anne and Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth. The film was adapted by Simon Burke and directed by Adrian Shergold. Persuasion was one of three novels adapted that year for the channel’s Jane Austen season, alongside Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey, which were deliberate choices to highlight some of Austin’s lesser known works. The film was aired on ITV on 1 April 2007 and was well received by critics and Austen fans, and is generally considered the best of the three films.

Persuasion (Netflix 2022)

Persuasion (2022) starring Dakota Johnson as Anne

Following on from its success with the Bridgerton novels, Netflix decided to turn its attention to Jane Austen and commissioned a new version with Dakota Johnson in the title role. Directed by Carrie Cracknell from a screenplay by Ron Bass and Alice Victoria Winslow, the film was released on Netflix on 15 July 2022 and has been largely panned by critics for dumbing down the novel in an effort to make it bright and breezy like Bridgerton. The choice to have the main character offering asides to the viewer and glancing directly at the camera at certain points is frankly annoying. The dialogue is also far too modern and some characters are unrecognisable from their book counterparts.