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Friday, March 21

Samantha Morton's Harriet Smith

Since 1991, when she was still only 14 years old, Samantha Morton has been building a solid career in Indie and main stream films. Quirky, outspoken, and talented, this actress is reputedly not easy to work with. However, her body of work as an actress speaks for itself. Her turn as Jane Eyre was so successful that for years I thought of Samantha as a plain woman. More recently she played Agatha, the precog, in Minority Report. As far as I was concerned, she was the real star of that film.

At age 20, with her luminous eyes, delicate cheekbones, and tender performance, Samantha created the best of the three cinematic Harriet Smiths in my opinion. In fact, Samantha's Harriet Smith makes one quite understand why Robert Martin keeps on loving her despite her rejection of his suit, and why Emma took the natural daughter of a gentleman on as her protege. Viewers can judge for themselves this Sunday on Masterpiece Classic when Emma (1996), directed by Diarmuid Lawrence and scripted by Andrew Davies will be aired at 9 pm on your local PBS station. As you can see from these screen shots, Samantha's looks are close to Jane Austen's description of the charming, young, and naive girl with the soft blue eyes. Physically, the only way in which Samantha did not resemble Harriet was that the young actress was quite youthfully slender at the time:

She was a very pretty girl, and her beauty happened to be of a sort which Emma particularly admired. She was short, plump, and fair, with a fine bloom, blue eyes, light hair, regular features, and a look of great sweetness, and, before the end of the evening, Emma was as much pleased with her manners as her person, and quite determined to continue the acquaintance.

She was not struck by any thing remarkably clever in Miss Smith`s conversation, but she found her altogether very engaging--not inconveniently shy, not unwilling to talk--and yet so far from pushing, shewing so proper and becoming a deference, seeming so pleasantly grateful for being admitted to Hartfield, and so artlessly impressed by the appearance of every thing in so superior a style to what she had been used to, that she must have good sense, and deserve encouragement.

Read more about Samantha Morton in these articles:

Read more about Harriet Smith here:

The Woman, The Gypsies, and England: Harriet Smith's National Role

The Enigma of Harriet Smith, Ivor Morris, Persuasions On-line

Image at left: scene after the gypsy attack
First image: Harriet and the girls from Mrs. Goddard's school

Posted by Ms. Place, Jane Austen's World

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