Jane Austen in Manhattan

1980/U.S., 111 minutes

The origins of Jane Austen in Manhattan, also set in New York, go back to the sale of the manuscript of Jane Austen's childhood play, based on Samuel Richardson's novel Sir Charles Grandison, at a Sothebys auction in London. The manuscript was acquired by David Astor, owner of the Observer newspaper, who was quickly approached by the London Weekend Television arts program "The South Bank Show," apparently without actually seeing it, for production rights. Melvyn Bragg, who had co-produced Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures for the program and was at a party for its screening with Merchant and Ivory, mentioned to them that LWT had just acquired an option on the play. Also without having seen the play, they enthusiastically agreed to do the film version. When Ivory received a photocopy of the manuscript, however, he discovered that it "wasn't a complete play, just this childish thing." Yet Jhabvala felt that it could be used as the "seed" for a film in which theatrical groups compete to acquire and produce the Austen play. After The Europeans was made, she prepared the screenplay for Jane Austen in Manhattan, and in January-March 1980 the film was shot on location in New York. Its $450,000 cost was underwritten by a group of investors, including London Weekend Television and Polytel, backers previously of Hullabaloo.