Today brings some bonus celery content.
Last year, one of my pretty-good ideas was to go through my small collection of DVDs and look up the release date of each film, and then try to re-watch the film near the release date1. Back at the end of September 2022, the film of the week was the 1996 version of Emma, an adaption of Jane Austen’s novel of the same name (the release date according to IMDB was August 30, 1996).
It had been a while since I had watched this particular DVD, and although I enjoyed the film, the quality of the transfer to DVD was relatively poor. Partly making up for that was a fun surprise in the script: a mention of celery (root).
A tiny bit of context: Emma Woodhouse fancies herself a matchmaker, and is trying to pair up Mister Elton and Miss Smith. Emma has convinced Miss Smith that Mister Elton is the one for her, but persuading Mister Elton is proving to be more difficult.
During a walk in the countryside, Mister Elton and Miss Smith are talking about a recent party attended by Mister EltonTranscription of dialogue from the 1996 film Emma, at around 32:55 on my DVD, Miramax 15862?
Miss Smith: Do you mean it?
Mister Elton: I do. I swear I do.
Miss Smith: Oh, it’s too wonderful!
Mister Elton: I love–
Cut to Emma, standing on a path within earshot of the pair
Emma (internal voice): Can this be? The declaration? [of love by Mister Elton]
Cut back to Mister Elton and Miss Smith
Mister Elton: I simply love…celery root! And what should they be serving but…
Mister Elton and Miss Smith together: celery root!
Cut back to Emma, her face showing disappointment that Mister Elton was professing his love of celery root and not Miss Smith.
Alas, this bit about celery root seems to be an invention of the screenwriter Douglas McGrath. Austen’s novel (at least the version of Emma on Gutenberg) has only one mention of celery, and there is no proclamation of Mister Elton’s love of the vegetable:
Mr. Elton was still talking, still engaged in some interesting detail; and Emma experienced some disappointment when she found that he was only giving his fair companion an account of the yesterday’s party at his friend Cole’s, and that she was come in herself for the Stilton cheese, the north Wiltshire, the butter, the celery, the beet-root, and all the dessert.From Emma, by Jane Austen at Gutenberg
Have any other film or TV adaptations of Emma also stretched Mister Elton’s feelings about celery or celery root?
- Drawing of celeriac (celery root) from “The standard cyclopedia of modern agriculture and rural economy, by the most distinguished authorities and specialists under the editorship of Professor R. Patrick Wright”, Volume III, The Gresham Publishing Company (London), 1908. Via Flickr Commons. Full text available at the Internet Archive. Public domain.
- Screenshots from the DVD of Emma (1996)
- One side effect of the process is to reveal that there are some duds in my collection, like Destry Rides Again, a film that is included in a box set of James Stewart films (it also includes such gems as Vertigo, Rear Window, Harvey, and Winchester 73, which more than makes up for Destry. Among its flaws are a bunch of lousy actors and a weak script. IIRC, Marlena Dietrich’s character and performance in Destry was the inspiration for Mel Brooks’ Lili Von Shtüpp character in Blazing Saddles.