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Davies returns to his very first love.

Byline: By KAREN PRICE Western Mail

In recent years he's taken the country's most famous singleton, Bridget Jones, to the big screen. He was also responsible for lesbian sex scenes broadcast on the BBC. But now scriptwriter Andrew Davies is doing what he does best - going back to the type of bodice-heaving dramas forged from Jane Austen's works which made his name.

ITV has announced a Jane Austen season, featuring three of her novels adapted into TV dramas.

Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion will all get the small-screen treatment.

Cardiff-born Davies, the writer behind the 1995 BBC version of Pride And Prejudice, which famously starred Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, will write the script for Gothic romance Northanger Abbey.

It is not yet known who will star in the production. It tells the story of Catherine Morland who, at the invitation of Henry Tilney, arrives at Northanger, which she believes to be haunted..

But ITV1 is looking for 'big names' and promising the 'cream of British acting talent' for the dramas. The announcement follows the success of the movie version of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley.

The season of TV films is pencilled in for next autumn, with the first drama expected to be Mansfield Park, featuring Jane Austen's unlikely heroine Fanny Price.

Northanger Abbey was published posthumously, and a film version was made in 1986 starring Robert Hardy as General Tilney.

ITV will also show a repeat of its 1997 film Emma, which starred Kate Beckinsale and Samantha Morton.

The romantic comedy of manners was originally seen by 12 million ITV viewers.

Commissioner of ITV network drama Nick Elliott said, 'Viewers love Jane Austen. Her stories always make great TV drama and our Jane Austen season will feature the absolute cream of British acting talent. This is such an exciting prospect.'

Davies is renowned for his costume dramas and among them have been Moll Flanders, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda.

He caused controversy with his adaptation of Neyland writer Sarah Waters's book, Tipping The Velvet.

When it was screened three years ago, he encouraged 'lads' mag' readers to tune in, promising that 'men are going to love it' due to the lesbian sex scenes.

The most famous scene he has been responsible for is Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) emerging from a lake in the BBC's Pride and Prejudice.

The sight of the actor in his soaking wet clothes set female pulses racing and the scene has won countless polls for most memorable TV moment.

However, Davies has defended the sexy scenes. 'Look, I read a book and I would rather adapt it with lots more sex than violence in it,' he once said. 'Isn't that what most people would rather see?

But there is much more to Davies than costume dramas and he was also responsible for taking Helen Fielding's best-selling book Bridget Jones' Diary to the big screen.: Gothic parody:Northanger abbey was written by Jane Austen in 1798 but it was not published until after her death. It is notable for being a fierce parody of the late 18th century Gothic style's fainting heroines and haunted medieval buildings.

Northanger Abbey has a typical Austen heroine, the young Catherine Morland, who is taken to the fashionable resort of Bath with her friends the Allens.

From there she travels to the eponymous medieval abbey, the seat of the Tilneys.

As an impressionable girl, Catherine becomes obsessed with 'hauntings' at Northanger Abbey.

Austen injects a little romance into proceedings and she puts Captain Tilney under the spell of the unpleasant, scheming Isabella Thorpe. The novel's central theme, common to her other books, Emma and Sense and Sensibility, is the peril of confusing life and art, in this case literature.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 11, 2005
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