Pride and Prejudice (1995) Mini-series – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my seventh selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are now closed for new participants, but you can join us in reading all the great reviews and comments until December 31, 2013.

My Review

Eighteen years after it first aired on BBC One in October 1995, the television mini-series Pride and Prejudice (1995) is still blowing bonnets off Janeites and wowing them in the aisles! This week in London a twelve foot statue replicating Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy’s famous wet shirt ascent from the Pemberley pond was revealed. Its super hero size seems apropos in relation to the impact that the mini-series had on Britain in 1995, in the US when it aired on A&E in 1996, and the world. If that was not eye-popping enough, the scene recently topped a poll of the ten most memorable British TV moments! We will be bold as brass and claim it as the most memorable TV moment in period drama evah!

Mr Darcy twelve foot statue (2013)

Wet shirt Darcy may have fluttered hearts across the world, but let us not forget that there are five hours and thirty nine other minutes to enjoy too. The screenplay based on Jane Austen’s 1813 novel was written by Andrew Davies and introduced a more energized and sexier version of the classic love story than viewers had previously experienced with the 1980 BBC mini-series or the 1940 MGM theatrical movie. It was a modernized Austen that purist detested, Janeites embraced, and the general public adored, converting millions into fans and launching the Austen renaissance that we are enjoying today.

Image from Pride and Prejudice (1995) Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth © 1995 BBC & A&E

In 2010 the producers issued a re-mastered edition of Pride and Prejudice 1995 to much acclaim. With the reveal of the giant Mr. Darcy in the Serpentine at London’s Hyde Park this week, I can hear the clicks of computer keyboards across the world purchasing the DVD and watching streaming video on NetFlix. We may now receive our entertainment through modern technology, but P&P 95 is a pure Regency era fix. From sumptuous costumes, authentic English manor houses and superb acting, viewers are still entranced by the world that Jane Austen created and producer Sue Birtwistle recreated. Even though we have been privileged with several adaptations of Austen’s classic story since P&P 95 was aired, nothing can match it for production value and sheer squee appeal.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) restored (2010)

This mini-series is so well-known and there has been so much written about over the years that I will not attempt to post a synopsis or rehash the nuances of the changes that were made by the screenwriter, director and production team. At a certain point we all must just accept what was done and enjoyed it, again and again. I will however talk a bit about my first reaction to the series and my evolution in embracing it.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Jennifer Ehle and Lucy Scott

In 1996 the US television station A&E actually showed period drama. When they advertised a new P&P mini-series I was really looking forward to watching it. I was curious what they would do with my favorite author’s novel and how it would compare to the BBC P&P 80 staring David Rintoul and Elizabeth Garvie, which I adored. With great anticipation I watched the first episode. The production values were stunning and the plot and dialogue were being fairly faithful to Austen’s intensions. But, I was not impressed enough with the direction and performances. In fact, I was so annoyed with Jennifer Ehle’s as Elizabeth Bennet that I could not continue watching the series—and did not. Her Elizabeth seemed too smug and conceited for me. I did not like her at all as a person, and I could not get past it. I was furious. What had they done to my Elizabeth?

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Netherfield Ball

Flash forward three years to 1999 and I am visiting a friend’s home and I arrive to find the P&P 95 playing on her TV. She is addicted to it and watches it continually, much to the annoyance of her husband. I am entranced. Did I miss something and not give it a proper try? Now, my friend knows that I love Jane Austen and is shocked that I had not seen the entire mini-series and puzzled why I did not like it. We proceed to watch the entire five hour series in one sitting together. I was converted and now totally hooked. How could I have been so hard on it the first time I viewed it? My aversion to Jennifer Ehle’s Elizabeth was banished. She was conceited, but that was what Austen had intended. After my reread of P&P, I was certain of it. AND Colin Firth as Darcy was just a knock out. My jaw dropped when I saw the wet shirt scene for the first time—and my girlfriend and I squeed and laughed and exclaimed our amazement. That was NOT in the novel! But WHO cared? It was fabulous. We of course had to rewind the VHS tape and rewatch it several times!

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Jennifer Ehle and David Bamber

There were other performance that were just amazing too. Here is a list of the cast:

  • Elizabeth Bennet – Jennfer Ehle
  • Mr. Darcy – Colin Firth
  • Jane Bennet – Susannah Harker
  • Mary Bennet – Lucy Briers
  • Kitty Bennet – Polly Maberly
  • Lydia Bennet – Julia Sawalha
  • Mrs. Bennet – Alison Steadman
  • Mr. Bennet – Benjamin Whitrow
  • Mr. Bingley – Crispin Bonham-Carter
  • Caroline Bingley – Anna Chancellor
  • Mrs. Hurst – Lucy Robinson
  • George Wickham – Adrian Lukis
  • Mr. Collins – David Bamber
  • Charlotte Lucas – Lucy Scott
  • Lady Catherine de Bourgh – Barbara Leigh-Hunt
  • Georgiana Darcy – Emilia Fox
  • Mrs. Gardiner – Joanna David
  • Col. Fitzwilliam – Anthony Calf

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Colin Firth

Jennifer Ehle won the BAFTA for her Elizabeth. I still like Elizabeth Garvie’s interpretation in the 1980 version better, but Ehle’s Elizabeth did grow on me. Colin Firth as Darcy was just masterful. It made him a star and for good reason. His Darcy is stiff enough that we despise him for snubbing our heroine Elizabeth and yet his transformation from prig to passionate suitor totally wins us over. He is, to put it frankly, a dreamboat of a catch for our Lizzy. Handsome, rich and contrite. LOL, what young lady could hope for more? I have followed Firth’s career and enjoyed almost everything I have seen him in. Since P&P 95 he has been well recognized for his talent winning an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and the Screen Actors Guild Award.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Allison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet

There are many superb performances but I must place David Bamber’s Mr. Collins as one of the most brilliant portrayals of Austen’s toady reverend ever. It never fails to make me laugh-out-loud. Allison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet is also hysterical. I will never look at a lace hankie again and not think of her. Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Lady Catherine de Bourgh is so imperial and imposing that you just want to slap her.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Wedding scene of Elizabeth and Darcy

Pride and Prejudice (1995) remains one of my favorite Jane Austen adaptations. I watch it annually and it never ceases to entertain and amaze. It remains a cherished cultural phenomenon.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pride and Prejudice (1995) Restored Edition (2010)
A&E Home Video 2010
DVD (5 hours and 39 mins)
ASIN: B00364K6YW

Images courtesy © 2010 A&E Home Video; text © 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Pride and Prejudice (1980) Mini-series – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my fifth selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are open until July 1, 2013.

My Review:

I have been blogging about Jane Austen here at Austenprose for over five years and I have reviewed many books and movies, yet I have held off writing about the one that really turned me into a Jane Austen disciple—the 1980 BBC Pride and Prejudice. When something is close to our hearts we want to keep it in a special place, so my personal impressions of Fay Weldon’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s most popular novel has remained my own. In this bicentenary year, I think it is time for me to share.

It first aired in five (55) minute episodes on the BBC in the UK in 1979, and on US television on Masterpiece Theatre between October 26 and November 23, 1980. I was a great fan of Masterpiece and period drama and remember being quite excited to watch the new series. I was not disappointed in the first episode—in fact I was mesmerized—and watched the episode again when it aired again that week on PBS. Considering that in 1980 disco music was all the rage and Magnum P.I. and Three’s Company were the most popular television shows, you might understand why this anglophile was entranced by a series set in Regency England with beautiful costumes, country houses, sharp dialogue and swoon worthy romance. I was totally hooked and started reading the novel for the first time while the series aired.

Image of the poster of Pride and Prejudice © 1980 Masterpiece Theatre Now, considering that many of you who are reading this review where not even born by 1980, you might not get the significance of the way in which our entertainment was doled out to us in the those early days. There was the television broadcast, and that was it. In fact there were no VCR’s yet, so you could not tape a video. I had to wait another 10 years before I saw the series again. Shocking, I know. But remember that the Internet would not be born until the mid-1990’s and the concept of streaming video was totally unknown.

On reflection, why did I like P&P 1980 so much when it originally aired, and does it still stand up to the litmus test for P&P adaptations?

Even though the BBC had produced radio and television adaptations of Pride and Prejudice in 1938, 1952, 1958 and 1967 this would be the first time that a US audience would see a television series of Jane Austen’s novel. Some of us had seen the 1940 MGM move of P&P staring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson, but it was hardly faithful to the novel and was a two hour theatrical movie. Very little of Jane Austen’s original language had been used and let’s not even begin the conversation about the changes that were made. Now for the first time we could hear Austen’s words and see the plot unfold as she imagined it—well not word for word or scene by scene—but screenwriter Fay Weldon did adhere much more faithfully to Austen intensions than we had ever seen before, nor since. Here is a list of the cast and production team:

Image from Pride and Prejudice 1980: Charlotte Lucas and Elizabeth Bennet © 2004 BBC Worldwide

  • Elizabeth Bennet – Elizabeth Garvie
  • Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy – David Rintoul
  • Mr. Bennet – Moray Watson
  • Mrs. Bennet – Priscilla Morgan
  • Jane Bennet – Sabina Franklyn
  • Mary Bennet – Tessa Peake-Jones
  • Kitty Bennet – Clare Higgins
  • Lydia Bennet – Natalie Ogle
  • George Wickham – Peter Settelen
  • Mr. Collins – Malcolm Rennie
  • Charlotte Lucas – Irene Richard
  • Mr. Bingley – Osmund Bullock
  • Caroline Bingley – Marsha Fitzalan
  • Lady Catherine de Bourgh – Judy Parfitt
  • Director – Cyril Coke

Image from Pride and Prejudice 1980: Elizabeth Bennet  and George Wickham © 2004 BBC Worldwide

I will spare you the rehash of the synopsis and cut to the case. This adaptation flies freely by the strength of the screenplay and the interpretation by the director of the actors. They act like Regency era ladies and gentlemen and in the manner that Jane Austen intended. Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennet is perfection. She is just as clever and impertinent as her book persona. If she has any defect it is that she is too perfect, appearing too controlled at every moment and not quite as spirited and flawed as one would expect. Her hero Mr. Darcy, portrayed by David Rintoul, is flawed, but that is his strength. He is stiff as a wooden solider, and we hate him until we meet him again at Pemberley two thirds through the story. But, his portrayal is as Austen wrote the character: noble, proud, arrogant, overconfident and infuriating. His transition to an open and engaging personality is a gradual shift which grows as his affection for Elizabeth does. His transformation from an arrogant prig to an amiable gentleman suitor for our heroine is a great character arch well worth waiting for.

Image from Pride and Prejudice 1980: Elizabeth Bennet © 2004 BBC Worldwide

Every director wants to put their own stamp on a classic. I cannot condemn Cyril Coke for taking his chance. He does not swerve off the garden path too far. There are two moments that are his creations that are memorable for me. The first was when Darcy hands Elizabeth the “be not alarmed, Madame,” letter after the first proposal. Elizabeth and Darcy meet along a path at Rosings Park and he hands her his letter. She accepts it and takes a seat on a fallen tree and reads it. We hear David Rintoul’s beautiful velvet voice, and perfect diction, as a voiceover as she reads the letter. As he walks away from her, the camera pulls back and follows him. As he gets father away we see both Elizabeth and Darcy in the frame become smaller and smaller. It is quite affective in relaying his presence and driving home the fact that as she reads his explanation of his behavior, and she has her “until this moment I never knew myself” revelation, we are left with the feeling that he has walked out of her life, and now how will she get him back?

Image from Pride and Prejudice 1980: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy © 2004 BBC Worldwide

The second great moment comes when Elizabeth and her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner are touring Pemberley. They think that Darcy is far away in Town. They are in a garden adjacent to the house and Elizabeth is admiring the facade and looks down to see Mr. Darcy’s dog appear around a corner of the building. His master soon follows and walks into the garden and is surprised to find Elizabeth at his home. They have an awkward meeting and Elizabeth is very uncomfortable. Now, Mr. Darcy does not have a dog in the original novel, but this addition of the well-trained spaniel, as proud and contained as his master, appearing as a foreshadowing to Elizabeth was brilliant.

Image from Pride and Prejudice 1980: Mr Collins © 2004 BBC Worldwide

The secondary characters really shine in this production too. Malcolm Rennie as Mr. Collins is just priceless. He is tall and toady and just the perfect smarmy buffoon. Peter Settelen  as George Wickham is such a handsome, charming cad that we want to love him like Elizabeth is tempted to do. There is a scene where he and Lizzy are walking in the garden and all I can concentrate on are his canary breeches! Judy Parfitt gives us an imperious Lady Catherine de Bourgh that is quite younger than I had envisioned in the book, but still as imposing.

Image from Pride and Prejudice 1980: David Rintoul as Mr Darcy © 2004 BBC Worldwide

Since the 1980 P&P aired there has been one major miniseries filmed in 1995 and a movie in 2005. Everyone has their favorite and I have this pet theory why Janeites love one version and abhor another. Everyone seems to bond with the first version that they see, so for those who love the 2005 Keira Knightley version with pigs in the Longbourn kitchen and Mr. Darcy walking across a misty morning glade to find Elizabeth in her nightgown, or the 1995 version with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy taking a bath or a dip in Pemberley pond, think long and hard about what Jane Austen wrote about and what she wanted us to experience with her characters, and watch the 1980 version again.

And, what may you ask is the P&P litmus test? Why the first proposal scene of course. If the screenwriter, director, and actors can portray the misguided, passionate tension of Mr. Darcy and the cool indigence of Miss Eliza Bennet in Austen’s masterful scene as well as it unfolds in the 1980 version, then there is hope for the rest of the production.

5 out of 5 Regency StarsImage of the DVD cover of Pride and Prejudice 1980 © 2004 BBC Worldwide

Pride and Prejudice (1980)
BBC Worldwide (2004 re-issue)
DVD (226 minutes)
ASIN: B000244FDW

DVD cover and images courtesy of © 2004 BBC Worldwide; text © 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Lady Catherine vs. Elizabeth Bennet in the Prettyish Kind of Little Wilderness

One of my favorite scenes in Pride and Prejudice, and quite possibly in all literature, is the confrontation by Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth Bennet in the prettyish kind of little wilderness at Longbourn. Lady Catherine has just heard an alarming report that her nephew, Mr. Darcy, was shortly to be engaged to Miss Bennet. The conversation, cat and mouse to be sure, is one of the most amazing dialogues in print. I will leave it to the reader to decide who is the cat, and who the mouse!

Each of the movie adaptations has made their attempt to capture Jane Austen’s incredibly civil, uncivil conversation between two opposing forces. Here are film clips for comparison created by Lelablue on Youtube for your enjoyment. Watch each of the versions and vote for your favorite.

P&P 1940: staring Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet and Edna May Oliver as Lady Catherine

P&P 1980: staring Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennet and Judy Parfitt as Lady Catherine

P&P 1995: Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Lady Catherine

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Austen Film Locations: Pemberley – Pride and Prejudice 1995

The 1995 BBC/A&E miniseries of Pride and Prejudice staring Colin Firth and Jenniffer Ehle as Jane Austen’s most famous couple Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is renowned for its period accuracy, sumptuous costuming and stunning locations. Please welcome guest blogger Helen Wilkinson today as she takes us on a tour of the two locations, Lyme Park and Sudbury Hall, used to stand in for Mr. Darcy’s palatial estate Pemberley in the 1995 production.

“Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!” The Narrator, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 43

When location researchers were scouting the British countryside for the perfect house to use as Pemberley in the 1995 Pride & Prejudice film production, they knew this was the house they had to get right.

Houses on the scale of Pemberley are few and far between. It is supposed to be in Derbyshire which would give it a distinctive northern look, and it has to be very big and set in stunning scenery. Some people think Jane Austen was thinking of Chatsworth as Pemberley, but in fact Chatsworth was referred to in its own right in the novel.” Sam Breckman, P&P 1995 Location Manager

Once the BBC had settled on Lyme Park near Manchester everything looked set to fall into place. But a change of management at Lyme meant that shortly before filming began, the interior was no longer available. So a last minute search began for an interior which would match Lyme – it had to be a house of the same look, age and feel which wouldn’t jar with viewers.  The interior they settled on was miles away at Sudbury Hall, a house which looks very different to Lyme Park from the outside, but had just the elegant interior that Sam Breckman and the production team were looking for. The flow of rooms at Sudbury, and the exquisite long gallery provided the marvellous scenes where the house-keeper leads Lizzy and the Gardiners through Mr Darcy’s home. As the camera follows Lizzy through one elegant room to the next, her heart is melting towards its owner.

“I still haven’t been inside Lyme Park – it would spoil the illusion in my head. Whenever we take people to Lyme I like to believe that the interior is the same as the screen version. In our minds we think we have seen Jennifer Ehle looking out of the windows and seeing the lake – but in fact it’s all down to skilful editing.” Maddy Hall, Production expert & tour guide

For many people, the moment when Lizzy sees Pemberley and its lake, is a highlight of the entire series. She is only half joking when she tells Jane that she fell in love with Darcy when she first saw ‘his beautiful grounds at Pemberley’.

Helen Wilkinson, P and P Tours

P&P Tours visit both locations for Pemberley as part of their tours. Visit their P and P Tours website for further information and bookings details.

The BBC Pride and Prejudice: It DOES Get Better Than This (+ a book giveaway)

Please welcome author and admitted Jane Austen addict Laurie Viera Rigler who joins us today to chat about one of her favorite obsessions, P&P 95 and the paperback release of her book, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict.  (Don’t ya just luv the cover?)

How many of us will resist buying the newly remastered BBC Pride and Prejudice DVD from A&E Home Video, with its color-perfect English countryside and the ability to see, as Laurel Ann led us to envision in her post that individual droplets of water running down Colin Firth’s chest as he emerges from his famous dip in the lake?

 ***pauses to fan self***

I don’t know about you, but I’ve already ordered my copy.

How do I love the BBC P&P? Let me count the ways. I love it for its dearest, loveliest Elizabeth Bennet and her fine eyes. I love it for its faithfulness to Jane Austen’s beloved novel. And I love it for its deviations therefrom in the form of the dishiest Darcy ever to fence and swim and smolder his way into my heart.

Certainly the unprecedented popularity of this BBC miniseries has had a phenomenal effect on popular culture. Many have credited it with contributing greatly to the wave of “Austen euphoria” that, according to the authors of Jane Austen in Hollywood, increased membership in the Jane Austen Society of North America by fifty percent during the single year following its release. Not to mention giving rise to the dozens of Austen-inspired books, films, blogs like this one, and other entertainments that populate the Janeiverse.

For me the BBC P&P has special significance beyond its function as video wallpaper in my home. For it found its way into the very first chapter of my second novel, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. There, it served as my heroine’s first close encounter with twenty-first-century technology. She, being a gentleman’s daughter from 1813 England who inexplicably finds herself inhabiting the body and life of a woman in 21st-century Los Angeles, assumes that the tiny figures acting out her favorite novel inside the shiny glass box are real people. And that the box is some sort of window. Strange that the figures inside the box cannot hear her when she talks to them. And that they are so small yet so distinct to the eye…

Imagine my delight when I read, right here on Austenprose that the remastered edition of the BBC P&P is out on April 27th. The very same day that Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict  is out in paperback.

In honor of this serendipity, I am giving away two personally inscribed copies of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. For a chance to win a copy, all you have to do is post a comment that tells us how you’d include a reference to the BBC P&P in a book or other form of art or entertainment. Let your imagination run wild, “give a loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford.”

Have fun, good luck, and see you at Pemberley!

Giveaway Contest

To sweeten the deal I will throw in a copy of Laurie’s first novel in the series, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. So, that 2 personally inscribed copies of Rude Awakenings of a JA Addict and one copy of Confessions of a JA Addict to three lucky winners. Contest ends at midnight Pacific time on May 3rd, 2010. Shipment to continental US addresses only. Good luck!

The perfect pairing: Pride and Prejudice 1995 &

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict

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Austen Film Locations: Longbourn – Pride and Prejudice 1995

Guest blog by Helen Wilkinson of P&P Tours

Longbourn – the private house found by the BBC for the ultimate adaptation of Pride & Prejudice in 1995 – has become one of the most famous houses in the world. BBC location manager Sam Breckman knew he had to find a house that could withstand a gruelling 10 weeks of filming, and with a drawing room, dining room, library, large hall, three bedrooms and extensive gardens – all readily adaptable to a look of the 1790’s.

“Longbourn can’t be too grand – it mustn’t threaten the social levels we were hoping to establish. It also needed to sit in its own grounds and be from the correct period.” Gerry Scott – Production Designer P&P 1995

The team had almost given up hope of finding a house that had the right look, and one that wouldn’t exhaust the entire budget to adapt to the period – many of the houses they had found had been over-modernised and the cost of converting their interiors was prohibitive. Gerry Scott solved the problem on a scouting trip around Lacock in Wiltshire – the village that had been selected as Meryton. He had been driving endlessly through the local villages and lanes until he saw a flash of ochre through the trees. Describing his arrival he says “Even before I knocked on the door I knew I’d found it.”

 The owner at the time was Angela Horn who had lived in the house since the 1940’s. The house still sits in its simple but well-maintained grounds, and on a manor, just the right size for Mr Bennet. It adjoins the church – which gave the BBC another perfect location – for the wedding of Lizzie and Darcy, and for the opening scene of episode 1 when the Bennet family return from church and discuss the arrival of Mr Bingley. The house sits in a private lane where Sam found he could set Lizzie’s walks, and all within a stone’s throw of the house. 

Everything was perfect as far as the BBC and the viewing public were concerned. So perfect that in the first few years after the production aired, hoards of people descended on the village and the house. Owner Angela Horn was happy to allow them access, free of charge, even though the intrusion was becoming a problem. After Angela died the house passed to the next generation who had no connection with the filming, and who found the intrusion unbearable. From that time the house has returned to its former quiet privacy.

“People from all over the world seem to think they have some kind of ownership of our home – because it means so much to them, but they don’t realise how upsetting it can be for the family. We expected the problem to go away but the DVD is still selling all round the world, so we know people are never going to fall out of love with the house.” Nina, grand-daughter of Angela Horn

When I first decided to run tours to all the P&P 1995 locations I knew Longbourn was an essential centre-piece, but I always understood that it would be tough to persuade the family to let us in. Now on every tour my heart still skips a beat when we pull up at the church and I see the house again. I often wondered whether the inside would be unrecognisable from the production, but when we step inside the unchanged hall I swear I can hear Mr Bennet and Lizzie – just down the hall. It’s the best job in the world. 

Helen Wilkinson, P&P Tours 

P&P Tours have exclusive access to Longbourn for holidays, day events, suppers and an annual ball. Website www.pandptours.co.uk

© 2010 Helen Wilkinson

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Pride and Prejudice 1995 (Restored Edition) Available April 27th, 2010

Yep. Just when you thought that you would have to buy a Blu-ray video player to get better picture quality than previous editions of Pride and Prejudice 1995 the good folks at A&E have gone a done it. They have digitally remastered the pinnacle of perfection in Jane Austen adaptations, Pride and Prejudice 1995. Now you can really see the drops of water run down Darcy chest after he takes his plunge into the Pemberley pond. ;-)

If you pre-order through that place that is not Barnes & Noble, it is being offered at 52% off the list price of $39.95. Do the math or just go order it.  The offical release date is April 27, 2010. Here is the cover blurb and all the geeky details.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE has taken its place as one of the greatest television productions of all time. The landmark adaptation from A&E and the BBC captured the hearts of millions by seamlessly translating the wit, romance, and intelligence of Jane Austen’s classic novel to the screen.

With a masterful script, deft direction, and star-making performances from Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE transports viewers to Georgian England, where affairs of the heart are an exquisite game, and marriage the ultimate prize. But Elizabeth Bennet – spirited, independent, and one of five unmarried sisters – is determined to play by her own rules and wed for love, not money or privilege. Will her romantic sparring with the mysterious and arrogant Darcy end in misfortune–or will love’s true nature prevail?

Now beautifully remastered for the ultimate in picture and sound quality, relive the timeless classic PRIDE & PREJUDICE on 2 DVDs.

Bonus Features:

  • Completely Digitally Remastered for the Ultimate in Picture and Sound Quality
  • Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation
  • Featurettes “Lasting Impressions,” “An Impromptu Walkabout with Adrian Lukis and Lucy Briers,” “Turning Point,” “Uncovering the Technical Restoration Process”
  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette: “The Making of Pride and Prejudice”
  • English Subtitles

Additional Details:

  • Format: Box Set, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Run Time: 5 Hours 23 Minutes + extras
  • Region: 1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Language: English
  • Studio: A&E Television Networks
  • Closed Captioning: No
  • ASIN: B00364K6YW
  • UPC: 733961206739

I feel a P&P 1995 Twitter Party calling.

Austen at Large: Darcy and Davies: Adapting Mr. Darcy from the Novel to the Screen

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen’s most popular if not most adapted novel, and  its famous hero Mr. Darcy has been interpreted in many different ways. There have been several excellent period adaptations of Pride and Prejudice which present Darcy’s character differently, particularly Fay Weldon’s 1980 and Andrew Davies 1995 versions. These two adaptations master the characters of Austen’s work which is so important. Weldon’s perhaps captures it slightly better than Davies’ because she is not as focused on Darcy as he is. Davies’s tries to bring Darcy’s side of the story forward so that the viewer sympathizes with him and sees what a good character he is long before Elizabeth feels the same way. This goes against the feeling of the novel because the reader is guided by Elizabeth’s thoughts for the majority of the novel rather than understanding Darcy’s.

David Rintoul as Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice (1980)

Pride and Prejudice‘s popularity has been growing over the years bringing more people to Jane Austen as well. Many of the adaptations are wonderful but the viewer has to keep in mind that it is the novel that is at the heart of the film. They should not depart drastically. Pride and Prejudice can be adapted faithfully to the novel while bringing the characters to life. It is only a matter of the writer and director doing it, some have and some have not.

Mr. Darcy in the tub, Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Davies’ adaptation might as well be called “Darcy’s Story” at times. Darcy is a great character in the novel and yet the story is not about him. It is about Elizabeth, her relationship with her family, and then Darcy. In Davies screenplay Darcy’s point of view is given to the viewer to show us his softer side, the side Elizabeth can’t see immediately but the viewer can. In the novel Darcy is suppose to be constantly looking at Elizabeth and these looks can explain a lot about his character. Andrew Davies explained,

One of the first things that struck me about Pride and Prejudice is that the central motor which drives the story forward is Darcy’s sexual attraction to Elizabeth. He doesn’t particularly like her, he’s appalled by the rest of her family and he fights desperately against this attraction.” (BBC website)

In Davies’ version these looks are almost always of admiration and approbation, yet in other versions it is not easy to tell why Darcy is looking at Elizabeth. David Rintoul’s Darcy in the 1980 Weldon adaptation hides his facial expressions better than Firth’s 1995 Darcy does. Yet, perhaps Firth is meaning to wear emotions on his face (though this is not very Darcy like) to bring him more to life and to make him more agreeable. One positive aspect of Darcy in this adaptation is that he practically has to relearn everything he thought he knew about women to get Elizabeth. He has been use to objectifying them but when Elizabeth comes along, she sparks a change in him. The problem is that this is a little too fanciful. Darcy does change and for the better with Elizabeth’s help, but as Elizabeth points out to herself in the end of the novel “She remembered that he had yet to learn to be laughed at, and it was rather too early to begin“. He is not a completely changed creature and Elizabeth knows this. The viewer, like the reader should love Darcy in the end for the reasons Elizabeth does. That he is a gracious, kind, thoughtful man and he is better than we ever believed possible from their first encounter; yet for this to be successful the viewer cannot be idolizing over Darcy for three quarters of the film which is what most viewers are doing in this version.

Mr. Darcy does the dip, Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Davies’ adaptation is an almost faithful reworking of the novel for a modern and sexual audience. Darcy’s sex appeal cannot be over looked and is overplayed by Firth. In the novel Darcy’s character is what makes him a fine man, not his body. The story shifts focus in this adaptation to Darcy which though it seems faithful, I think it undermines Austen’s original story because viewers can feel more sympathy for Darcy than they do for Elizabeth.

Although Jane Austen’s book was told very much from Elizabeth’s point of view, Andrew decided to make his version very much Darcy’s story as well. He did this partly by inserting new scenes which showed Darcy outside the stiff social events, allowing the viewer to see more of the real man” (BBC website).

The opening of film shows what the emphasis will be about as Davies opens his film with Darcy and Bingley riding on horseback, rather than begining with one of the most famous line in the English language, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife“. Instead, Elizabeth is given these lines a few scenes in, but by starting with Darcy, Davies’ is perhaps showing where his focus will be throughout the production, on Darcy rather than on Elizabeth.

 Pride and Prejudice (1995) DVD cover        Pride and Prejudice (1980) DVD cover

As much as I love the 1995 adaptation written by Andrew Davies, I really dislike how Darcy takes the center stage at times. Even when looking at the  DVD cover compared with the 1980 Fay Weldon version, the 1995 cover includes Colin Firth as Darcy front and center with Elizabeth only in the background with Jane, while on my 1980 DVD cover it has Elizabeth and Jane in the front and Darcy only in the background with Elizabeth. I know these might be merely marketing issues that I am raising but it is worth thinking about because if the focus of the adaptation changes too much, then what is it saying about those who are watching it. I just get tired of the Darcy mania. I sometimes feel that I am on a soap box shouting about him so I don’t want people to think that I don’t like him in the end. I DO. Who couldn’t? But I just think that readers and viewers of the movies should remember the original story in mind because that is what is so amazing, not some adaptation of it. Ok enough soap box… what does everyone else think?

Until next week,

Virginia Claire

Virginia Claire, our Austen at Large roving reporter is a college student studying English literature and history who just returned from her time studying abroad in Bath England and working as an intern at the Jane Austen Centre. She is the Regional Coordinator of JASNA North Carolina and a lifelong Janeite. She will be sharing her thoughts on all things Austen this semester and remembering her travels in Austenland.