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

15 thoughts on “Lady Catherine vs. Elizabeth Bennet in the Prettyish Kind of Little Wilderness

  1. Ah, nice little interlude in the morning routine.

    But the 1940 version, despite the acting, is a travesty of writing. Cut off Darcy’s money indeed! Revelations about who rescued the sister (which was a dead secret).

    And oh, those costumes, reportedly left over from GWTW, thereby forcing us out of the Regency era.

    Worst of all, this scene is immediately followed by Lady C telling Darcy that Elisabeth is absolutely right for him and he should propose immediately and he has her blessing.

    Well!

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  2. Do I remember correctly that the 2005 adaptation also has this scene indoors? (I seem to recall a baldly lit, improbable middle-of-the-night visit from Lady Catherine.) Interesting that only the Ehle/Firth adaptation actually takes place in “prettyish-kind-of-wilderness.”

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  3. One of my favorite scenes as well! The other two are well done, especially the smiling patience of Greer Garson as she deflects Lady C’s barbs, but the older movies can’t match the 1995 version for sheer emotional impact. The interfering outrageousness on the part of Lady Catherine, and the emotional response of Lizzie (reduced to sarcasm, gasp!), played out in her “fine eyes,” set up the end of the story perfectly.
    Thanks, Laurel Ann!

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  4. I voted for 1980. The only marks against that version are that it takes place indoors and it misses the line “He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter, so far we are equal.”

    All three contain the best line of all: “I send no compliments to your mother.”

    I find I don’t like Jennifer Ehle’s stiff curls nor her rushed delivery compared with Elizabeth Garvie’s natural beauty and smilingly civil speech. She looks so meek, but wins every fall. I also like Judy Parfitt’s Lady C being an appropriate age – and love her outfit!

    I can’t bear to look at the 1940 version with its high Victorian costumes. They turned Lady C into Betsy Trotwood! The Lady Cs from 1940 and 1995 seem to have (approximately) the same hat!

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  5. I absolutely LOVE the 1995 version of Pride & Prejudice, especially with Colin Firth in the movie – he is absolutely the embodiment of noble Darcy. But, in terms of this particular scene, to me, the 1940 version is the best, and most comical – which I believe is how the author intended it to be. In the book, the scene comes off as almost comical, which is why I prefer the 1940 version the most. Also, Greer Garson’s expressions as she thinks about her answers are just so adorable and amusing! :)

    Thank you for sharing these videos with us! :)

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  6. Thank you for these clips! Now I’ve got to watch the 1940 version. I didn’t know the 1980 version existed, will have to look for that. Gotta say though, I don’t think any version can beat the 1995 one. :)

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  7. As I watched the 1940 version I got the strangest notion that I was watching Dorothy talk to the wicked witch of the west! Not bad, but my idea of Elizabeth Bennett is not adorable and naive!

    The 1980 Lizzy by far has the best hair in my opinion, but I still prefer the 1995 version. Jennifer Ehle is exactly how I picture Elizabeth, self-posessed and not afraid to show it.

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  8. Pingback: Gazeta de Meryton, 3 de abril de 2011 | Jane Austen em Português

  9. They ALL have moments of brilliance! I do like the Keira Knightley portrayal of Lizzy in this scene — much of her emotion is in her expressions and delivery rather than in the words themselves.

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  10. Thanks for posting these! It was fun to watch and compare them. I’m a 1995 kind of gal in all ways so that got my vote. I thought the 1940 one to be outrageous in the dialog. That line about being able to cut off Darcy’s money just about had me shouting out loud. I’ve been told I really should watch this version but I just can’t bring myself to do so, especially now. I will admit to liking Judy Dench’s Lady Catherine and am sorry that there wasn’t a good clip of it. I do think the hair in that version was better. I picture Lady C in 18th century fashion, not in the regency fashion of the 1980 version. She seems to be very stuck in the past.

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