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. Continue reading

Follow Friday: Masterpiece Classic PBS

Pride and Prejudice (1980) Masterpiece Theatre PBS PosterThis year marks the 40th anniversary of Masterpiece Theatre, now with a new name of Masterpiece Classic under the umbrella of Masterpiece: which includes the trifecta of presentations in the Classic, Mystery and Contemporary categories. This television show premiered in 1971 and is produced by WGBH in Boston. It airs on PBS in the US and is now the longest running prime-time drama series on the air. Over the years they have presented many British dramas, comedies and mysteries based on classic novels and new material.

Masterpiece has been very good to Jane Austen fans bringing us movies and miniseries of her novels starting with Fay Weldon’s 1980 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice staring David Rintoul and Elizabeth Garvie. Since then we have been treated to Northanger Abbey (1986 & 2007), Persuasion (1996 & 2007), Pride and Prejudice (1995), Sense and Sensibility (2008), Mansfield Park (2007), Emma (1996 & 2010) and Miss Austen Regrets (2008).

Masterpiece has a wonderful website listing the current season lineup and an extensive archive. You can follow them on Twitter as @MasterpiecePBS, on Facebook as MASTERPIECE | PBS (Masterpiece Theatre) and watch videos of their current production at PBS Video.

Be sure to watch the last episode of the continuation of Upstairs Downstairs this Sunday, April 24th at 9:00pm ET on PBS.  You can catch up by watching part one and part two online at PBS video until May 24, 2011. Enjoy!

Image courtesy of © MASTERPIECE

Elizabeth Bennet my Cheerleader @ Heroine Love

Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice 1980Do our favorite heroines change our lives? Mine did.

Read my contribution about Elizabeth Bennet on Heroine Love, author Erin Blakemore’s 18 day tribute in February to the literary heorine’s in our lives. Seventeen book bloggers and fellow authors have contributed posts each day about their favorite heroines and offered great giveaways. Follow the link and leave a comment on my post for a chance to win a beautiful hardcover copy of White’s edition of Pride and Prejudice. Good luck to all entrants.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Dressing for the Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice: Regency Fashion

Gentle Readers: in celebration of the ‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’ event over the next month, I have asked several of my fellow Jane Austen bloggers to share their knowledge and interest in Austen’s most popular novel. Today, please welcome guest blogger Vic from Jane Austen’s World who shares with us her extensive knowledge of Regency culture and history. Her first of four contributions during the event analyzes the costumes worn at the Netherfield Ball in three movie adaptations in comparison to the fashions of the day.

The Netherfield Ball. Ah! How much of Jane Austen’s plot for Pride and Prejudice put on show  in this chapter! Elizabeth Bennet – its star – enters the ball room hoping for a glimpse of a strangely absent Mr. Wickham, but is forced to dance two dances with bumblefooted Mr. Collins, whose presence she somehow can’t seem to shake. (From his actions the astute reader comes to understand that this irritating man will be proposing soon.)

Mr. Darcy then solicits Lizzie for a dance, and his aloofness and awkward silences during their set confirms in Lizzie’s mind that he suffers from a superiority complex. As the evening progresses her family’s behavior is so appalling (Mary hogs the pianoforte with her awful playing; Kitty and Lydia are boisterously flirtatious with the militia men; and Mrs. Bennet brazenly proclaims to all within earshot that Mr. Bingley and Jane are as good as engaged) that the only enjoyment Lizzie takes away from the event is in the knowledge that Mr. Bingley is as besotted with Jane as she is with him.

In anticipation of furthering her acquaintance with Mr. Wickham, Lizzie probably dressed with extreme care, making sure both her dress and hair looked perfect. In the image below, Jennifer Ehle’s “wig” is adorned with silk flower accessories, and a string of pearls, which was the fashion of the time. She wears a simple garnet cross at her throat (Jane Austen owned one made of topaz) and her dress shows off her figure to perfection.

Continue reading at Jane Austen’s World

Further reading

Upcoming event posts

Day 7  June 23     Group Read: Chapters 15-21
Day 8  June 25     Tourism in Jane Austen’s Era
Day 9  June 26     Group Read: Chapters 22 – 28

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. 

Austen at Large: Some of my own prejudices when it come to Pride and Prejudice

Matthew Macfayden, Pride and Prejudice 2005

This week, as I began to reread Pride and Prejudice with my Jane Austen class, I have discovered some prejudices that I have. In reading a book that I know and love so well, I have almost found it hard to understand some people’s opinions of it. I will say that most girls in my class are very thoughtful and make wonderful remarks but there are some that I completely disagree with. I don’t know if it is because of my own prejudices against these views or what, but at times I feel that people are letting the adaptations influence their readings of the novel. Though I try to be a very thoughtful reader, and believe that students individually take away different things from a text, I find it difficult to understand where some of these girls are coming from. Sometimes I think that adaptations have limited or influenced their point of view, and yet when I think about it perhaps another adaptation has influenced or limited me as well. Yet I do try to look at the text for the text, and not how it is adapted in a movie.

I will give an example of this situation: We were reading aloud Darcy’s 1st proposal and Elizabeth’s refusal when one of the girls said “I think that Elizabeth really wanted to say yes somewhere deep down inside of her.” I could not let this observation go by without commenting on it because I did not see that in the text. If anyone wants to make an argument for it I would be more than willing to listen to it, but all this student could back it up with was that she just had a feeling that Elizabeth really wanted to say yes. When I read the text I see Elizabeth being completely driven by her dislike, irritation and misunderstanding of Darcy. She has just been pouring over her beloved sister Jane’s letters examining how much pain Jane is in because of Darcy. She notices that,

They contained no actual complaint, nor was there any revival of past occurrences, or any communication of present suffering. But in all, and in almost every line of each, there was a want of that cheerfulness which had been used to characterize her style, and which, proceeding from the serenity of a mind at ease with itself, and kindly disposed towards every one, had been scarcely ever clouded. (Chapter 34)

I think that for Elizabeth the knowledge of Mr. Darcy’s evolvement with the separation of Jane and Mr. Bingley would have driven away any feelings that she ever had (and which I think she NEVER had) for him.

Keira Knightley, Pride and Prejudice 2005

What I see in comments like this in class is the problem of Austen adaptations. I am not blaming any movie particularly, but rather the viewer. Every adaption brings something to the table that is interesting, and it is good to see many different points of view and such. What I have a HUGE problem with is when the adaptations start to taint the books; when readers start seeing the book as the movie and trying to make them fit together. No adaptation is ever going to be completely faithful to a book, (though the Fay Weldon 1980 Pride and Prejudice is pretty close), yet it is the job of the viewer to know the difference, and see through the movie. I think my friend was allowing the 2005 movie to influence her reading of the novel. I see that movie as trying to portray that Lizzy and Darcy are meant for each other from the first time they meet and that in the proposal scene, though Lizzy is very mad, there is some part of her that is still attracted to and interested in Darcy. As if they were soul mates and their souls were drawn together and yet their minds were keeping them apart.

I think this is making too much of the romance of the novel and ignoring Elizabeth’s real thoughts and feelings on the matter. The novel says,

In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man’s affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger (Chapter 34).

I think this shows Elizabeth’s feeling on the matter perfectly. “Her intentions did not vary for a second“. It is hard for me to see the argument of Lizzy really wanted to say “yes” to Mr. Darcy in this scene. I just don’t buy it. I don’t buy it as an argument in the text and I certainly don’t buy it in the adaptation when they almost kiss at the end of the scene.

Matthew Macfayden, Pride and Prejudice 2005

I would be interested to know anyone else’s opinion on the subject because I think the use and power of adaptations is very interesting especially with Austen. A movie will never out do the book for me, I just wish that we would become better readers so that the novel will be speaking rather than an adaptation of it. Perhaps these are just my prejudices against those who perhaps like the movies better than the books, but as a lover of Austen’s novels it is hard for me to see how anything could surpass them.

Till 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.