After spending last weekend (see the post about Hyde Park) in an atmosphere dedicated to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – where other B&Bers made use of the 1995 A&E video as well as the 1980 BBC DVD, I felt compelled to track down a copy of the Rintoul/Garvie TV miniseries from 1979/1980 produced by the BBC and aired here on Masterpiece Theatre. Was this what started off my own exploration into the life and works of Austen?? Bet it was! The theme music is oh-so familiar (from an album of Masterpiece Theatre themes now bundled away in a closet, or my own crude off-air tape recording??); the actors are also familiar, either by name or face. A few years younger than Garvie herself, I surely was captivated by this Austen adaptation.
Looking at the Internet Movie Database, we find these versions of Pride & Prejudice; everyone at the B&B wondered what else was out there, but we could not come up with a more definitive list than the usual suspects of 1940, 1980, 1995 and 2005:
1967 (UK; TV); Celia Bannerman as Elizabeth and Lewis Fiander as Mr Darcy. (6 episodes)
1958 (UK; TV); Alan Badel as Darcy and Jane Downs as Elizabeth. (6 episodes)
1952 (UK; TV); Thea Holme (!) is listed as Jane Austen (she wrote a delighful book on Jane Carlyle); Daphne Slater – Elizabeth; Peter Cushing (!) – Darcy (6 episodes); I’d give a lot to see Prunella Scales as Lydia!
1938 (TV???!! ; UK): Curigwen Lewis (Lizzy); Andrew Osborn (Darcy ) (55 minutes – oh my!)
An updating of P&P in 2003: with Lizzy (Kam Heskin) as a college student; Orlando Seale is her ‘Will’ Darcy; the 1940 film; 1980 and 1995 mini series; the newest film (2005), and of course the boisterous Bride & Prejudice, part of which I watched when in England in summer 2007. Don’t think that I’ve forgotten the Bridget Jones series — just not enough room or time to discuss this type of P&P.
In the BBC version, Moray Watson plays Mr Bennet – a familiar face from the likes of Rumpole of the Bailey. Somehow Mrs Bennet (Priscilla Morgan) reminds me of Prunella Scales as Mrs Fawlty, though toned-down. Mr Wickham (Peter Settelen) seemed a face recognized from somewhere: IMDB solved that one: he was Sandy in Flambards, which played here about the same time period as this P&P.
David Rintoul brings a hauteur rarely seen in Darcy — and not out of character. And those long, lingering looks at Lizzy! Charlotte Lucas is oh so right in noticing that this Darcy admires Miss Elizabeth Bennet, almost from the start. (Rintoul is possibly best remembered for his Doctor Finlay series in the 90s.) And Elizabeth Garvie is a quiet, but on-point Elizabeth Bennet. [I hadn’t realized that she lost her husband, actor Anton Rodgers, in December 2007…. he was in so many Britcoms that ran here in Vermont.]
I must agree with one Netflix reviewer who thought this version’s comic characters less over the top than the A&E series. How true: Mr Collins (Malcolm Rennie) is a delight as the silly and long-winded clergyman (can you imagine him in the pulpit???). I’ve yet to experience Judy Parfitts’ Lady Catherine, but have loved her in many shows, including The Jewel in the Crown. Charlotte Lucas (Irene Richard) is the voice of reason here, just as she is in the book. A wise head on those young shoulders (I will blog later on my thoughts that Charlotte at 27 is not quite ‘past it’…). And Lydia (Natalie Ogle) is sweet and flighty without being cloyingly annoying; Mary (Tessa Peake-Jones) is a talented-yet-can’t-really-play-or-sing-well middle sister who here DOES seem rather the obvious (and willing) choice for Mr Collins — she even reads Fordyce’s Sermons!; something Joe Wright and his screenwriter picked up on for their 2005 film. How much more conniving this Miss Bingley (Marsha Fitzalan) seems – you really feel her sticking the knife in. How REAL the characters seem when they are not caricatures.
Coincidently, Deb is also watching this version (actually, she’s comparing it to the 1995 version) — so you will be hearing more about Rintoul, Garvie et al quite soon.
Alistair Cooke’s thoughts on the series can be found in his A DECADE OF MASTERPIECE THEATRE MASTERPIECES (1981). Gosh!! how well I remember buying this large hardcover at Capitol Stationers on Burlington’s Church Street. Such memories… Cooke cattily comments that this series is “so squeakily clean as to suggest at times a doll’s house with doll-like emotions” but he goes on to praise Fay Weldon’s script which “was dramatized, over four careful years”. That care shows in so many lines from the novel expertly utilized. And who doesn’t know Weldon’s own work. Cooke quotes Weldon in a thought-provoking passage — “Miss Weldon explained why Jane Austen appears to many young readers remote and bewildering: ‘Partly because of the way in which it is written, partly because of the subtlety with which she examines the intricacies of human behavior, and mainly because the society she describes has gone forever. She anatomizes a world where women of a certain class can survive only through men…’.” Cooke again: “In all her novels, Jane Austen’s narrator is a dual character: the heroine as participant and the heroine (J.A.?) as onlooker.” A succinct description of Austen’s narrator, which here sides with Lizzy (and changes as Lizzy changes opinions) in how the reader is presented the world contained in the novel. Weldon’s “adaptation demonstrated a fine ear for the spare, exquisite language of the original and a ready talent for taking Jane’s maliciously cheerful view of social pretension.” Cooke goes so far as to say: “Viewers who dislike this Pride and Prejudice do not like Jane Austen”! I end with one Cooke comment that says something few would have dared think: “Dickens, the author-hero of his time, ends most of his romances on a love-dovey note that Jane would have giggled at.” Touché!
8 Feb 2009 update: after reading Joan’s email, I went back to IMDB – looking for Austen-related series and films. There turned up a De Vier dochters Bennet (1961). In German Vier is four, so the same undoubtedly holds for Dutch. So who got axed?? From the cast credits: Kitty!
I love that the 1967 production ‘labeled’ their episodes, thus: Pride (episode one); Proposal (2); Prejudice (3); Elopement (4); and (5) Destiny.
I am most surprised to see a new EMMA in the works! (listed as in pre-production, for television in 2009); the ‘trivia’ lists this a as production begun in 1995 – but put on hold because Miramax and Meridient were producing the same novel for film and TV. No cast announced.
I’m so glad you are writing about the Garvie/Rintoul version. That remains my favorite. Yes, Colin Firth is lovely and that version takes fewer liberties with the book, as well as being utterly delightful, but the earlier version seems to be spot on in tone, subtlety and restraint.
You have forgotten the 1958 BBC version with Alan Badel as Darcy in the days when the UK only had one TV channel . It was broadcast in black and white on Sunday nights – six one hour episodes broadcast over six weeks, with an intermission so that all could rush off and make tea, without the BBC fretting that we would all switch over to the yet nonexistant “commercial” (horror) channel. I was 10 and allowed to stay up and watch it and then of course I was hooked for ever. Read the book and still enjoy Austen all these many years later. No copy of this series exists so I have to content myself with the Garvie/Rintoul version instead, a most restrained and faithful version. See details of this forgotten version here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0477530/
Jane Downs really did have fine eyes!
Hello Joan, thanks for commenting! I did not know about this P&P [it is not listed on the JASNA site either!]; it is unfortunate it is unavailable…perhaps we should all petition the BBC for a release?! One can never have too many P&P versions!
I will rectify the listing! Thanks Joan (how could I have missed it??).
Your tale of tea and watching with such great attention reminds me of my mother — when The Forsyte Saga ran here in the 1960s, evidently at dinnertime! That luckily did come out on DVD… Maybe we can hope the vaults of the BBC will open and we will see some of these old chestnuts again.
I’ve now seen the first 3 episodes (Netflix gives this flip-over disk a two-disk treatment; but Amazon as the set on sale for $8.99!) — and my mother is now demanding the disk so she can make her own comparison.
In answer to Hope’s post – I have no ‘favorite’ among the productions (of any Austen) and really watch them for their value in and of themselves. Thus I can be fond of the 2005 film as well as this television version of P&P. As Deb implies: each brings their own take to the story Austen invented.
Fans and followers of Jane Austen’s movie legacy will enjoy the section of JASNA’s web site called “Austen on Film”: http://jasna.org/film/index.html
It includes information about movie adaptations and spin-offs, as well as links to essays by scholars and other JASNA members about the movies.
Hello Marsha, Yes, this link on the JASNA site is excellent. I was going to link to it when I post on my review of the Garvie/Rintoul adaptation – the many links to the articles about each movie are most helpful. Thank you for commenting and provding the link! [Kelly, let’s add this to the body of your post as well…]
I agree with Deb: one can never have too many P&P versions. What I really love about this version is Elizabeth Garvie’s portrayal of Lizzy with “a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous” (ch. 3) and “a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody” (ch. 10). I also enjoy the dancing sequences. They seem so natural and genuine, as though everyone is truly enjoying themselves.
You can follow up your viewing of P&P 1980 with a viewing of Emma 1972 (and play “spot the reused costumes”). Click on this this link and you’ll see what I mean.
Thanks Mae! this is a fabulous link and very funny really…nice to know that Hollywood can be frugal. And I agree with you about Garvie – she is pure delight as Elizabeth, less “knowing” and therefore more realistic than 1995’s Ehle (who I love despite that comment – she is perfect with Firth). I have always had trouble with the Rintoul Darcy – just SO stiff he seems inhuman! I have been watching it again [and again!] and trying to get more into his characterization without my Firth “prejudices.” Of course what the 1995 P&P offers us, as none of the others do is a Darcy who has his own scenes to display his inner feelings and turmoil – all of this we can only imagine while reading the book, and because those scenes are given to us visually, they are very powerful – so I am trying to give Rintoul credit here for having to convey some of the same without the explicit scenes- it is a very tough role to play really – more on this in a longer post, but I always love hearing about which of the adaptations is one’s favorite P&P (often the first one they see)… and thrilled to hear from Joan about one none of us even know about!
Thanks for visiting Mae! – great link!
This may already have a link on your site, but a quick search failed to find it — this is a very clever rendering of P&P as if it were a Facebook newsfeed posting. It’s in reverse chronological order than a real Facebook page to be more legible as to plot.
Hello Sharon, I have seen it (but did not put it in a post as yet)… it is brilliant! and very funny! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Joan Reynolds, for remembering Alan Badel and the BBC P&P. I was beginning to think that my first love affair with Mr. Darcy was in my imagination!
I too became a life-long Austen fan since being allowed to watch that series. Now, if only I could find a photograph or better, persuade the BBC to bring out a DVD and relive the feeling.
Hope the photo does a little something to help you ‘relive’ the broadcast.
An interesting outcome of all this: I was corresponding with Kate from Norfolk and she lamented that neither she nor her mother owned the 1979 PP. I ASSUMED that it would be easily available in the UK — after all, this is a UK production! Imagine my surprise to see the following comments attached to the VHS copy of the show at Amazon.co.uk (this comment dates from 2004):
“Anyway, just wanted to let all the 1980 version fans out there know that this has just become available on DVD on the US Amazon website (amazon.com)- NTSC format of course, but fine if you have a multi-region DVD player. They are also selling a DVD box set of all the 1970’s/1980’s BBC Austen productions. They love our old period dramas in the US – shame we can’t show the same appreciation. TV and movie moguls these days always seem to turn the subtle satire of Austen into silly rom-com, replete with ribaldry and slapstick, simply concealing lack of substance and poor scripts with lush sets and pretty costumes (Emma with Paltrow, the 1999 Mansfield Park with Frances O’Connor anyone?) Come on BBC, give us Brits some quality Austen on DVD. ”
Hmmm… who knew?!