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.