Part II: Pride and Prejudice, cont’d

I’ve been watching P&P80 over the past couple of days and just finished last night.  I am so glad I hadn’t seen it (or any of the other “traditional” adaptations) in more than a year because I want to be as objective as possible. I believe I managed to be rather objective with the S&S adaptations, and I hope to do the same with P&P.

That said, I have loved P&P80 since I first saw it during my senior year in college.  All of the girls on the hall stopped what we were doing on Sunday nights at 9 and crowded into a tiny dorm room to watch it on a 13″ television.  We were enthralled.  The only other adaptation that had ever been shown in the US was P&P40, and this one was so much closer to the book that we could not help but appreciate it.  We’d all read the book and found a lot to like about this adaptation.  The opening credits are very clever — to this day, for days after watching it, I find myself humming the theme song and seeing the scenes from the book scroll by.

I still love Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth and David Rintoul as Darcy.  Garvie’s Elizabeth is just as “arch” and “sweet” as Austen tells us the character is.  And Rintoul’s Darcy is as aloof, aristocratic and enigmatic as he is in the book. This adaptation’s other characters are also outstanding, particularly Bingley, Miss Bingley, Lydia, the Gardiners, Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine and Mr. Wickham.  I can very easily imagine  a man like Darcy being good friends with Charles Bingley as played by Osmund Bullock.  Other Bingleys are rather insipid and I cannot for the life of me understand why any Darcy would choose one of those Bingleys to be his friend.  Marsha Fitzalan is wonderful at being the nasty piece of work that is Miss Bingley.  Natalie Ogle’s Lydia is flighty and silly and flirtatious, just as Austen tells us she is.  The Gardiners are terrific.  The book tells us that they could be mistaken for people of fashion, and these Gardiners both fit the bill perfectly.  In the book, we are told that Mr. Collins is a tall, heavy-set man, and he is exactly that in this series. And Judy Parfitt’s Lady Catherine is simply outstanding.  This is a woman whom one can imagine ordering her driver to take her the 50 miles to Meryton so she can berate that upstart Miss Elizabeth Bennet.  I love her in this role. Austen’s Mr. Wickham is handsome and able to hide his true character because of his good looks and his charm, and Peter Settelen does this beautifully.

I must also put in a few good words for Moray Watson (Mr. Bennet) and Priscilla Morgan (Mrs. Bennet). I think they are both outstanding. They are EXACTLY the way I picture the characters when I read the book.  Some say that Watson’s Mr. Bennet is too mean, but his portrayal fits with my take on Mr. Bennet.  As I said in an earlier post, I don’t like Austen’s Mr. Bennet very much, and Watson gives us a very unlikeable man.  Priscilla Morgan’s Mrs. Bennet is hilarious.  Austen tells us that Mr. Bennet married Miss Gardiner because she was very pretty and very lively, and Morgan’s Mrs. Bennet shows us hints of what Miss Gardiner once was.

The lead actors are all close to the appropriate age for their characters — Elizabeth Garvie was 22/23, David Rintoul was around 31, Osmund Bullock was about 27, Sabina Franklyn (Jane) was around 25 and Natalie Ogle was maybe 20 — and I like this too.

The production values are admittedly not very good.  They used videotape for the interior scenes and film for the exterior scenes and there are marked differences between the two.  Some people have said that this production is like watching a play, and I can understand that.  But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  Many of the actors are classically trained and have performed on the stage, and that’s perhaps why this is very “play-like,”  but that does not bother me in the slightest.  Nor do, by the way, most of the made-up scenes that Fay Weldon added to her script.  The scene with Mr. Collins and the flotation hat is made up, but it always makes me laugh and is perfectly in character.  The one made-up scene that does bother me is when Elizabeth runs to Pemberley to tell her aunt and uncle about Lydia’s elopement. Granted, we are never once told in this adaptation that Lambton is only 5 miles from Pemberley, but the running is still ridiculous. Luckily, this is the only scene that really irks me.  And, it is rather pristine — for example, Elizabeth’s gown never really is “six inches deep in mud” after she walks to Netherfield from Longbourn.  But, given that it’s a product of its time, that’s not surprising. Adapters didn’t seem to pay attention to that level of “realism” until P95 came along, and even then that trend didn’t really catch on until the 21st century adaptations.

Despite the made-up scenes and dialogue, this version does still keep certain scenes from the book that no other adaptation has.  For example, we get to see the scene when Darcy and Caroline are taking a walk at Netherfield and Caroline taunts Darcy about hanging Mr. Phillips’ portrait at Pemberley; or the scene at Netherfield when Darcy asks Elizabeth to dance a reel; or the scene at Pemberley where the Gardiners talk about the age of the house.  As an aside, the scene where Elizabeth and Darcy first see each other at Pemberley is the inspiration for the ending of “You’ve Got Mail,” when Meg Ryan realizes that her “secret admirer” is really Tom Hanks.  I remember stifling a squee of delight when I saw that scene in the theater.  Nora Ephron has said that P&P is her favorite book, and I’m glad she honored this series in her movie.

It’s nice to know that I am not alone in loving Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul as Elizabeth and Darcy.  About a year ago, there was a fundraiser at Chawton House where Garvie and Rintoul reprised their roles as Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy.  Here are some pictures of the event.  And here is a video clip of the ball itself.  It is interesting that the music in the background comes from the Netherfield Ball scene in P&P05.

This adaptation is readily available to those of us in Region 1 (US/Canada), but is not quite as easy to obtain outside of this Region.  Amazon.co.uk sells a Dutch import to Region 2 customers. I do not know off the top of my head if it can be purchased outside Regions 1 and 2, but I do know that there are some clips over on YouTube.  The full series may have been there at one point, but unfortunately it’s not there now.  I do hope Janeites who may have missed this wonderful adaptation get to see it.

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