So, which is your favourite version of Pride and Prejudice? As this is my blog, I get to fire the first salvo here and I say that my fave is 1995 Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, but only just. This miniseries kept me sane when I was the working mother of a toddler and a preschooler so this will be hard to beat as number one for me. It also introduced me to Jane Austen as I am ashamed to say I had not read any of her books before 1995.
I have a theory that the first version of P&P you see is likely to be your fave. Not always, but there is usually a soft spot in your heart for your very first Mr. Darcy and Lizzy.
My other theory is that every 10 or 15 years, there will be another version out, so each generation can have their own Mr. Darcy. And I think that there can never be too many Austen adaptations out there. If they are really trying to do it right, (not modern or time travel or different cultures) I think we can welcome another version in a few years. What do you all think?
Shall I start with the most recent first? I have to say that there is an advantage to the length of a feature film. When I want a little dose of P&P, this is the version I usually reach for. A miniseries is a time commitment which I used to find easier than I do now. This is my bite-sized version. I also love the "muddy hems" and more realistic late 18th century settings and costumes. Gorgeously filmed and the music is lovely.
I think the leads were well cast. Lizzy is the proper age and Keira Knightley is a wonderful actress who loves the book and threw her heart into it. Matthew Macfadyen is a great Darcy. He puts a bit more shyness and awkwardness into the role which is a great take on the Darcy character.
I adore Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet. She brings a realistic and loving touch without losing the comedy. Well done. I think Tom Hollander is brilliant as Mr. Collins with his exemplary vegetables and his amazing facial expressions. Claudie Blakely also deserves kudos for her Charlotte Lucas. We truly feel her fear of being "left on the shelf".
I do admittedly adore Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy in the 1995 version. He is verrrrry sexy and perhaps the fact that he was having a wee fling with Jennifer Ehle during filming adds a little spark to the chemistry. And Jennifer Ehle's little smirk and all of her eyebrow raising is very effective to make you really love her as Lizzy.
It is also truly gorgeous in it's locations and costumes and the fact that it is so true to the book. The length is a plus unless you only have two hours to spend with the Bennet family.
I love Benjamin Whitrow as Mr. Bennet. When he kisses Lizzy on the head and gives his blessing to the marriage, well I just want him for my father. And could you want any more in Lady Catherine de Bourgh than we get from Barbara Leigh-Hunt? The scene with Lizzy and Lady Catherine in the garden is perfection!
My only knock against this version is the shrill tone to Alison Steadman's voice as Mrs. Bennet. Although I love her portrayal otherwise the thought of her voice has actually prevented me from popping this in on occasion (usually when I have a migraine).
I remember many years ago, raving about Colin Firth to an older co-worker and she said that David Rintoul was a far superior Mr. Darcy. So you see where I started my theory about each generation having their own version. Elizabeth Garvie is a wonderful Elizabeth and I think it's a shame we haven't seen her in more films over the years, although she was great in The House of Eliott too.
This is a wonderful adaptation, only really suffering from being recorded on video tape instead of film, and the basically low production values of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The scene which really stands out in my mind is when Darcy finds her walking in the park at Rosings and hands her the letter, the way the camera follows him as he walks away is truly effective. Off he goes into the future without her...
The 1940 version with Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson as Elizabeth is really much better than it could have been considering what Hollywood was doing at the time. They brought in talented screenwriter Jane Murfin along with Aldous Huxley (yes, the Brave New World one) and other than the hoop skirts and the abominable change in Lady Catherine in the last scenes, they got a lot of Jane Austen in there.
I love the comedy in this version. It is just a very fun, light Pride and Prejudice. And again, think of all of the people who picked up Jane Austen's novels in the 1940s because of this adaptation. What a blessing in the midst of WWII to have this film and a renewed interest in Jane Austen.
And Laurence Olivier is really not a bad Mr. Darcy (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more). I wish we could see Greer Garson's red hair in this, though I don't wish to see a colorized version. I'll take it in black and white.
OK, now I am going to hold my breath and post this. Please feel free to give your opinions in the comment section below. There are no right or wrongs on this topic. Everyone's opinion is valid and truly welcome. I want to know when you think we will get the next version now too. We are almost due...
P.S. To see my other Austen Adaptation Smackdown, Sense and Sensibility- 1995 vs 2008