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Costume Drama of the Week: Pride and Prejudice

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I couldn’t start a weekly Costume Drama feature without starting with the one that started the recent surge of movies and miniseries based on historical figures and novels.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time when I was a junior in high school. Because I was in a senior-level English class, in the two weeks after the seniors graduated, our teacher let us watch movies . . . movies based on the novels we’d read in class. And since we’d read P&P, of course that was one of the movies we watched.

The 1980 version has definitive flaws—most noticeable in the cinematography (or lack thereof). But it stayed relatively true to the story. It wasn’t the first adaptation to be made, and, as we all know, not the last. And even with as much as I love David Rintoul in the role of Mr. Darcy, even I will admit that it wasn’t until 1995 that a version of Pride & Prejudice came out that not only gave us the quintessential film version of the story, but changed the way costume dramas were made.

In 1995, a new version of the film was made. I’m not going to get into casting—I did that here.

Adapted by the inimitable screenwriter Andrew Davies, and produced by the BBC and A&E TV (back when A&E actually used to live up to the A in their name), the 1995 miniseries gave us lush settings and better costumes. It took a few minor liberties with the story and, as Andrew Davies is apt to do, had a few added scenes exploring the friendship between Darcy and Bingley that, though Jane never wrote, did enhance the story and add to Darcy’s character.

Once this version aired and then came out on video/DVD, there was no need to ever make another version, right?

When a theatrical version of P&P was announced, I was leery about the ability to compress the story into a two-hour film. And I was correct to be leery. And then when I learned that one of my least-favorite actresses, Keira Knightley, had been cast as Lizzie I was certain I was going to hate this adaptation.

While I didn’t hate it, and there were parts I actually liked about it, this is a story that just can’t—shouldn’t—be told in two hours.

Now, if you’d like to know more about the three versions and the story itself, you can read my previous posts on it:

Pride & Prejudice (Part 1) [Actor Comparison]
Pride & Prejudice (Part 2)
Pride & Prejudice (Part 3)

So, which version is your favorite and what’s your favorite scene (from any/all of the versions)?

  1. Thursday, September 2, 2010 8:11 am

    You know my opinion. I would watch JUST the parts with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. 🙂


    • Thursday, September 2, 2010 11:59 am

      And you know my opinion, I’d have cast someone else . . . 😉


  2. Leah permalink
    Thursday, September 2, 2010 8:23 am

    I don’t really like Pride and Prejudice. I do want to read the book though.
    I watched the movie with Keira Knightley, although i don’t mind her in movies, i hated the movie.


    • Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:00 pm

      If you haven’t seen the 1995 version, you should try watching it. Unless you’re accustomed to reading early 19th century British literature, you may find reading P&P to be difficult.


  3. Thursday, September 2, 2010 9:20 am

    Definitely prefer the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version, but the newest version has its appeal too. It’s gorgeous, and I liked the Jane character better in the Knightley version. She was better cast, I thought.


    • Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:03 pm

      I’m definitely a huge fan of Rosamund Pike as Jane. Best portrayal of Jane, as far as I’m concerned.

      And the Jane-Bingley dynamic in the 2005 version was the best in that they brought humor to it. It’s ironic coming from me, but the Janes and Bingleys in the 1980 and 1995 versions are too staid and too demure in their courtship to be truly believable/sympathetic. (Though, it was Jane’s acting too demure, too reserved, during the courtship that enabled Darcy to be able to convince Bingley she didn’t love him . . .)


    • Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:15 pm

      I agree, Rosamund Pike is, to date, the best Jane IMO.


  4. Sylvia M. permalink
    Thursday, September 2, 2010 9:42 am

    Pride and Prejudice is my favorite novel of all time. I have watched all the versions except the ones from the 1950’s and 1960’s that haven’t been released to VHS or DVD. P&P 1980 has it’s merits and I enjoy it, but P&P 1995 is the best version of all. Actually, it’s my favorite film period of even non-JA . I won’t mention P&P 2005. My lips are sealed. Other than some of the actors being a little older than their ages in P&P 1995 I have no complaints. Well, Mr. Collins was the best in the 2003 Utah version. In the 1995 version he was too old and too short. He acted well though.


    • Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:05 pm

      The 1995 version was one of the first DVDs I bought when I got my DVR in the early 2000s. I’d never seen it before then. I’d had the 1980s version on VHS for years, so though I loved the 95 version, my brain was already set with David Rintoul as Darcy, so seeing someone else in that role kept me from being able to place the ’95 version as my “absolute” favorite.


  5. Thursday, September 2, 2010 10:22 am

    Question – What film is the woman from who is between North and South and Bleak House in the Costume Drama header? Just wondering.

    My favorite P&P is definitely the 1995 version. I can still remember when I sat down to watch the first episode…I was just blown away. That was the start of my love affair with British film and costume dramas, and since then I just haven’t looked back!

    I also love the 2005 film, taken as is, for competely different reasons. The 1980 version…there are not words for how much I can’t stand that one, sorry. 😉


    • Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:08 pm

      That’s Maria Doyle Kennedy who plays Queen Catherine of Aragon in The Tudors.

      And I think which version is preferred depends on which version is seen/loved first. I’m the first to admit that the 1980 version has its flaws, but having watched it so soon after reading the book, that cemented David Rintoul’s performance/image as Mr. Darcy firmly in my mind.

      If I hadn’t been trying to get this post up at 3 a.m., I should have done a “re-casting” to go along with this!


      • Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:18 pm

        Thanks for identifying the woman in the header!

        And yeah…there is something to what you say, but the 1980 version just sucked all the life out of the story for me, which just blew my mind. It sort of made me want to break the television… 😛

        Hmmm…maybe a periodic “re-casting” post for some of these would be an idea for another blog feature! Not weekly, necessarily, just a bonus for the extra special favorite stories. 🙂


        • Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:24 pm

          I don’t have anything in mind for tomorrow’s Fun Friday post yet . . .


        • Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:39 pm

          Well that sounds like a good idea. 🙂


  6. Elisabeth permalink
    Thursday, September 2, 2010 11:15 am

    My favorite is actually the version with Kiera Knightly because I absolutely adore the music. I also like the version from the 1980s, but that one takes a long time to watch.


    • Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:11 pm

      The 1980 version is 265 minutes. The 1995 version is 300 minutes.

      I think the 1980 version feels longer because it isn’t as well produced/shot as the 1995 version—and the music isn’t as good.

      And yes, the music from the 2005 version is great!


  7. Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:16 pm

    Here’s something else I should have added to this post . . . favorite scene from each version!

    1980–The proposal scene. I absolutely adore David Rintoul’s performance here.

    1995–The scenes at Pemberley after Elizabeth and Darcy have seen each other, when we really get to see who the Real Darcy is.

    2005–the Bingley-Jane proposal. Best part of that movie!


    • Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:19 pm

      Oh, the Bingley-Jane proposal in the 2005 version was just fantastic, a definite highlight scene of that movie. So well played by both actors!


  8. Becky permalink
    Thursday, September 2, 2010 2:55 pm

    I LOVE the 1995 version best, but it was also the first I saw. Like Ruth, it was the movie that hooked me on period dramas. I got the VHS set and then I bought the DVD set. Have to watch it at least a couple times a year. I have many favorite scenes, but love the one at Pemberley where Darcy watches Elizabeth interact with his sister.

    I tried watching the 1980 version, but I could not get through it. It was terribly done. I may have been able to watch it all if I had not seen the 1995 version first I guess.

    The 2005 version has it merits. I do enjoy the shorter length for times when I need a dose of P&P but don’t have 300 minutes.


  9. Thursday, September 2, 2010 8:59 pm


    2005-Hate Kiera Knightley, McFayden’s Darcy is good but not “quite” Darcy (like if he wasn’t playing Darcy I’d have liked him more), love Jane, Mr. Bingley’s funny but his hair didn’t help him and he acted kind of…hmm, I don’t know, airheaded sometimes. Kitty and Lydia I adored, Mrs. Bennet was nice because she was a bit more three-dimensional than all the other Mrs. Bennet’s I’ve seen, and I HATED HATED HATED Donald Sutherland’s Mr. Bennet.

    1980-I watched the first five minutes and that was all I could take. Sorry! 🙂


  10. Ruth P permalink
    Friday, September 3, 2010 2:46 pm

    1995 version! loved Colin Firth.. *swoons* 🙂 I think the newest is ok..a few scenes were good, but agree that 2 hours is much to short to tell the whole story.


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