JANE AUSTEN MOVIE CLUB: Pride and Prejudice (1980)

Welcome to the Jane Austen Movie Club!

We here at Risky Regencies love to talk about movie and TV adaptations of Regency-era novels…and today we’re talking about the 1980 BBC version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE! (Also known as “the one with David Rintoul.”)

I watched this adaptation first when I was a teenager, and then again a decade later. The first time, I had already read the novel (at least once), but no other Austen. I recall liking it all right, but not being thrilled with it.

The second time, I had read all of Austen’s novels at least twice, but not seen many adaptations of her works. My housemate (the oft-mentioned book-goddess Heather) and I started putting on Regency “teas” — casual affairs where we would watch Austen adaptations and try out period recipes (I had a little trouble with the orange fool, but the syllabub was delicious.)

I recall our friend Jack (a Jane Austen Ball veteran — when he dances a Trip to Paris, all the kittens run and hide so they don’t get stepped on!) recommended this adaptation when we had our Pride and Prejudice tea — if I recall correctly, he particularly liked David Rintoul’s interpretation of Darcy.

I know I did like this version better that time than I had when I’d first seen it. Was it my greater knowledge of Austen, or of the period? Or was it the wine in the syllabub? Only Jane Austen knows!

I have now watched this adaptation a third time, so let the discussion begin!

To aid the discussion, I’ve listed the major credits below; tidbits about where else you may have seen the actor are in italics.

DIRECTOR: Cyril Coke

SCREENPLAY: Fay Weldon

CAST:

Sabina Franklyn: Jane Bennet

Elizabeth Garvie: Elizabeth Bennet

Garvie appeared as Diana Rivers in the 1997 version of JANE EYRE (the one with Ciaran Hinds.)

Tessa Peake-Jones: Mary Bennet

Peake-Jones played Bridget Allworthy in the 1997 TOM JONES.

Clare Higgins: Kitty Bennet

Natalie Ogle: Lydia Bennet

Moray Watson: Mr. Bennet

Priscilla Morgan: Mrs. Bennet

David Rintoul: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy

Regency fans will also have seen Rintoul as Dr. Clive, ship’s surgeon on two episodes of the recent HORNBLOWER series.

Osmund Bullock: Mr. Bingley

Marsha Fitzalan: Caroline Bingley

Jennifer Granville: Mrs. Hurst

Edward Arthur: Mr. Hurst

Irene Richard: Charlotte Lucas

Richard played Elinor in the 1981 SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, and Mrs. Fitzherbert in the 1996 A ROYAL SCANDAL.

Peter Howell: Sir William Lucas

Malcolm Rennie: Mr. Collins

Peter Settelen: Mr. Wickham

Andrew Johns: Capt. Denny

Michael Lees: Mr. Gardiner

Barbara Shelley: Mrs. Gardiner

Moir Leslie: Anne de Bourgh

Judy Parfitt: Lady Catherine de Bourgh

Emma Jacobs: Georgiana Darcy

Elizabeth Stewart: Lady Lucas

Desmond Adams: Col. Fitzwilliam

So…what did you think? And if you haven’t seen it recently, how well did you like it when you last saw it?

All answers welcome!

And come back the first Tuesday of next month, when we’ll be discussing the film MASTER AND COMMANDER!

Cara
Cara King, who can’t think of anything clever to put in her sig line

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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18 Responses to JANE AUSTEN MOVIE CLUB: Pride and Prejudice (1980)

  1. I saw it recently to prepare for this discussion. This was my second viewing of the movie, and Rintoul did grow on me as Mr. Darcy. It brought a totally different take to the character, different from Firth or MacFadyen. I feel that Rintoul lacks the gravitas of the other two people.

    The movie as a whole was slower than either of the others.

    Garvie was a fine Lizzy. My fav is still KK, but Garvie and Ehle are similar.

    I liked Peter Settelen’s Wickham and Malcolm Rennie’s Mr. Collins. Same problem with Wichkham: no one comes close to how he’s written in the book.

    I liked Irene Jacob’s interpretation of Charlotte Lucas.

  2. This is my favorite version of P&P because I fell it is closest to the book. Fay Weldon did a great job in adapting it! I loved Garvie’s Elizabeth although Rintoul is just too stiff as Darcy.

    When this first aired in the US, I remember Alistair Cooke commenting that Mr. Collins is one of the most ridiculous characters ever created and Malcolm Rennie really did a great job in showing his absurdity.

    I have always liked Judy Parfitt as she is so good at playing snooty parts.

    I actually like all the casting except for Darcy.

    I have always thought that this version focuses most on Lizzie and the Firth/Ehle version on Darcy. The KK/MM version is what I call the abridged version.

  3. Uh, I’m afraid I didn’t do my homework, but now I know Fay Weldon wrote the screenplay, I’m inspired to hunt it down!

    Sounds like a great cast, too.

  4. Interesting article comparing this one to Ehle/Firth (I broke the line of the url so it didn’t disappear):

    http://www.geocities.com/
    Hollywood/Academy/4558/PPComp.html

  5. I meant to re-watch this before commenting, but only managed to see part of it! I think it’s quite all right (a ringing endorsement, ha!), reasonably entertaining, and close to the spirit of the book.

    As Keira said, it feels slow, and maybe sort of “old school” and stilted, which might be because I’m used to a quicker style now. Though there are older Masterpiece Theater series I still love, like “Elizabeth R.”

  6. Here’s everyone’s heartthrob Colin Firth sporting a beard.

  7. Kalen Hughes says:

    I’m a Rintoul girl. Firth never really worked for me in the role (heresy, I know, LOL!).

    There’s a particular scene in this version that I’ve always loved. The set up: When Lizzy is at Rosing you see Darcy walking around with his pointer at his heels. Then: When Lizzy is at Pemberley, before you see Darcy you see his dog come running up. Total girly heart failure! Much more romantic to me than the infamous wet shirt . . .

  8. Kalen, I’m a Rintoul girl too! I think he’s the handsomest Darcy and gives a good portrayal of the insularity of Darcy–so convinced he is right that he doesn’t consider other people may have different views. Not “stiff,” IMO, but aloof. Ehle as Elizabeth I thought was very good too and like you, I love the dog’s appearance that signals Darcy’s approach to Elizabeth. Although I like the Firth version too, this one is my favorite, even with the slower pacing.

    I still raise my eyebrows over the gratuitous wet-shirt/bathing scene in the Firth version, but that addition fades to nothingness compared to the gross alternation in the Bennett family’s social position and the inexplicable changes in scene placement of the KK version–about which I’ve ranted before, so I won’t start again.

    Is this version out on DVD? I still have the old VHS but would like to replace it.

  9. “Is this version out on DVD? I still have the old VHS but would like to replace it.”

    I ordered it just a few months ago from Amazon, for only 9.99!

  10. Kalen Hughes says:

    My little sister bought it for me on DVD (she’s such a sweetie!). Now I just need to get the new version of Northanger Abby for my collection. I still have it on my DVR and I’ve watched it like six times, LOL!

    Sadly, I’ve with JuliaJ on the KK version. *shudder*

  11. Laurel Ann says:

    Amazingly, this is my favorite version of P&P. It is not as energetic as the 1995 Ehle/Firth version, or as creative as the 2005 Knightley/McFacfayden version, nor as silly as the 1940 Garson/Olivier version, but is still the most true to Austen. Elizabeth Garvie is perfection; light, bright and sassy. Some call David Rintoul’s performance wooden and too arrogant. He is, but so is Darcy at the beginning of the book. If you don’t like Rintoul, then blame Austen for making him so, not the actor. Fay Weldon’s screenplay is affective, though it throws me when she plants famous lines into other characters mouths, a style that I not have noticed other screenwriters of Austen adaptations using. Considering that this mini-series was made over 30 years ago, with a smaller budget, it stands up very well. In 30 years time, we might have several new interpretations of Austen novel all geared to the tastes and whims of a new generation, but in the long run, those who stick close to the author’s intensions and are true to the dialoge will, I my view, be enjoyed by more and last the test of time. Those who view the 2005 travesty, may laugh at it as much at the silliness as we do now of the 1940 version.

    Cheers, Laurel Ann

  12. Cara King says:

    My take on it:

    — I like it quite a bit, though definitely not as well as the Ehle/Firth version.

    — I really like Elizabeth Garvie. Her eyes are gorgeous, she’s a really good actress, and she comes across as intelligent and well-bred. Definitely a gentle Elizabeth, I think, vs some of the others.

    — I thought the actress who played Kitty was terrible. She looked way too old for the part (I looked it up, and the age thing wasn’t extreme; the actress was about 25, but Mary was 23 and Jane 26 — but I just think she *looked* way too old.) And she just seemed to me like a very adult actress putting on a little-girl face and voice in an unconvincing way.

    — Mr Bennet was fine, but didn’t excite me. Mrs Bennet I always find interesting — they’re all different, but they all work.

    — Mr Bingley was boring and not terribly attractive.

    — Mr. Wickham was very nice. I definitely prefer him to the weasel version in the Firth/Ehle adaptation. (His hair sure looks 70s, though!)

    — I really hate watching things made on video. Film rules!

    — I really like the women’s hair, especially Lizzy and Jane’s.

    — Lady Catherine was okay. She reminded me of Mrs. Elton!

    Okay, more later…

    Cara

  13. Elena Greene says:

    I watched this a few years ago but didn’t have time to watch it again.

    I remember liking Rintoul at first. However, I wanted to see him open up more at the points where his love for Elizabeth breaks down his reserve (the proposal scene, the ending). That’s where I liked all the other Darcys better; they captured both the proud facade and all the passion underneath. I just didn’t get the latter from Rintoul.

    But I’d like to watch it again and see if he grows on me.

  14. Cara King says:

    Keira, I like Jacobs’ Charlotte Lucas a lot, too. She has a humor, and also a reserve, and a watchfulness…

    Sharon, I think I agree with your interpretation in many ways! I loved Garvie, too, and I confess I thought Rintoul was too stiff for my taste. (Sorry, Kalen and Julia!)

    Thanks for the link, Janet — very interesting.

    Amanda, I agree with you that it definitely feels old-school. I think it’s superior to a lot of the earlier BBC Austen adaptations (I found their older Persuasion and MP to be unbearably tedious), but it still has that measured, pause-rich, low-energy vibe.

    Kalen & Julia, in your honor, here’s my more complete take on Rintoul:

    I think he’s quite handsome, looks delightfully snooty, and his clothes are gorgeous and unbelievably elegant. And I did feel some chemistry between him and Elizabeth, in several scenes, and in those scenes, he worked fine for me.

    But overall, I guess I agree with those who feel they didn’t see enough of the inner him…I still feel like I only saw the awkward or shy outer surface, and don’t really know who he is…

    And I whereas I think Olivier, Firth and Macfadyen all sold me on Darcy coming across as intolerably rude in the early scenes, while also (eventually) convincing me it was at least partly misconstrued shyness or awkwardness or unhappiness, I’m not sure Rintoul did. (Probably due again to the feeling I never really knew the character internally!)

    Then again, once Lizzy’s troubles started, Darcy did seem like a knight in shining armor…

    So, all in all, I liked him…though (don’t hate me, K&J!) I think of the four, he’s my least favorite Darcy.

    Cara

  15. Cara King says:

    Kalen, I agree with you on the dog scene. Great moment.

    Julia, I agree with your point about the stupid way the recent film handled the Bennet’s social position — and I think that this adaptation was spot-on in that respect.

    Laurel Ann wrote:

    though it throws me when she plants famous lines into other characters mouths, a style that I not have noticed other screenwriters of Austen adaptations using.

    Oh, I totally agree! When I started watching the beginning, and the characters were running around saying “a truth universally acknowledged” and stuff like that — narrative Austen voice used as dialogue — it really threw me off. And after a bit, I decided I hated it. Often, these were things the characters *wouldn’t* have said! And/or they wouldn’t have said them like *that.*

    BTW, shallow girl that I am, I felt cheated that there was no kiss at the end. 🙂

    Other things I felt were missing in this version:

    1) In Austen’s version, when Lizzy is arguing with Mr. B that Lydia shouldn’t go to Brighton, Mr. B says “Lydia will never be easy till she has exposed herself in some public place or other…” And I’ve always taken that “exposed” to have multiple meanings…as if he’s saying “I know she’ll make herself look bad, but it won’t be that big a deal.”

    But IIRC, in Weldon’s script, it became “until she has shown herself” — without the other meanings, IMHO…

    2) They totally screwed up the introductions of the Gardiners and Darcy. In this one, Lizzy just up and introduces them…whereas it was SUCH an important point in the book that Darcy asked to be introduced to them…and, after finding out who they were, still liked them… 🙂

    3) I missed the scene where Mr B tried to convince Lizzy not to marry Darcy even though she hated him…and she, in great embarrassment, has to try to explain to him that she likes Darcy a lot now, and has for a while…

    Okay, I know I missed other stuff too…but I can’t recall what!

    Cara

  16. Anonymous says:

    I originally saw it when it was presented on Masterpiece Theater in -1980. This one grew on me over the years and now compared to the other versions, I remains my favorite. Elizabeth Garvie is fabulous as Lizzy and KK’s version is close to it in spirit. It would have been great to see Colin Firth as Darcy in this version. This version is kinder to the Bennet family and not mean like. And yes, though it is slower you can almost read the book along with this version. The DVD version has about 2 extra scenes.

  17. Todd says:

    I’ve just seen this version for the first time, and I liked it quite a bit. (Of course, I like all of them, so I guess I’m pretty easy to please.) I’d definitely rate it below the Firth/Ehle version, and probably below the Knightley/MacFadyen version too, though the two of them are close.

    Those two have almost opposite flaws. The recent one, being a feature film with only two hours, understandably compressed and altered the story; but they also got some things wrong that they could easily have gotten right. However, it was light and funny, good chemistry, and never a dull moment. The 1980 version was much closer to the book (though some of the few things it did change were done a bit clumsily); but it did have dull moments, and lots of them.

    I liked most of the actors, especially Elizabeth Garvie; and I liked Sabina Franklyn’s Jane as well. I think it’s hard to do Mr. Collins well; that’s one area where the Knightley/MacFadyen version is my favorite. David Rintoul was a bit too unlikable for me; I wasn’t fully over it by the end.

    I liked that the houses in this version seemed believable for the people living in them–Longbourn looked about right for the Bennets, and Rosings and Pemberley seemed reasonable as well. I think often adaptations use buildings that are far too grand for their supposed inhabitants.

    But for me, the Firth/Ehle version still strikes the best balance between being true to the book and working as a dramatic adaptation.

    Todd-who-acknowledges-the-universal-truth-that-everyone-has-their-own-favorite-adaptation

  18. Elena Greene says:

    After reading Todd’s comment I realized what vaguely bothered me about this version. It’s not that I disliked it, because I didn’t. But everyone seemed to sort of tip-toe around, as if it might be sacrilege to put too much of themselves into an interpretation of a classic. So I think it ended up less controversial but also less lively than other versions.

    I still would like to see it again sometime because to me, fidelity to the book is still preferable to blatant disrespect. Maybe when I finish this manuscript… 🙂

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