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The Complete Jane Austen "Pride and Prejudice" by Myretta Robens

Masterpiece Classic

by Myretta Robens

I popped the DVD into my DVD player and sat down in front of the television with my laptop. The opening music (which, by the way, has been the start-up sound on my PC for over ten years -- supplanting the Elvira Gulch theme in 1996) came up, and my heart beat a little faster. It was like falling in love all over again.

By the time this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was first broadcast in 1995, it had been long-anticipated by many Janeites. But it took others by surprise, turning totally unsuspecting people into Jane Austen fanatics. I don't think any of us of anticipated the visceral response we all experienced. One day we were perfectly normal people going about our business and the next the day we were raving obsessives. I watched the first two episodes, went to the phone and paid $100 (which I really couldn't afford) for the tapes, because I knew I would want to watch this repeatedly. And, for some reason, we all went to the Internet looking for kindred with whom we could discuss this sudden obsession.

Poor Austen-L. Austen-L was the existing Jane Austen listserv and, at the time, the only electronic means to talk about Jane Austen. It was... how do I say this... kind of dry and scholarly. Although not all of the participants were scholars, the discussion tended to be more academic than not. And then we descended upon them: ladies who wanted to talk about an adaptation (gasp!). They didn't know what to do with us, and it wasn't long before we took ourselves away to a bulletin board quickly thrown up by the lovely Amy Bellinger and devoted exclusively to this adaptation.

This bulletin board was the precursor of the community that became The Republic of Pemberley, the web site that I still manage. Pemberley now encompasses so much more than adaptation discussion, and receives over 10 million hits a month, but it still holds this film very dear.

This adaptation is entirely wonderful. Okay, it's not perfect, but it is, in my opinion, the standard by which other Jane Austen adaptations will be judged. From the moment Darcy and Bingley gallop across the screen after the opening credits to the final (and only) kiss, it is obvious that a great deal of care was taken in all aspects of filming. True, Mr. Bingley could have been less like a sack of potatoes on horseback, but Crispin Bonham-Carter is such an adorable Bingley that I'm willing to overlook his lack of equestrian ability.

While I was making notes for this blog, the first word I wrote down was "vibrant." And, for me, that is the key to this adaptation. The entire production is vibrant: from setting to character, from screenplay to music. The vitality ascribed to Elizabeth Bennet infuses the entire six hours, abetted by astonishingly gorgeous English weather. Rather than go into excruciating detail on all of the beauties of Pride and Prejudice, allow me to talk briefly the most apparent successes.

The screenplay captures the essence of the novel. I know that Andrew Davies is noted for touting that Jane Austen's novels are about sex and money. I can't disagree with that. Jane Austen's novels are about the society in which she lived and about women's place in that society. What had a gently-bred Georgian woman to look forward to but a good marriage? So, naturally, the books are about sex and money; it was the way of that world. The screenplay demonstrates the marital machinations of this society in a way that is accessible to the modern viewer while remaining respectful of the original work. I cannot rave about it enough.

The producers are equally respectful. The research into costume, hair, locations, music, dancing and sets, down to the minute details of food and china, is extraordinary and conveys the era while enticing the viewer into the scene.

The cast. What can I say about this? Jennifer Ehle won a well-deserved BAFTA for her performance. She is a sparkling, energetic, intriguing Elizabeth. Mr. Darcy didn't stand a chance. The secondary characters, from the shrill caricature of Mrs. Bennet to the overbearing Lady Catherine, are wonderfully realized. But I would be remiss in not admitting here that it is (*sigh*) Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy that hooks itself into the female psyche and causes us to pick up the phone in the middle of the night to order tapes we can ill afford.

If you haven't seen it, see it. If you have, see it again. It's not perfect, but it's as close as you're going to get in 1995, in 2008, and perhaps in 2020.

Comments

Can I just say, I hear you, Myretta. I heart Colin Firth! (Forgive me, this adaptation makes me want to gush.)

I don't remember the first time I watched it, but I watched the video tapes so much they wore completely out, and still I watched them -- gray static, just listening to the voices and imagining the scenes in my head.

Thanks for this sweet valentine, PBS.

I LOVE that this P&P inspired Pemberley, and that you guys know and love Austen as well as the filmed adaptations.

I was late seeing this adaptation, though I had seen Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility, and had long been a fan of Jane Austen. It wasn't until a few years after it aired that I was finally able to see a videotape of Pride and Prejudice.

The Republic of Pemberley was the first website I visited when I ventured onto the Internet. It was already a thriving community in 1999. Now, almost ten years later, it's still a touchstone for all things Austen.

With PBS's airing, I feel like it's my chance to see this version of Pride and Prejudice for the "first time".

This film adaptation reignited my love for all things Austen. I don't know how many times I have seen this movie, but I shall watch it again with relish. While I can understand that an entire contingent of young Jane fans prefers the 2005
Macfadyen/Knightley P&P version, I hope they will give this adaptation a chance. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy? Be still my beating heart. And Jennifer Ehle was perfect as Lizzie. I cannot wait for Sunday.

I think a post by a male member of the viewing public is in order.
There can be no doubt the Jane Austen body of literary work is some of the best available. It is truly timeless.
This adaption of Pride and Prejudice is the best I have ever seen. Those who read and enjoy Austen will tell you Pride and Prejudice is Austen's best novel. So the reader/viewer really is seeing the best of the best.
From the authentic costumes,the lush beautiful English countryside to Austen's killer dialogue - it's all here. The best of the best.
PS: Colin Firth is indeed "The Man". There will never again be another actor who does Fitzwilliam Darcy as well.

I love the Republic of Pemberley, so thank you for that!
When this came on A & E, I was hooked as was my mother and all of my friends. I bought this set for my mom twice as she has watched it so often that she has worn them out. I love this adaptation, I agree it's probably the best one out there and must also agree that Colin Firth is the ultimate Mr. Darcy.

The excellent rendition of Pride and Prejudice was my introduction to the novels of Jane Austen. I have watched many adaptations of several of them. However, overall, Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon in Emma Thompson's production of Sense and Sensibility is The Man. Be still my heart. Emma and Kate et al were marvellous too.

Oh, how well I remember watching P&P for the first time(here in the USA on the A&E network) in 1996. Always a big fan of the book, I had read about the very enthusiastic reception the adaptation received in the UK and hunkered down with my then-14-year-old daughter Elizabeth (yes, she was named after that Elizabeth) to watch it.

As I had just recently returned to work after being home with my children for almost 10 years, I, too, could not afford the $100 VHS tapes when they were released. I satisfied myself with my homemade recording for many months, until I took the plunge and whipped out the Visa card when the price dropped to $70.

And despite owning many versions of this particular adaptation, I will watch it again tonight. There's just something about watching it along with The Sisterhood. I've also set my DVR to record all three episodes. My husband questioned this, tactfully mentioning that I owned a sufficient number of copies of this adaptation to rent them out and still never be in danger of being P&P-deprived.

I suppose I just like the idea of Colin Firth's Darcy "living" inside my cable box! Woe to any family member who attempts to erase it in favor of yet another episode of Law and Order.

Oh the sensation one feels when thinking about this adaptation!

I don't think there is any film, tv or big screen, that I've seen so many times more than this one. In fact, multiple copies of it had to be replaced b/c of the number of times each was replayed.

SOOO looking forward tonight to hearing that tune that makes my heart skip a beat....

In 1995 I watched P&P almost daily during lunch (I too purchased a VHS set I couldn't afford to replace a friend's sister's lousy pirated copy) with the friend (who was in the process of a divorce).

We obsessed about the jewelry and clothing. We compared the novel to the film. We wore out my tapes.

And my friend was adequately distracted to get through the unpleasantness of her divorce with some semblance of sanity.

My daughters and I wore out a second set of tapes. Our viewing and discussion led to many important "parenting" chats about dating and men and communication.

No surprise that one daughter turned out to be a literature major and the other a film maker.

Both are still single.

Thank you, Jane.

This adaptation of Pride and Predjudice was my introduction to Jane Austen. I too fell in love with Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy and wore out my VHS copy watching the mini series over and over again. Seriously, has any man on screen ever looked quite so adorable and smitten as Mr. Darcy does here? I'm really enjoying watching this again.

Hi,
This love story of Jane Austin has got my heart racing. It is wonderful. I would love to find out where to get all the types. I love, love stories. I could just watch them over and over. I can't wait to watch more. It such a wonderful Valentines gift. Thankyou

Melissa;]

By far my favorite adaptation. Like so many others I have watched this production over and over. I have VHS, DVD and DVR copies PLUS I watch it every time it is broadcast.

Speaking of the 2005-movie version, I have to admit that the scene near the end (where she confesses her change of mind), Macfadyen’s Mr. Darcy walking toward her across the moors in the early morning light is a wonder to behold. I compare it the the one of Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy swimming. Still, hands down, Colin Firth is by far my favorite Mr. Darcy.

Also, it was this production of P&P that made me go and scout out all the other Jane Austen’s.

I'm going to say one tiny measly critical thing DON'T HIT ME!! The color in the DVDs is washed out. I bought the 10th anniversary edition and it looks pale. It's not my imagination, either. A couple of reviewers on Amazon said the same thing. So I hope they remaster it. I'd spring for the whole package all over again.

Otherwise everything is absolute perfection. And don't forget Mr. Collins! Perfectly hilariously sniveling.

Myretta, I've enjoyed your website for years, so I thank you.

Ang Lee's S&S brought me to Austen, rather late in life, and S&S was the first novel that I read. P&P the second.

I also love this adaptation (particularly Firth and Ehle), and while I agree that it is a lovely work, my heart belongs to Persuasion -- the Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds version. *Sigh*

Yes, Colin Firth is more Darcy than Darcy himself, but as for the rest of the casting... Jane, the great beauty, has one of the worst cases of horse-face I have ever witnessed, and Jennifer Ehl neither looks nor acts like a 20-year-old.

The production also leaned a bit too much on the side of romance rather than social satire. Let's not forget this is the story of a young girl who falls madly in love with a rich man's estate.

Jen,

When it comes to Ehle’s Jane’s looks I guess its one of those “eyes-of-the-beholder”. I find Ehle’s very attractive. She is pretty—not Playboy Bunny (forgive me) pretty, but pretty. Her Lizzy is the whole package. Her confidence. Her wit. How she carries herself. Her independence. Her love for her family and friends. Her loyalty. The whole person is a great beauty.

And as for her not acting like a 20-year old, we are talking about a time when women were expected to be “accomplished”, married and ruling over a household by the time they were 18 or 19.

We are from a time where its not uncommon for some to stretch their teenage years well into their 30’s, 40’s and beyond—trying to look forever 17 and acting accordingly.

Everybody loves a good love story. This dramatization probably wouldn’t have had the endearing pull that it has on so many for so long if viewers came away from the production with the notion that, “she married him for his money.”

On a lighter note and to miss-quote I-don’t-know-who, “It is just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one.”

Ms. Robens has obviously read the book "The Making of Pride & Prejudice", which is fancinating reading; one point tho was that the cast had to be prepared to sacrifice six months for the making. Maybe this is why Ms Ehle? tho too heavy and old, and often had as much animation in her face as a Geisha, afraid her dark wig would fall off? Elizabeth Garvie in the original P & P is a delight as was Macfayden as Darcy in the film version.
One scene that was way better in the movie was the proposal in the Folly. Not the use of a Folly but the phrasing and pauses made the dialogue sound natural instead of artificial (tho book accurate)as the proposal scene in the Collins' parlor.
My favorites in this version are Joanna David, her daughter Emilia Fox and David Bamber.Like everyone above have the VHS and the DVD but Ciaran Hinds in Persuasion wins !

Hi fellow P&P lovers! I've loved this adaptation since it was first aired. I have watched it countless times since then. I still had to watch it on the Masterpiece Theater series, just because... but I am furious about one thing. Can anybody tell me why they completely ruined the ending for those who haven't seen or read it before??? WHY did they have to show not only the wedding, but also the first proposal??? I know people who are watching it who don't know the story and who have had the surprise ruined! If Murder On The Orient Express were being aired, would they advertise it by saying "We all know the ending" and show who did what? I am so angered by this and didn't know who to complain to, so I'm afraid I took it upon myself to seeif this bothered anybody else. Sorry... but I am just so mad. Well, thanks for letting me vent... I hope it's OK that I did so... Aside from that, I'm thrilled that so many new people get the opportunity to see such a gem of a production...:)

From one Denise to another...

I had the same thoughts about the opening. They are obviously catering to those of us who have already seen the '95 or '05 movie, or read the book. Hence the "We know how it ends...and we know how it began..." text that goes along with that opening montage.

But I do feel for those who haven't already experienced P&P in one of its incarnations. When I first saw this production on A&E I hadn't read the book and I was breathless with anticipation waiting to see if Lizzy and Darcy ever get together. By the time the end came I was in raptures.

Maybe the newbies won't notice the wedding scene at the beginning :)

I am in the minority, thought maybe not entirely alone, for preferring MacFadyen to Firth. I saw the later version first, and only then realized there was a huge cult of worship around the BBC version. I rented the DVD and watched it several times. I appreciated its much greater fidelity to the book, but found it sedate, and the filmmaking somewhat dated, compared to the energetic and vital Knightley/MacFadyen version. I loved Firth in several other movies, but I just can't quite feel it here, having nursed a huge MacFadyen crush for some time! (I don't know how I missed this back in '95, either - somehow it slipped by me!) I also adore the S&S with Thompson/Winslet - Alan Rickman was my first Austen heartthrob! For spot-on social satire, comedy of manners, and insight into the complexities of caste and women's roles at the turn of the 19th century, each one has its place, and I am enjoying watching this one again.

I must confess, Jane Austen had completely slipped my notice until I saw Colin Firth in some (forgotten) movie and checked to see what else he'd been in. Having no other choice, I immediately ordered the DVD set, watched it and fell head over heels in love with all things Austen. But my favorite thing is investing in the books on audio - to listen to the language is a marvelous thing! I just bought a "coffee table" version of all the books, and though it's a bit heavy to hold, I love reading them over and over. So for those of you who've just "discovered" JA, please don't stop here. I've enjoyed the Northanger Abbey and especially Mansfield Park Masterpiece shows, but I must say I was sorely disappointed in Persuasion. A Jane Austen character run through the streets of Bath chasing a man??? Preposterous!!! Please do yourself a favor and find a copy of the Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds version - an excellent adaptation. As far as the Knightly/MacFadyen version, I enjoyed it, but was very diappointed in the secondary characters, particularly Mr. & Mrs. Bennett, Mr. Collins and even Lady Catherine, as much as I admire Dame Judi Dench. MacFadyen, while gorgeous (and I love the across the field scene), just doesn't match Colin Firth for the complete Mr. Darcy, in my opinion. And at times I thought Keira more petulant than witty. Again, my opinion only, so do not take it to heart. We Austenians tend to have our favorites and feel quite strongly about them! By the by, I do so enjoy the Republic of Pemberly site, please keep up the great work!

This is by far the best adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I am in Maryland, and tonight PBS was supposed to broadcast the second installment of Pride and Prejudice, but instead we are getting Northanger Abbey, which they already showed on January 20! What gives? I am so disappointed!

This production of "Pride and Prejudice" is my favorite. Although the BBC version, which was my introduction to Jane Austen, was very good and sent me to the library to take out all of Jane Austen's works, this one is better. Colin Firt is a perfect Darcy, his passion for her is wonderful to behold and this Elizabeth is so pretty and lively how could he not fall in love with her? Some critics may say she fell in love with Pemberly, but I think she had already fallen in love with Darcy before she saw Pemberley. The costumes were perfect and the scenery was fantastic. It almost makes me want to visit the lakes district of England!

Reading the comments makes me realize that I love any dramatization, any version, of a Jane Austen novel. This "Complete Jane Austen" series has been bliss!

This P&P, with Colin Firth is divine. He smolders and does not smile for the most part which somehow fits with my own early romantic notions, gained a long time ago. It takes me back to my own romances, the feeling part.

Firth and Ehrl are both very solid. Whatever flaws this production has are negligible for the great enjoyment it gives. The almost constant inclusion of the countryside is wonderful, almost a character itself.

Note: The version as seen from UFT was marred with a pattern of whites spots at times.

I have my aunt (and mother of my dear godson) to thank for my love of all things Jane, when I received a leatherbound collection of Emma, P&P, and S&S. I was recommended to start with P&P first, and, eleven years later, my devotion is strengthened with every reading.
I was lucky enough to cross upon the A&E/BBC adaptation while channel surfing (shortly after my first read of the novel) and marveled at seeing the story come to life very close to what I imagined! This rarely happens for me when a favorite book of mine is adapted into a film! I remember spending an entire Sunday afternoon videotaping an A&E marathon of the miniseries, pausing out the commercials. Though I still have that copy (much to the chagrin of my sister, who didn't know I took it with me when I moved out of the family home!), my wonderful husband surprised me a few years ago with my own DVD copy, and can now watch it in beautiful clarty!
As for the recent film adaptation starring Keira Knightly, I enjoyed it..but a story as wonderful as this needs more than 2 hours to tell fully. Wonderfully acted (I agree with others: the Darcy on the hillside sunrise moment did send my heart aflutter just like when Lizzie and Darcy encountered eachother at Pemberley in the 1995 version)....but it feels more like the "cliffs notes" version. If you enjoy it....one MUST see the '95 version to get the full effect and sweep of the story as Austen would want it!!

I read the book in high school and loved it. This adaptation turned me into a fan. I taped it from the tv airing and watched it over and over through out my college years. My roommates called it my "drunk movie" because as a non-drinker, I would watch it on weekend while I was waiting for them to call to be picked up. Now that I have it on DVD it is my go to movie when I need to have something on that I can listen to as I move about the house doing this and that.

IMO, although she did a good job, Keira Knightley paled in comparison to Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth. I heart Colin Firth and Mr. Darcy. Again, no Colin Firth, but Matthew McFadyen did a pretty good job.

I agree with all of the other comments regarding the casting of the other characters. My favorite is Anna Chancellor as Caroline Bingley. She was perfect in that role.

As for P&P I prefer the 1995 production mainly because of Jennifer Ehle's performance. There was something about her countenance that drew one to her. Her beauty eclipsed that of Jane's and made me very happy that I just got a 42 inch plasma HDTV..
SB

I LOVED the 1995 adaptation of P&P! The other versions seem to pale in comparison and this includes the 4-star movie with Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier from the 40's and Knightley/MacFadyen in '05. I think a lot has to do with the version you've seen first, as it imprints itself in your brain and the others cannot measure up. Also, a 2-hour story versus a 6-hour story has a lot to do with it as well. The six hours weren't even enough for me! I could have watched another 6 hours of Colin Firth!

I just have a question on P&P that I've seen two different answers on:

The setting of 1794 due to an astute reviewer on Amazon who correlated it with a French uprising or war of that date, OR

The setting of 1807, the year of the Peninsular War (mentioned in "These Three Remain" by Pamela Aidan?

I realize Jane Austen wrote her book later, but her childhood could have been the setting.

Please enlighten me if you can.

Thank you!

I loved the Colin Furth/Jennifer Ehle version of Pride and Prejudice, it is the most accurate and yet spirited version yet. I found the new version with Keira Knightley to be intresting, though short, but in general to be dark and dispirited, and I really objected to the portrayal of the entire Bennet family as one notch above white trash. Pigs wandering through the house and Mr. Bennet as an unkempt borderline lush, indeed! The only real objection to the former is the characterization of Mrs. Bennet. I have no complaints about the actress (Alison Steadman) herself, basically I liked her in the role but as I see it there is nothing in the book that would portray Mrs. Bennet as vicious, only flighty and shallow.

Your description of P&P obsessives cracks me up because that has happened to me. I've heard comments for years about the BBC version and the infamous wet shirt scene but I just saw this mini-series for the first time on PBS. I'm hooked and more than a little obsessed. This is my favorite Austen (followed by Persuasion) and I can't get enough. I had to then watch the Keira Knightley version. It's good but not quite as good as the BBC's. There's just something about Colin Firth, isn't there?

I have enjoyed reading the numerous comments on this site regarding the A & E
production of Pride & Prejudice.
The more I have watched it the more I appreciate what a masterful production it was: the screenplay was brilliant and very true to the book (albeit, I do wish that we had been permitted to hear some of the conversation between Elizabeth and Darcy after she accepts his second proposal - it is so well developed in the book), the music was wonderful and so evocative, especially in the scene where Elizabeth and the Gardners are being given a tour of Pemberley whilst Darcy is making his way home...
Sue Birtwhistle, the producer, deserves credit for knowing how perfect Colin Firth would be for Mr. Darcy. Jennifer Ehle was also just ideal as Elizabeth. I was so impressed with how much she conveyed of her thoughts without speaking. She certainly had the lion's share of the lines to learn! The tempo, too, of the whole production was just right and the camera gave you time to absorb essential details.
I must not forget to acknowledge the person responsible for the story upon which this whole marvelous production was built, Jane Austen! What a tremendously gifted and insightful woman she must have been. I would love to have known her...

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