Friday, May 14, 2010

Pride and Prejudice Mashup

No, no monsters here. Those who have long read this blog will recall my flights of fancy with Mansfield Park and Emma, in which I picked and chose my favorite actors in each role to compose my idea cast for each film. It is a highly prejudiced exercise, and I intend to fully exercise that prejudice here, appropriately (and repetitively), as I perform the same office for Pride and Prejudice. This most beloved of Austen's novels has been portrayed on film numerous times: first in 1938 (a mere 55 minutes!), then in 1940, starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, and again in 1952, 1958, 1967, and 1980 (staring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul - read my review), all in mini-series format, well before Andrew Davies made his monumental, 1995 mini-series staring Jennfier Ehle and Colin Firth (which is by far my favorite, so consequently over represented here). Next came the 2003, LDS modernization and, of course, the 2005 production staring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. This does not include Bollywood's 2004 Bride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones's Diary, Lost in Austen (read my review), or the upcoming and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The variations are seemingly endless, so for clarity (and for the sake of my sanity), I will focus on only the four best known, traiditonal adaptations: 1940, 1980, 1995, and 2005. As all have numerous merits, the following casting decisions were extremely hard to make:

Elizabeth Bennet - Though all four actresses play the part well, it is Jennfier Ehle who will always be my personal favorite. The indignation and joy she expresses with her eyes are perfectly Elizabeth. No one else captures the liveliness that characterizes her so well. Her performance is, in my opinion, definitive. 

(image -

Fitzwilliam Darcy - Um ... Colin Firth of course. Any one who has been paying attention knows my love of his performace. Just like Jennifer Ehle expresses Elizabeth's "sparkling" nature through her eyes, in Colin Firth's we see all of Darcy's pain and struggles. This has nothing to do with wet shirts and bathtub scenes, in fact I think he looks more handsome in his great coat, but is premised on the fact that he totally embodies the role. If Ms. Ehle's performance is definitive, his is iconic.

Jane Bennet - I really love Sabina Franklyn's 1980 performance. She makes Jane more warm and feeling than she is usually portrayed, without sacrificing that notoriously private lady's composure. I do tend to think of Jane as a blond, but Ms. Franklyn's hair color is not enough to sway me from her.

Charles Bingley - I have to go with Simon Woods in 2005, mostly because he just looks the most like I think Mr. Bingley should. It was a very hard call, as Crispin Bonham-Carter played the role superbly in 1995 (who also has the advantage of being related to one of my favorite actresses, as well as having made an appearance on one of my favorite TV shows), but some roles must go to the 2005 cast and, if Mr. Bingley had a larger role in this version, I believe Mr. Woods (who was actually in yet another of my favorite TV shows) would have been remarkable.

(image - Flore et Faune)

Mr. Bennet - This one is easy. Benjamin Whitrow was Mr. Bennet in 1995. He is perfect in the role, from the sardonic twinkle in his eye to the humored grimace he maintains throughout. No one else has matched him.

(image - BBC)

Mrs. Bennet - Also easy, and though I do not think Alison Steadman is quite as fabulous as her counterpart, it is her voice I now hear shrieking in my mind every time I read the book, which should certainly count for something. She does a better job with the comic aspect of the role than some of the other actresses, and she flutters divinely.

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Lydia Bennet - Those of you who have been following my many links in this post may already know why my prejudice is completely with Julia Sawalha on this one, who performed the role amazingly well in the 1995 mini-series. She played Saffron on the 90's TV show Absolutely Fabulous, a role as different from Lydia as it  possibly could be, and for which she will always command my loyalty.

 George Wickham - Adrian Lukis of course, 1995. I mean, just look at him! Need I say more?

Caroline Bingley - There is a a reason why Miss Bingley almost always wears orange (and looks ghastly in it) in Austen fan fiction: because Anna Chancellor made such a huge impression on everyone who saw her 1995 portrayal of the character. Really, she was fabulous.

(image - Jane Austen Today

Mary Bennet - Mary gets a few more lines in the 1980 mini-series, which might be why I favor Tessa Peake-Jones in the role. Her piano playing is atrocious, her countenance smug, and I just adore the entire performance. I also enjoy how the character was developed in 2005 by Talulah Riley, but she was not as Maryish as she should have been.

Kitty Bennet - If Carey Mulligan had the opportunity to cough in this role, I might have had to go with her, but as it is I must give it to Polly Maberly, 1995.

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 Mr. Collins - Once again, I have to go with the 1995 performance of David Bamber (though Malcolm Rennie must be commended on his dancing in the 1980 version), and again, not just because he is spectacular, but because he is reaping the benefits of my prejudice being on his side. I was always amazed by his perfect portrayal of one of the silliest characters in Austen, but after boggling my mind as Cicero in Rome, he has my undying devotion.

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Charlotte Lucas - After much deliberation, I have to say Claudie Blakley in 2005 was the best. I really love both Lucy Scott (1995) and Irene Richard (1980) in this role (though I always considered Ms. Scott a bit too pretty for it), but Ms. Blakley, with very little time on screen, nails it.

(image -

 Lady Catherine be Bourgh - This is a little unfair, as this fabulous role has been performed beautifully by all the actresses who have undertaken it, but when Judi Dench is in play, who can really compete? In her hands, it is like the character stepped out of the book and onto film, an indomitable force demanding to be reckoned with.

Georgiana Darcy - I like Emma Jacobs' very short 1980 performance, because it best represents the shyness and timidity Austen gave to the character. Unfortunately, I cannot find an image of her.

(Added 4/21/11 - Thanks to Vince Runza for the following image!

Anne de Bourgh - Again, I like the 1980 representation of this character by Moire Leslie, although this time it is because she is developed beyond what Austen provides. With no lines, it takes only one tender moment for Ms. Leslie to garner our sympathy. Very well done. Sadly, I cannot find an image of her either.

Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner - I love how this couple was portrayed by Michael Lees and Barbara Shelley in 1980. Sophisticated, agreeable, and snidely witty, their performances were dead on. While I cannot find an image of Mr. Lees, here is Ms. Shelley with Elizabeth Garvie.

(image -

Mr. and Mrs. Hurst - Rupert Vansittart and Lucy Robinson (who also played Mrs. Elton in the 1996 TV adaptation of Emma) were perfect in 1995. I especially love when Ms. Robinson demonstrates what good piano playing sounds like with Mozart's Rondo alla Turca, played with such a self-complacent smirk on her face.

Colonel Fitzwilliam - 1995 again, Anthony Calf. He just has the correct manner: not stiff or too handsome but with good air.

Maria Lucas - Lucy Davis (1995) doesn't have a lot of competition, but she does do a wonderful job. Her performance reminds me of Mary Crawford's thoughts regarding the distinction between ladies who are out and those who are not. Here she is with Jennifer Ehle.

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 Sir William Lucas - Christopher Benjamin's 1995 performance is perfect.

(image -

Mrs. Phillips - No one has made her quite vulgar enough for my tastes, but I prefer Lynn Farleigh's 1995 rendition to the others. I love this image of her with Alison Steadman and only wish it were clearer.

 Forgive me for stopping here, to the neglect of Lady Lucas, Mr. Denny, and Mrs. Hill, amongst others. There are so many players in this story that it is difficult to be conclusive. And what of the 1940's version, which I have totally failed to represent? It is so different from the book that it has proven too difficult to plug its characters into a scheme like this, but that does not mean that it isn't a wonderful movie, if a product of its time. In way of making amends, I am concluding on this clip from the film, which includes my favorite scene, in which Greer Garson shows up Laurence Olivier in archery. Enjoy it, as I hope you enjoyed this highly prejudiced exercise. Who would you have cast?


  1. Wonderful, Alexa! I am so pleased to see another mash-up! I agree with you the 1995 version is the one most spot on with casting!

    If you haven't noticed yet, I am very partial to the 1940's version, mostly because it is the first one I ever saw and my love of black and white movies! I do agree that it is hard to compare it alongside all the other adaptions because it is so different, but I do feel they were all very well cast in this one too. I loved Edna May Oliver's Lady Catherine and Edmund Gwenn as Mr. Bennet.

    Thanks for the clip, one of my favorite scenes too! I think Greer Garson is so beautiful and Laurence Olivier has captured Darcy's haughtiness perfectly! I love the set down to Ms. Bingley "and that you will learn to direct your darts with greater accuracy." LOL!

  2. What a fun post, Alexa!

    I absolutely agree that Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth own Lizzy and Darcy. No performances can touch theirs (although I did like David Rintoul and Elizabeth Garvey as well in the 1980 version)

    I also think David Bamber was spot on as Mr. Collins. He was just deferring enough and yet still sneaky and used car salesman-ish to really work the character.

    I'm laughing over the fact that I am obviously not the only person who now hears Alison Steadman's shrieking when she reads Mrs. Bennet's lines!!

  3. Meredith and Lori - I'm glad you ladies enjoyed yourselves! All four films have their merits, and everyone has their own favorites, which is what makes this such a biased exercise. Still, it was fun to do, and I got to comment on all kinds of random things that usually wouldn't cover. I will eventually mash up the other films, but it would be very helpful if another Northanger Abbey was made first. Probably a pipe dream, isn't it?

  4. Alexa, I agree with your choices 100 % ( well, maybe not about Bingley, but I can live with it LOL).

    I always write while having JE and CF as wallpaper on my laptop, so ... :-)

  5. Hi Lory! It's always good to visual inspiration, isn't it? Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Here's a link to Emma Jacobs as Georgiana Darcy (at the left):

    Alas, most of the other images of her reference films that would call for smelling-salts for your delicate readers.

    No, really!

  7. Thanks Vince, for the image and the warning. I would hate to damage anyone's delicate sensibilities!

  8. Mary Boland of the 1940 adaptation, portrayed my favorite Mrs. Bennet.

  9. I'm sorry, I cannot agree. I think the 1980 version of P&P is perfect. Elizabeth Garview is the perfect Lizzy. Her diction, British lilt and delicacy is perfect. When I heard her say "It is not very likely" I imagined she was the perfect English Rose. Priscilla Morgan is the perfect Mrs. Benet. She exhibits the right words and flexion of a perfect performance without screeching and so made her negative opinions agreeable. I love Moray Watson: so gentlemanly and handsome. His lilt and flexion are perfect. Irene Richard was great as Charlotte and pleasing to the eye. Osmund Bullock the mannerly Mr. Bingley. Sabin Franklin played the best Jane. Very humble and very pretty. Actors for Lydia and Jane I also loved. It's the little nuances that matter. I loved the '80 Mr. Collins. After seeing the 1995 versionm, I'd marry Mr. Collins '80 in a heartbeat! Loved Aunt Phillips! What a lady! I would want her to be my friend. Pete Settelan's manner was impeccable in the '80 version as Mr. Wickham. Mr. Bingley's sisters and brotherin law I love in the '80's version. Love Anna Chancellor as well in the '95 version. Loved the Gardiners in the '80 version. So gracious, handsome and genteel. More well-developed characvters in this one. Lady deBourg was also the best cast. Loved her pompous disdain! How is it you cannot see it? The '80 version was more on point. And the outstanding David Rintoul. A heartthrob! I even loved the couple Hill. Would want them to be my friends.
    Loved the quietness in nature of their attitude. This I equate to great English manner. Pronounciation is most important. All of the characters were well suited for their parts and gave excellent performances.The P&P with Colin Firth, I believe the main characters are older, fatter, not as handsome and more vulgar. I thought the acting was really bad as it was not particular in any way. Nothing to recommend remembering, even Colin Firth and I like him. The lighting was too bright. Preferred the change in ligthting in the '80's version. More authentic all the way round. I would not want Bamber to touch me.

  10. Even though I adore 95 PP as a whole production especially because the story line also stays faithfuly in the most important points, I too prefer Garvie as Elizabeth. Garvie is witty and her sparkle in the eye is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT - watch where she accosts Mr Darcy after he eaverüsdrops on her conversation with Charlotte and Col. Foster.
    I agree that Ehle looks too old, amd STAID! Her acting is jolly good though, but ... she is not PP Lizzie as much as Garvie is. If only the 80 version hadn't had that ridiculous ridiculous run by her to Pemberley.