Pride & Prejudice comparison
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Certainly many other people before me have given their opinions on the differences between these two television adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, but I simply must offer my own insights as well! In my view, neither version of this story would win a "smackdown." They both have elements in them that I love and appreciate. I wish to encourage everyone to sample both versions and savor each of them for their unique qualities.

| General Overview | Comparing Darcys | Comparing Lizzys | Photo Gallery Comparisons |

General Overview

Pride and Prejudice (1980)

Starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul, this production was made for the BBC in 1980 (by some accounts in 1979) and was shown to USA audiences on Masterpiece Theatre. It has a slower pace, more "video" production style, and follows the Jane Austen novel more closely.

More time is spend on chit-chat and country gossip. There is a more static feel to the story—just like the book. The Austen novel is all about conversations, writing letters, local happenings, and social manners. Austen didn't write Pride and Prejudice to be a straight romance novel—it was a gentle satire, and this version of P&P plays on that a more directly.

For the first-time viewer (and to someone who is not familiar with the Jane Austen novel), the romance in this version of P&P might at first seem to be a little detached. Though the love story is real enough by the end of the series, and there are definite romantic touches throughout, the focus is more on the battle of wits, and less on passion. But that's okay, because that's the tone of the Austen book as well.

The pace of the story is leisurely but not sluggish. It's best to settle in and enjoy the clever dialog, the fussing over lace and bonnets, the writing of letters, the discussing of parties and social events. Through Austen's book we are given a peek into the way life was for these folk, and this miniseries attempts quite successfully to recreate that feeling. Take your time and enjoy all that this version of P&P offers you. It's worth it.

For more observations about this miniseries, read my full review for the 1980 version of Pride and Prejudice.



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Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth play Elizabeth and Darcy in this updated version of the classic novel. With a far larger budget and a more cinematic approach, this miniseries is a feast for the eyes. It is also about an hour or so longer than the 1980 version.

More liberties are taken with the story, though Austen's general plot remains unaltered. The characters act less reserved, more like 20th (or 21st) Century personalities than proper ladies and gentlemen of the Regency era. Not to say that anyone behaves in a wildly inappropriate way—only that they aren't quite as restrained and reserved as in the Austen novel (or the 1980 version).

One thing that I grew to like, (but definitely had reservations about at first) was fleshing out Darcy's side of the story. In the original novel (and in the 1980 version) we are left in the dark as to what Darcy is feeling or doing behind the scenes. But in this version, these blanks are filled in, and we are shown the struggles and efforts Darcy undertakes. New scenes are written specifically to show him as a more dynamic and emotional character. I don't know if I would want these sort of scenes to be added to every dramatic interpretation of this novel, but it was an interesting angle and after I got used to it, I enjoyed it.

One thing that is sacrificed with these additional Darcy scenes—the loss of amazement and surprise when certain events occur. Not knowing beforehand—and finding out at the same time that Lizzy does—is part of the charm of the original book (and 1980 version). Losing this element of surprise is a trade-off. I liked seeing the extra scenes with Darcy, but I don't think I'd want this loss of surprise to become the standard for every movie or TV series adaptation. The 1980 version did very well to leave things as they were in the novel.

While this version of P&P isn't going to ever be mistaken for a "bodice ripper" (the couple does not kiss until after the wedding), there is a more romantic chemistry and a potent emotional undercurrent present—it's "sexier" than the 1980 version (though in a discreet, yearning-looks sort of way).



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Mr. Darcy

David Rintoul as Mr. Darcy seems to cause the most controversy—some fans of P&P cannot abide him, saying that he is too stiff and wooden for the role of Mr. Darcy. I personally liked him very well, though I would have preferred to see him "open up" a little more by the end of the story.

However, there was a good reason to have Rintoul play Mr. Darcy so severely—when I first saw the 1980 Pride and Prejudice version, I reacted to Rintoul's Darcy in exactly the way I was intended to—I hated him. I want you to channel Jack Nicholson in As Good as it Gets when reading this—I'm using the word hate in regards to Mr. Darcy. I mean . . . hate. I hated him. He was the most snobby, formidable, scary, stuck-up guy I'd seen. I could not stand him. (Bear in mind that I hadn't read the novel and was unaware of how the story turned out.) It was good that I hated Mr. Darcy, because that's exactly how Miss Eliza felt about him, and we could definitely see why.

As the story progressed, Mr. Darcy softens up—just like he is supposed to. We see that he is actually more shy than snobbish and arrogant. Even though he is not a terribly affectionate or effusive suitor, the transformation from distant and aloof to smiling and pleasant is quite dramatic. By the conclusion of the story, I liked him. Just like I was supposed to.

Rintoul seems to me to be more physically suited for the part—he looks to be 30 or under and with a handsome chiseled face. When he smiles he appears friendly and attractive, but when he does not smile he can look aloof and formidable indeed!

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I can summarize Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in one word: earthy. Colin Firth played an earthy Mr. Darcy. The producers of the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice did not hesitate to show Firth half-dressed, in need of a shave, sweaty, damp, or generally disheveled.

I have to confess, when I first saw the 1995 version of P&P and saw that Colin Firth was playing Mr. Darcy, I uttered with disappointment, "Oh . . . him." Don't get me wrong, I've never disliked Firth, but I'd seen him in other movies and TV shows (Lost Empires being one) and while he's a very good actor, I never saw him as Mr. Darcy material. For one thing, he is older than Mr. Darcy is in the book (I estimate Mr. Darcy to be 27 or 28) and he (Firth) looks older. (He was approximately 35 when he played the role.) He's an attractive man but he doesn't have the perfect bone structure of guys like David Rintoul (or Laurence Olivier, who played Darcy in the 1940 film). There are times where Firth almost looked . . . well, I guess "seedy" would be the word.

About midway through the program, I started to see why he was cast in the role. It was the eyes—his expressive eyes. He could say so much with a look, and the screenplay and direction used this to full advantage. By the end of the story I thought he was a perfect Mr. Darcy, even though he was a little older than in the book, and even when he teetered on "seedy" at times. He is absolutely fabulous in the role.

One observation that I should add is that Darcy started to be too likeable a little too soon for my tastes. It's harder to justify Elizabeth's dislike for him when those expressive eyes of his are saying so much.

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Miss Elizabeth Bennet

There doesn't seem to be as much controversy (in my mind, anyway) about the casting of Miss Bennet. I think both ladies do well.

Elizabeth Garvie as Miss Eliza Bennet is quite well cast, in my opinion. She has the restraint of a lady raised in that time, but she's got a mischievous twinkle in her eye. I have to admit, if forced to choose a favorite, I'd lean towards her. She seems to have a way of speaking that is meant for Jane Austen dialog.

Her appearance also seems to fit more with how I envision Lizzy. I can't really explain why—it's her slightly sharp and pointed (but very pretty) features, I guess. She has a ladylike and somewhat delicate manner about her, but you see the astuteness and humor bubbling barely beneath the surface.

She also seems to be of a more appropriate age for Elizabeth that Jennifer Ehle (who is, of course, lovely).

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Jennifer Ehle does a very nice job as Eliza and definitely presents the character as an intelligent young woman. Physically, Ehle is quite pretty and certainly not inappropriate for the role, but she looks older than the 20 years of Elizabeth. (Ehle was about 26 when she filmed the role—I wouldn't have been surprised if her age had been 30.) Not that she looks old—but she has a sort of "mature" air about her that makes her seem somehow more worldly-wise, older than her years, and perhaps a little stronger than the more delicate Elizabeth Garvie.

I don't wish to imply that I'm displeased with Ehle in the role, because she's very good. I have no true objections. Only that, if forced to choose, I'd probably prefer Garvie. Perhaps my preference stems from seeing Garvie's performance first (thus leaving an impression that stuck in my mind). But no matter what the reason, Ehle does a good job and has great chemistry with Colin Firth. So who am I to complain?

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| General Overview | Comparing Darcys | Comparing Lizzys | Photo Gallery Comparisons |

Read the Pride and Prejudice (1980) review >>


Order the 1980 BBC version from Amazon.com | Order the 1995 A&E/BBC version from Amazon.com

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