On this day: the premiere of Little Women

little-women-is-a-1933-american-pre-code-drama-film-directed-by-george-cukor-and-starring-katharine-hepburn-joan-bennett-frances-dee-and-jean-parker

The 1933 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic book Little Women premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York on the 16th of November. Starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo, Frances Dee as Meg, Jean Parker as Beth, and Joan Bennett as Amy, all of the girls’ characters were played by women significantly older. Spring Byington played Marmee.

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In its initial run, the film broke attendance records, and it went on to be nominated for a number of Academy Awards. Husband-and-wife scriptwriting team Victor Heerman and Sarah Y. Mason won for their screenplay.

 

 

On this day: the premiere of Pride and Prejudice

PrideundprejudicePoster for the 1940 film Pride and Prejudice.

The 1940 film version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice premiered in the United States on the 26th of July. Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier played Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, though originally Norma Shearer and Clark Gable were to star.

The 1940 film version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice premiered in the United States on the 26th of July. Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier played Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, though originally Norma Shearer and Clark

Polish poster.

The film was intended to be filmed in England, but the outbreak of World War Two meant production was moved.

Also posted HERE

 

On this day: Literature censorship in the United States

God’s Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell

On the 19th of February, 1953, the United States’ first literature censorship board was established in Georgia.

Misleadingly named the Georgia Literature Commission, the first publication targeted was God’s Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell.

Facing legal challenges from the outset, the board lasted about two decades and then was left to die out.

Pride and Prejudice Adaptations: BBC 1995

Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle in Pride and Prejudice (1995)

If the majority of people are to be believed, the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is The One. The definitive, one, the perfect one. It is the reason Colin Firth has a career, and the reason there are so many Jane Austen fans to this day.

I’ve seen it ninety gazillion times. I’ve been to some of the filming locations. I enjoy it.

And yet I don’t love it the way most other people do.

The Making of Pride and Prejudice 1995 (BBC)

I have the “Making Of” book and have a great deal of respect for what they did with this production. (It’s still very much in print. Read it! If you’re a writer or reader of the Regency, read this great book!)  It’s imperfect, but when you’re researching your show to the point you’re having period-appropriate fabrics made specifically for secondary characters’ gowns, then you know you’ve done a good job.

Mrs Bennet Kitty Lydia Sonya Heaney Pride and Prejudice 1995 BBC

Even if there’s a whole lot of cleavage on display in the middle of the day!

Also, credit must be given for the locations. Unlike the anachronistic 2005 version, they don’t have the Bennet family living in a filthy, falling down hovel, and they haven’t gone crazy and moved Darcy into Chatsworth House.

I have to appreciate how much of the book they managed to get onto the screen. Still, some of my favourite scenes have been omitted, but this is by far the best adaptation if you want to see the whole story unfold. So, credit given there.

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Not my Elizabeth Bennet!

However, Jennifer Ehle’s interpretation of Elizabeth Bennet used to be my favourite, but now I don’t really like it at all (the 1980 version is by far my favourite now). Ehle doesn’t resemble the character from the book at all, (something highlighted more each time I read the book and remind myself what she’s supposed to be like), except for her sparkling eyes.

Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice 1995 Episode One Sonya Heaney BBC

She also plays the character much, much older than Lizzie’s twenty years, making the scenes of her literally frolicking about the countryside look mildly ridiculous. Mind you, the blue suits her much better than the curry colour (the costume designer’s word, not mine) she wears for half the production. They decided her character was “earthy”, but that doesn’t mean she needs to actually look like the earth!

And then there’s the fact she spends so much time smirking and rolling her eyes you have to wonder how Darcy was ever deluded into thinking she even liked him, let alone wanted to marry him!

Elizabeth Bennet Dancing Pride and Prejudice 1995 Sonya Heaney BBCMiss Bingley and Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice 1995 Sonya Heaney BBC Episode One

Some of Miss Elizabeth’s death glares for Mr Darcy. No wonder he thought she loved him!

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy Pride and Prejudice 1995 Episode Six Final Proposal Scene Sonya Heaney BBC

I believe in Darcy’s side of the main relationship, if not so much Elizabeth’s. Unfortunately they the all-important final proposal scene is one of the weakest scenes in the entire production.

Pride and Prrejudice 1995 Episode Six Sonya Heaney BBC

The best scenes Ehle gives us are those with her sister, Jane. There is genuine affection and camaraderie there, and it’s the only time I find her character likeable in this version.

Mr Darcy Pride and Prejudice 1995 Episode Two Sonya Heaney BBC

Colin Firth is a good actor, and I find it interesting to read about how he approached the character. He did a great job with it. I sort of resent the fact this is known as “the Colin Firth version” because they’ve added so much extra Mr Darcy to the story he has become the star of the show.

My problem is that I don’t find him attractive (by the way, he’s a natural blond, and I prefer him that way). I moved to London not long after this version came out, and the number of times I was forced to endure other women re-watching the ridiculous and anachronistic Darcy diving in the scummy pond scene…

Mr Darcy jumps in the pond Pride and Prejudice BBC 1995 Sonya HeaneyMr Darcy Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice Fencing 1995 BBC Sonya Heaney

The producers doing their best to turn Darcy into Fabio.

However Firth makes Darcy infinitely more likeable than Ehle makes Elizabeth.

Jane Bennet Pride and Prejudice 1995 Sonya Heaney BBC

The Jane in this version cops a lot of flak for not being pretty enough, but I do like the way Susannah Harker plays her. She captures her sweetness even if the Regency era styles don’t make her look as nice as she does in other shows.

Mrs Bennet Pride and Prejudice 1995 Sonya Heaney BBC

I actually think the majority of the casting is a bit off. By far the worst offender is that screeching harpy Mrs Bennet. I’ve seen her portrayal compared to a Monty Python actor in drag, and that’s pretty accurate. She also reminds me of the mother role in the ballet La fille mal gardée – an over the top character role played by a man:

La Fille mal gardée. ballet.

While on the other hand Mr Bennet in this version is made so likeable it’s easy to forget he’s an irresponsible father who buries his head in the sand – when he’s not being outright cruel to his younger daughters.

Mr Darcy Mr Bingley Pride and Prejudice 1995 Epriode One BBC Sonya Heaney

Bingley waxing poetic about Jane.

Bingley is a bit of an overly optimistic doofus, but at least he’s not a total blathering fool like the Bingley in the 2005 version. The actress playing Lydia is not only a decade older than her character, but also older than the lead actress. Kitty – a pretty woman in real life – has the world’s ugliest hairstyles. Mary has been turned into a nerdy cliché, and they deliberately gave her bad skin and greasy hair. Because, you know, you can only be smart if you’re ugly!

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Collins Sonya Heaney Pride and Prejudice 1995Mr Collins and Mrs Bennet Pride and Prejudice 1995 Sonya Heaney BBC

Mr Collins – who should be tall and young – is small and slimy and acts like he might be a paedophile. They also deliberately made him greasy!

Charlotte Lucs Pride and Prejudice 1995 Sonya Heaney BBC

Charlotte Lucas is one of the prettiest members of the cast (no matter how hard they tried to make her ugly with severely-styled hair), and she’s supposed to be plain!

Mr Wickham Pride and Prejudice 1995 Sonya Heaney BBC

Then you have Wickham, whose weird facial hair might be period-appropriate, but who must have got all the girls of England drunk in order to convince them he was a heartthrob!

Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice (1995)

I have plenty of dislikes about this adaptation, and yet it is highly watchable and introduced Jane Austen to a much wider audience. It deserves credit for a lot of things, but since I first watched it during its original broadcast, and then in nonstop repeats when we got it on VHS, I’ve sort of gone off it a bit. I suppose I’m more familiar with the book and the era than I was then, and now I like it rather than love it.

Pride and Prejudice Adaptations: BBC’s 1980 Production

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Garvie David Rintoul Elizabeth Bennet Mr Darcy

I think it would be accurate to say that at first, with its low production values and the I feel like I’m watching a play sense it gives off, I didn’t love the 1980 Pride and Prejudice. However, it has grown on me so much I now consider Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul to be the real Elizabeth and Darcy, and each time I watch it I find another little moment that makes me enjoy the production more.

 Pride and Prejudice 1980 Final Proposal Scene Sonya Heaney

The second proposal.

This version is often touted as the one that is closest to the book, and I think people mean in spirit rather than page by page, as there are plenty of differences. The silliest one would have to be Elizabeth running all the way to Pemberley when she finds out her sister has taken off with a man, though the scene that follows really works for me.

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Despite occasionally looking like a young woman straight out of the late 1970s, complete with shoulder-length frizzy hair, Elizabeth Garvie captures the archness and the manners of the Elizabeth Bennet of the book. She is polite but also witty, and she has the youthfulness and growth that I find sorely missing from Jennifer Ehle’s interpretation in 1995.

I can see why Darcy was confused when she rejected his first proposal, as unlike Ehle, who scowled and rolled her eyes whenever Darcy was within shouting distance, Garvie’s Elizabeth is a lovely young woman trapped in an embarrassing family with poor finances.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 David Rintoul Mr Darcy Rosings Sonya Heaney

Darcy sees Elizabeth at Rosings

David Rintoul is the only Darcy I find physically attractive (though don’t do what I did and Google recent images of him!). He is tall and intimidating and oh so aristocratic. Criticisms of him playing the role too stiff and dull are probably justified, but the more I watch him, the more I catch his subtle smiles and his meaningful looks. By the end, when he is shocked and happily surprised Elizabeth wants to marry him, he does much more with the scene than fan favourite Colin Firth ever did in the 1995 version.

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You see him change over the course of the story, and gradually see what’s going on beneath that exterior and that posh, posh voice. I’d marry him. Even if this version of his house is in desperate need of a clean! Those black stains on the exterior!

Elizabeth runs to Pemberley Pride and Prejudice 1980  Sonya Heaney

Elizabeth runs to a rather dirty Pemberley!

Together, they work perfectly for me. They didn’t toss all the social rules out the window, and when Elizabeth starts crying about Lydia’s elopement, all Darcy can do is hover, unable to touch her to comfort her.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Darcy Lydia's Elopement Pemberley Sonya Heaney

I love when period dramas can capture that total absence of physical contact and the strain it causes, and I’d love to see more of that in historical romance books.

P&P198012 Elizabeth and Jane bennet

Elizabeth and Jane

Jane and Bingley work for me in this version. Jane is pretty and smiling and has lovely manners without being insipid. The scene where she first glimpses Bingley from a window and starts waxing poetic about him after two seconds is utterly ridiculous, but I don’t have any other complaints.

Pride and prejudice 1980 Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley Episode One

Bingley is a bit of a dorky oaf, but he is also a genuinely nice man. He is the only Bingley out of the 1980, 1995 and 2005 versions who isn’t a bumbling idiot. While I don’t think he’s even remotely handsome, he’s a good person, has a physical presence, and is the only one who is a match for Darcy.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Mr and Mrs Bennet Episode One

Mr and Mrs Bennet are the closest to the characters from the book. Most adaptations make Mr Bennet too nice, and I like what was done in this version. It should never be forgotten he has made some selfish decisions that have put the ladies’ futures in jeopardy.

As for Mrs Bennet, she over-talks without being a screeching idiot (a la 1995). She remembers who she is and what social customs need to be followed – as she would have! – but still manages to overdo things. She’s the best version of this character I have seen.

P&P19806Mrs Bennet Lydia Bennet

A very old-looking Lydia!

The rest of the Bennet girls are not so good. Though I believe the actresses were close to the ages of the characters they were playing, both Lydia and Kitty look middle-aged and I can never tell them apart.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 The Bennet Sisters Episode One

Mary Bennet Pride and Prejudice 1980

God only knows what they were thinking giving Mary that hairstyle. She looks out of place in the family. Could they have made the nerdy one look any more clichéd? It’s a little offensive.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Lrida and Mr Wickham

Mr Wickham is too unattractive for his role, sorry!

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Mr Collins Charlotte Lucas

I loved what they did with Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins. This is the ONLY Mr Collins who matches the description from the book. And he’s a dope without being a slimy paedophile. Charlotte is not ugly, but plain, and she is a lovely friend for Elizabeth.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Chalrotte Elizabeth Episode Three

There’s a totally made-up scene where the two girls laugh over a floatation hat, and though it’s a huge departure from the book, it gets a laugh out of me every time.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Episode One Mr Darcy Caroline Bingley Sonya Heaney

I believe the actress playing Miss Bingley is a direct descendant of the aristocracy, and I think she was perfect in her role.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth bennet Lady Catherine de Bourgh

Just as I think this Lady Catherine de Bourgh is perfect in hers.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 David Rintoul Mr Darcy Rosings Park Sonya HeaneyPride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Garvie Elizabeth Bennet Rosings Park Sonya Heaney

A shared smile as Lady Catherine drones on.

The way she holds court in her scenes is perfect, and I especially love the smile shared between Elizabeth and Darcy when the woman just keeps droning on.

 Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Bennet Mr Bingley

Questionable costuming and décor:

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Bingley at Netherfield Park

It has to be said that overall this production looks pretty dreadful. It’s not grand enough, and some of the costumes are odd. Though I am glad they didn’t try to make all the day dresses for the girls overly sexy, because that just wasn’t how it was (there’s A LOT of cleavage on display during the day in the 1995 version). However, the buildings are rundown and the filming looks cheap.

Pride and Prejudice 1980

I suppose though, in the end it doesn’t matter. This is a character-based story, and I fell in love with this Elizabeth and Darcy more than any other.