PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: A SHORT HISTORY

The BBC seem to like to mount a new production of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE every decade or so, but I only recently discovered that early television in the UK included an hour long adaptation in 1938. The BBC transmissions at the time had a range of only 25 miles, and probably only a few hundred people in the London area had the receivers (with 6 inch screens) to watch these early experimental TV services.

The picture below shows a typical page from the Radio Times of May,1938 and lists the cast of “Pride and Prejudice” which was screened twice.

 

Andrew Osborn and Curigwen Lewis as Darcy and Elizabeth. BBC 1938.

I guess we’ll never know how much of Jane Austen’s novel was condensed into an hour. It was performed twice – live. Mervyn Johns and Andre Morell were also in the cast.

 

 

Madge Evans, John Baragrey

The BBC didn’t do the Austen story in the 1940s, but in 1949 the Philco Television Playhouse in America took on Pride and Prejudice. I can definitely see John Baragray as the supercilious Mr. Darcy.

 

Peter Cushing as Mr Darcy? Yes, in the BBC production of 1952, with Daphne Slater as Elizabeth.

 

The BBC tackled the story again in 1958, with Jane Downs and Alan Badel.

 

Also in 1958, there was a Canadian adaptation with Patrick MacNee  as Darcy. (Part of the series, “General Motors Presents”. ) This production was shown in the U.S. on the ABC network. Kay Hawtrey played Elizabeth.

 

Virna Lisi, Franco Volpi

Italian TV also filmed it in 1957. “Orgoglio e Pregiudizio”.

 

And how about a Dutch version in 1961. The title was no longer ‘Pride and Prejudice’, it became “The Four Bennet Daughters” – no ‘Kitty’ in this version!

 

Ramses Shaffy as Darcy .1961

The Dutch production is, amazingly ,on You Tube. Looks like they played fast and loose with Jane Austen’s words.

 

Lewis Flander, Celia Bannerman in the 1967 production.

 

Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul in the 1980 production. This is the first BBC production I remember.

 

Jennifer Ehle, Colin Firth

And my favourite TV version from 1995.

If not for the film version in 2005 (with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen), no doubt  the BBC would have considered a new version.

There was talk of a new production for ITV in 2017  by the company Mammoth Screen, But I’ve heard nothing  more.

 

But my  favourite Pride and Prejudice will always be the 1940 film. It was the first version I saw and I think the cast was first class.

The only film version for several decades, Jane Austen scholars regarded it as a travesty of the novel, or a ‘most horrendous mangling  of a perfectly good book’.

I loved it, especially because of the cast which seemed ideal to me.

 

Maureen O’Sullivan, Greer Garson, Marsha Hunt, Mary Boland.

Mrs Bennet: “£5,000 and unmarried. That’s the most heartening piece of news since the battle of Waterloo!”

 

Greer Garson, Edmund Gwenn

Mr. Bennet: “An unhappy alternative is before you,Elizabeth. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins. And I will never see you again if you do!”

 

Melville Cooper as pompous ‘Mr.Collins’, Greer Garson as ‘Elizabeth’.

 

Bruce Lester, Laurence Olivier, Greer Garson, Karen Morley.

Mr Darcy: “Yes, she looks tolerable enough, but I am in no humour tonight to give consequence to the middle classes at play.”

 

Elizabeth: ”I might as well enquire why, with so evident a desire of offending and insulting me  you chose to tell me you liked me against your will, against your reason and even against your character.”

 

 

To hear Marsha Hunt’s ( as Mary ) rendition of “Flow gently, sweet Afton “ is a comic treat though  painful to the ear!

 

Nothing to do with Pride and Prejudice, but this photo shows Marsha Hunt and others at the hearings of the House Un-American  Activities committee in 1947.  I can spot Paul Henreid, Jane Wyatt, Evelyn Keyes, June Havoc and Humphrey Bogart in the row behind.

Is that Sam Wanamaker behind Evelyn Keyes? And who is that actor to the left of Paul Henreid? His face is familiar.

Looks  like three of the Hollywood Ten beside Sam  Wanamaker.

 

Judy Garland visits  Laurence Olivier on the set.

 

Greer Garson, Edna Mae Oliver

That’s a  huge hat!

 

Blithely assuming Elizabeth knows nothing about archery, Darcy gives her some pointers. She’ll show him!

 

 

Ann Rutherford,Marsha Hunt, Greer Garson, Heather Angel, Maureen O’Sullivan.

Mrs Bennet (  Mary Boland) : “Look At them! Five of them without dowries. what’s to become of them?”

Mr Bennet (Edmund Glenn): “Yes, what’s to become of the wretched creatures? Perhaps we should have drowned some of them at birth.”

 

The costumes were all wrong for the period, but MGM liked ‘lavish’  so just changed the era to forty years on! Regency period dresses were considered just too plain.

 

Happy Ending!

 

 

A pity MGM didn’t  splash out on colour.

 

Mary Boland, Edmund  Gwenn

 

Edward Ashley

 

Edna Mae Oliver

 

Melville Cooper

Great cast including Edna Mae Oliver, Bruce Lester, Edward Ashley, Maureen O’Sullivan, Melville Cooper, Mary Boland, Edmund Gwenn.

Freida Inescort, Laurence Olivier

Freida Inescort, just perfect as the imperious  Miss Bingley.

And not forgetting Heather Angel and Ann Rutherford.

 

.

How to sell Jane Austen to audiences. “FIVE LOVE HUNGRY BEAUTIES IN SEARCH OF HUSBANDS!”

Or: “BACHELORS BEWARE! HISTORY’S GREATEST MAN-HUNT IS ON!”

 

“STRONGER THAN PRIDE”

 

The MGM film was partially based on a 1935 stage adaptation by Helen Jerome. In the Broadway production, Adrienne Allen (wife of Raymond  Massey from 1929 to 1939) played Elizabeth. Lucille Watson was Mrs. Bennet.

 

And in the London production in 1936, Celia Johnson played Elizabeth and Hugh Williams was Darcy.

Celia Johnson, Hugh Williams.

 

Did I say a short history! Well, who knew I was going to find so many versions from so many different countries. Such a pity we’ll never see all of them. Still, I guess that the BBC still has the monopoly on Jane Austen .

Oh, did I mention the various radio adaptations over the years?   Maybe I should leave that for another post!  (I did find a 1949 NBC broadcast starring Angela Lansbury as Elizabeth and Norma Varden as Mrs. Bennet. )

 

8 responses »

  1. Daphne Slater from the ’52 version has a featured role in The Courtneys Of Curzon Street with Anna Neagle. She does not come across well as she had a shrill upper class accent and was not very photogenic. I met Edward Ashley at the 1996 CineCon and he signed a still with Greer from the film.

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