My Wife Hates Keira Knightly (or, Definitive Versions)

by Russell Fox

Well, she doesn’t really hate her. But she’s not going to go see her latest movie, coming out in November: a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. (Here’s the trailer.) Why not?, I ask her. You love Jane Austen. Because it’ll be travesty!, is her response. Two hours to tell the story of Pride and Prejudice?! They’ll have to hack scenes and characters and dialogue right and left! They’ll ignore subplots and subtlety! That’s no way to treat a masterpiece! "Elizabeth Bennet is a modern woman…" (so the trailer says)–baloney! They’ve plainly no idea what the story is really all about! How cheap! And so on, and so forth.

As you might be able to guess, Melissa is a massive fan of the classic BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries. Is she simply ticked that the new version will not feature the smoldering, tousled good looks of Colin Firth? Admittedly, that may be part of it. But I suspect there is something more at work in her ferocious reaction. What it comes down to is this–as far as my wife is concerned (and clearly she’s not alone) Pride and Prejudice has already been done. The miniseries was practically flawless; who could possibly want to watch–or be responsible for exposing a loved one to–an inferior adaptation when such an excellent treatment is still available? In short, we already have the definitive version of Pride and Prejudice; that’s what people should be watching. For movie studios to waste their time creating another, likely bad adaptation of a such a classic piece of literature is not just foolish….it is, in a sense, disrespectful of what the BBC achieved.

I’m not a fan of Jane Austen the way Melissa is, but I can see where she’s coming from. I’m only going to compare the new version to the old, and I’m confident the new version will come up short, so why bother? Yes, yes, of course–copying and adapting and transforming old stories into new is what art is all about, right? I don’t disagree, particularly when it comes to film, theater, and song. But even if I grant the importance of innovation and recreation, can’t I also insist that some works of art are just so excellent, so complete, so full on their own terms, that one can be forgiven for wondering is there’s anything besides the lure of a fast buck behind those who insist on continuing to rework these stories and songs and images even further? (Case in point: Madonna’s atrocious cover of the classic "American Pie." Another case in point: Jonathan Demme’s The Truth About Charlie, an insulting remake of the flawlessly smart Charade.) I think Melissa is right when she says, in essence: there’s no reason to offer me another Pride and Prejudice; Keira Knightly and Co. can’t offer me a take (at least not a "realistic" take, which is what the BBC version and this new one both presume to be) on the story that’s already been done about as well as can be done. So just don’t bother.

Of course, not everyone will see it that way, as not everyone recognizes the same definitive versions of particular works of art. Some people insist that the original production is always definitive (I would argue this is almost always the case with the Beatles; I have only rarely heard a Beatles cover that is even comparable to the original), whereas in other cases a song or book or film fairly begs for more definitive treatment (I would argue this is the case with most of Bob Dylan–while his oeuvre has suffered from hundreds of crappy covers, more often than not it is other performers who really nail the spirit of his own songs: think Hendrix’s "All Along the Watchtower"). Sometimes an adaptation utterly transforms what came before (Bobby Darin’s cover of "Mack the Knife"), thus setting the stage for a whole new raft of interpretations. And sometimes an artist will cover himself, thus putting an interesting spin on what constitutes a definitive version (which is the superior version of Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much–the 1934 with Peter Lorre, or the 1956 with Jimmy Stewart?).

I can think of a handful of movies and songs that I consider definitive, basically unsurpassable–I’d rather listen or watch them over again than anything else that might come down the pike: Robyn Hitchcock’s "Robyn Sings" (a complete cover of Bob Dylan’s Royal Albert Hall concert); the 1959 Julie Andrews/Rex Harrison London recording of My Fair Lady; Harry Connick Jr.’s covers of "Pure Imagination," "Maybe" and other standards on "Songs I Heard"; the whole movie Singin in the Rain (every song in the film is a remake from the 1920s and 30s); Ray Charles’s "Georgia on My Mind" and "It’s Not Easy Being Green" (what, you thought that was a children’s ditty? guess again!); Kenneth Branaugh’s Henry V. I treasure them all, just like Melissa treasures her BBC Pride and Prejudice. What are your definitive versions? Do you have any?


41 thoughts on “My Wife Hates Keira Knightly (or, Definitive Versions)

  1. Oh! I’m so ashamed to tell you this, but the old MGM movie of Pride and Prejudice is far superior to that miniseries with Colin Firth, though not as faithful (it’s only 2 hours, as opposed to the very drawn-out 5 hours of the series).

    The movie doesn’t do any of the design details right, but it has the best performances by far! Laurence Olivier — there simply is no other Darcy that comes to close to this. And the movie has the right tone of a social satire. The series is utterly drab, by comparison. It’s also way too long, and seems to end about 6 times. There was another BBC series version of the novel that I think is superior, too (from 1980).

    P.S. You’re also completely wrong about the ’59 London Cast Recording of My Fair Lady, which is completely bettered by the OBCR from 1956. Ask anybody!

    P.P.S. I also prefer Olivier’s Henry V. The Man Who Knew Too Much — 1934 is really better, though the latter one is better made, but kindof ruined by Doris Day.

  2. The original Willy Wonka with Gene Wilder was definitive for me. I was so bummed when a remake came out. I finally got used to the idea, and it helped that it was Tim Burton, but I still haven’t seen it.

  3. Sometimes I think our idea of “definitive” comes from familiarity. There is no definitive version of the great standards — what made them great was that anyone could do them and sound great. There’s no definitive version of “Embraceable You,” for instance.

    But The Beatles changed all that, because their songs were made strictly as recordings. A song like “Hey Jude” is not even coverable by somebody else. Hence, the original is definitive.

    A classic like Pride and Prejudice ought to be open to new interpretations, movies and plays and operas and musicals, and even dances. Perhaps the problem here is that you/your wife feel it’s too *soon* after another good version to make a new movie.

  4. D., I’ll be willing to concede that there are good reasons to prefer the 1956 My Fair Lady. But you’re going to have to move heaven and earth to convince me that the old MGM Pride and Prejudice tells Jane Austen’s story one-fifth as well as the BBC miniseries does. Olivier’s Darcy is magnificient, yes, but he can’t save that reductive, simple-minded film. As for Olivier’s Henry V, I’ll grant that it’s excellent Shakespeare. (But not his best Shakespeare film; I’d say that was his Richard III. Definitely not his Hamlet–terribly over-rated.) However, Branaugh really managed to film that play, and it’s damn hard to truly convert Shakepeare to celluloid. Moreover, the performances are just astonishing across the board. I might agree with you about the 1934 Man Who Knew Too Much–by 1956, Hitchcock knew many, many more tricks, but in some ways I think the earlier version has the tighter story.

    In general, I suppose you’re right about how this whole notion of “definitiveness” is concomitant to the rise of recording technology, and the way modern music became oriented to the record rather than the performance. But I wouldn’t say The Beatles were the key actors in that transformation; recording technology had changed the aspirations of singers for about a decade or two previously–surely much of Frank Sinatra’s recording efforts are best understood as an effort to capture some “definitive version” on wax. But anyway, in principle I think the notion is generally applicable to all sorts of media (film, etc.), and is worth exploring.

  5. I would say that the “old” Pride and Prejudice is a better “cinematic” work. It holds its own water as a movie irrespective of its connection to the original story material. The A&E version with Colin Firth is fun and engaging because we’re having an experience with the original text. But it is rather weak as a cinematic work. In fact, the director does some rather irresponsible things–like following Darcy as he locates Elizabeth’s sister and makes it possible for her to marry. We should have learned that with Elizabeth. The BBC version is even worse as a cinematic piece. It’s really nothing more than a glorified video. The scenes run upon one another as if the editing was done simply by turning the camera off between shots. But I still enjoy it because of its loyalty to the book. We get a strong sense of Jane Austen in spite of its weakness in production.

    There are some movies that are truely definitive like “The Wizard of Oz” for example. It would be next to impossible to remake that movie and nail all the elements the way they did the first time. However, with “Pride and Prejudice” I do think it’s possible to get a newer definitive version even though the “Olivier” version is quite good. I think the reason (or one of the reasons)is because there’s nothing really “ground breaking” about the older version–cinematically speaking. Most definitive works have a peculiarity about themselves that are difficult to reproduce–like “The Wizard of Oz.”

  6. Yes, I sort of agree about Frank Sinatra. But what Frank didn’t do was *write* the songs. The Beatles wrote and recorded their own songs (and few others, after the first couple of records). The Beatles, naturally, are the definitive interpreters of their own songs. But what about the songs they covered? These are not definitive versions — the only one that comes close is possibly Twist and Shout. The combination of good stereo recording technology (my grandfather invented stereo, by the way) plus cute young singer-songwriters makes *definitive* versions paramount. Has anybody covered a song (in the rock era) better than the original?

    I Love the old Pride and Prejudice more than life, and more than the novel, actually. It solved some of the dramatic problems, putting the reunion of Darcy and Elizabeth as the very last thing. The earlier BBC series did this too — far more satisfying as drama. After Darcy and Elizabeth come together, there’s a good 25 minutes left to the series. The MGM movie is certainly reductive of the novel, as it would have to be to be a real movie, just like any good movie of literature has to point up events over descriptive prose. By the way, the screenplay to the movie was written by Aldous Huxley — for a non-sequitur!

    Again, I think the series is pretty good, though overlong, but because the story was new to most people, as presented here, it became the familiar, i.e., definitive version, in most people’s eyes.

    I’m actually looking forward to the new movie, to see what it can bring to the story. I like Keira Knightly.

  7. Oh,

    And the Keira version looks scary. This “modern woman” crap is the very thing that will sink that ship. In fact, if one is going after that kind of theme, then one is going to have to do some amazing gymnastics in writing Elizabeth’s character. I mean, at some point she will have to concede that her snubbing a male jerk was the wrong thing to do.

  8. The old movie also has the very best Lady Catherine de Burgh, in Edna May Oliver, a scene-stealer if ever there was one.

  9. D.,

    You know (or at least I hope you know) that I respect you and that I agree with most of your critiques, but please (please!) don’t say that the movie is better than the book. Jane Austen is unsurpassed as a novelist. Though the movie is good, it certainly is not at the pinnacle of it’s genre.

  10. I’m with Susan on the Wonkas (I have seen the newer version and despite my love of (nearly) all things Burton and/or Depp was disappointed).

    My preference is probably due to nostalgic familiarity as per D.’s comment in #4. I could probably come up with a plausible critical schema for why I prefer the Wilder Wonka, but what it really comes down to is that I knew that one first.

  11. Hmm. Well, D., I guess jack will back you up on the old MGM version, but I’m not budging. However, my wife has just reminded me that her mother prefers the earlier BBC miniseries which you mentioned, and I’ve never seen that one. So there may be things I don’t know yet. But I’m with Jack in agreeing that, at the very least, the trailer for this latest version is telegraphing a complete misunderstanding of the book. Some of Jane Austen can be thematically messed with and still survive: you can turn Emma into a romantic comedy and it still holds together just fine (actually, that’s been done twice, if you include Clueless). But Pride and Prejudice cannot, I think.

    Sue and Justin, I was really looking forward to the Depp/Burton Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I agree that it tried to do something with the story that just didn’t fly. The Wilder version still stands. (It comes down to their depiction of Wonka, I think. Wilder’s Wonka was crazy, but kindly; Depp’s Wonka was disturbed and creepy.)

  12. HaHa, I recognize that my opinions are unusual here, in that I’m particularly enamored of the old stuff. I agree that the novel Pride and Prejudice is a great masterpiece — I just happen to prefer the story told in a briefer and funnier form. I saw that old Pride and Prejudice movie as a kid, even before I’d read the novel — hence, my love of it. I also like to tear down people’s sacred cows, and get them to open their eyes a bit. The recent BBC series is fine, but people talk about it like it changed forever the face of television and film. It didn’t…

    Here’s another thing to remember: one cannot have a definitive edition without being exposed to *other* editions. The new P&P will be welcome, if only, to show how the others are superior.

  13. About Willy Wonka: I haven’t seen the new movie, but the old one was a great, great disappointment to me. I saw it when it came out — I was 13, and very enamored of the book. The movie seemed to make the characters even more creepy and shallow than the book itself. Wonka appeared to be a kind of mean pedophile. And the musical numbers seemed truly terrible — it isn’t on a par with any great Broadway musical, or even some of the great film musicals.

    It may be superior to the new one — I don’t know. But if the new one is actually creepier than the old one…? Uggh — maybe certain things shouldn’t be movies?

  14. I think I need to get in here and explain (defend?) my love of Pride and Prejudice.

    I am, first and foremost, a book lover. I love the act of reading, the stories, and the images(generally) that words project. I am not a discriminating movie veiwer. I leave that to Russell (in fact, I like many movies that he would consider “bad”; oh, well, we’ve learned to live with that).

    That being said, I love the BBC/A&E adaptation of Pride and Prejudice because I felt it was extrememly faithful to the book. It had all the nuances and subplots and intrigue that Austen had in the book, and I felt it represented the book well. That’s pretty much how I determine whether or not I like a movie that’s based on a book.

    Some adaptations, no matter if they are “good movies” in their own right, won’t make it with me because they aren’t faithful to the book. I dislike the Merchant-Ivory version of Howards End and loathe Ella Enchanted for that very reason. They killed the book. They weren’t faithful to the author, to the story or even to the spirit of the story. I fear this new Pride and Prejudice will be much the same way.

    To be fair, there are some movie adaptations that I have liked better than the book: Enchanted April, Nicholas Nickelby and Age of Innocence come to mind. Sometimes, I think, it is possible for the screenwriter to adapt the story the author was trying to tell in a much better way than the author orginally did. And that can mean using less from the book and taking more liberties with how the story is told. In a sense, it’s a different way of serving the original story, and thereby being “faithful” to it.

  15. Interesting that you chose a film adaptation of a novel as your example, Russell. It seems to me that on-screen adaptations of significant literary works beg for periodic reinterpretation, since no adapation gets it “right” (I haven’t seen the BBC Pride and Prejudice but I’m willing to bet that even at 5 hours, there were plenty of choices that had to be made). Remakes of films and covers of songs are better examples, in my book.

    I know this isn’t a post on screen adapatations of printed works, but I’m not much of a fan of slavish devotion to source material. The best adaptations are generally reinterpreted in some significant way. My favorite movie adapation of a novel is “About a Boy.” Aside from the obvious plotting changes (the climactic scene takes place at a school talent show instead of a police station, and rap music stands in for Nirvana), the Weitz brothers and whoever did the writing crucially make Hugh Grant’s character’s transformation the central focus of the story, instead of that of the boy Marcus.

    In time I may get to the point where I can appreciate the choice made by Peter Jackson and Co. in LOTR, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

  16. Hi, Melissa!

    No movie can really be entirely faithful to its novel source, which can use descriptive language freely. A movie *must* translate the book to visual terms, every single time. Hence, the difficulties of the Harry Potter stories, trying to be decent movies and entirely faithful at the same time, containing every detail — they can’t, it’s impossible. One reason that the Lord of the Rings movies are more successful than many, is that they used an assemblance of details from the books, but knew when to change to them to suit the more visual medium. And they knew what to leave out.

    One thing you have mentioned, that I do disagree with: that certain movies don’t capture the *spirit* of the book. I would argue, this is exactly what the old movie of Pride and Prejudice captures (more than the mini-series) — the spirit. The book was meant to be funny — it’s the funniest of the Austen’s novels. And it’s satire, very subtle satire. Jane has even satirized herself (she isn’t Elizabeth, but Mary, the ugly and socially-inept sister, but the one who reads).

    P.S. I also love, very much, the movie of Howard’s End, though it is also overlong.

  17. The new version looks quite encouraging, to me. Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Burgh, and Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennett! I hope it has nice music…

  18. I think a great adaptation is Ben-Hur. Yeah, it’s hollywood in all of it’s glory, but (imo) the story they pulled together works very well on the screen. Some even consider the movie to be better than the book–don’t know if I agree with that, but I can understand the impulse. The same holds true for the Wisard of Oz–quite different from the book, but wonderful in it’s own right. And then there are several Disney masterpieces that deviate significantly from the original sources, but remain solid nonetheless.

  19. I’ll have to defend Melissa, and not just because I’m married to her: I do think that there really is a sense that there is a spirit to a particular story (or song), and some adaptations manage to preserve it or even magnify it (sometimes to a greater degree than the original teller or performer did), whereas others miss it. Yes, it’s a subjective process, but I don’t think that means you can’t intelligently discuss whether or not one or another version of Pride and Prejudice, for example, “got it.”

    Jack, I’d go even further than you: I’d say that the movie The Wizard of Oz definitely caught and expanded the essential power of the story better than the original book. I’ve read the story through several times to my kids, and it’s a classic, and I love it, but….I just have got to say, it’s just so much more compelling and thoughtful and fun as a Hollywood musical than as a book. And Hollywood radically changed the plot of the story in doing that adaptation–yet no one complains, because no one in their right mind (I think, anyway), could possibly say that the essential story of the Wizard of Oz was “poorly served” by the movie.

    I’ve never read Ben-Hur, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t the case there also.

  20. D.

    I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree about P&P… Perhaps it’s because I’m a sappy romantic? ๐Ÿ™‚ My mother agrees with you, though; she prefers the versions that emphasize the satire and the wit over the romance.

    I do agree with you about Harry Potter, though. I was going to bring it up, but couldn’t figure how. I completely agree. There is a point where you can be too faithful,therby ruining the movies. They are getting better.

    Perhaps it all has to do with your attachment to the source material? Case in point is the fierce debates over LOTR. I couldn’t care less what Jackson did with the movies; I think they work wondefully. But then, I really don’t have a strong attachment to the source material.

    I haven’t read Howards End or seen the movie in a long time. I think my whole problem was the way they treated the ending… but then, an ending of a book or a movie can ruin the whole thing for me.

  21. I’m perfectly fine to disagree about P&P. I know my own taste runs to the old-fashioned. I actually think the old movie is more romantic, though, than you. It’s got romantic music — and Darcy/Olivier, in his final speech, is so gracious and lovely — he’s perfect. I find a tear falling… and there’s not a second in the series that I am moved or teary-eyed.

    I like the series fine, but I think I could edit an entire hour out of it. There are a lot of shots of people walking here, walking there, looking out windows, Colin bathing (twice!), etc., that don’t have any place here. They’re not even in the novel. The series has fun music, though, by Clive Davis. I watched both series and the old movie several times over the last year. It’s a great story.

    The series is superior, though, where it explicates and makes clear the story of Wickham and Darcy’s sister. The old movie leaves this out completely (no time) which is a little bad because it helps to resolve Darcy’s character.

  22. The Wickham problem is in the old movie, isn’t it? Or am I remembering wrong? Yeah, I’m sure it’s there. It’s just that we don’t see what Darcy is doing about it as we do in the A&E version–which I think is a mistake. We should learn what Darcy did to save the Bennett’s respectability as Elizabeth learns it. Much better story telling (imo).

  23. No, I meant the problem with Wickham and Darcy’s sister. It isn’t in the old movie at all. In the old movie, Wickham is ultimately seen as a heel because he basically abducts Lydia. But Wickham and Darcy (in the book) had a whole history which is simply left out of the old movie — no time. In fact, the old movie doesn’t show Elizabeth’s trip to Pemberley at all. Her transformation happens only at the end after Darcy saves Lydia from scandal.

    In some ways, I think this is better. Elizabeth’s trip to Pemberley, and her big impression of it, make her a materialistic snob, just like everybody else. She likes Darcy best when he’s on his own turf, showing off the money.

    I know this is simplistic — I’m just trying to suggest some reasons why I might find the old movie, an improvement on the story.

  24. Oh yes! DARCY’s sister. I was thinking Elizabeth’s sister–who is Lydia. You’re right.

    Yes, the movie folks generally know how to sew up a narrative better than any one else. They have to–can’t rely on the live flesh and blood element of entertainment on the stage or the fact that one can put a book down and pick it up later. They’ve learned through the school of hard knocks what it takes to keep people in their seats.

    RE Elizabeth’s “materialism”– I don’t think the novel is that flat. She learns a lot about the good side of Darcy through hear-say while at Pemberley. Her visit there serves to begin the break down of her “prejudice.” As expansive as the story is in the novel, (imo) it would be too irrational for Elisabeth to be turned from all her ill feeling because of one gesture on the part of Darcy–as noble a gesture as it may be.

  25. Thanks Jack. I’ve been bugged by the charge that Elizabeth’s materialistic all afternoon. She’s not… not any more than any woman who wanted to marry well would be in the late 18th century. And her visit to Pemberly is quite important to the story. As, I would contend, is the backstory between Darcy and Wickham. Otherwise, Darcy comes off as a bit of a snobbish guy who does one good turn. What reason does Elizabeth have to want marry him? Gratitude for saving her family’s reputation? The whole time at Pemberly and the backstory make her ultimate decision make more sense.

  26. I’m pretty sure that we’ve discussed the travesty that is the 1970s version of The Great Gatsby before here — but I’ll say it again…

    IMO, that movie is one of the largest wastes in cinematic history — a great cast ruined by the script, and (even more) the directing and editing.

    I can only think of one adaptation where I find the film to be equal to the original — John Huston’s adaptation of James Joyce’s “The Dead.”

    Here’s a book that it seems like it would be ‘easy’ to make a definitie version of, but no one has yet (imo): Orwell’s 1984.

  27. William, I agree heartily with your endorsement of that old adaptation of “The Dead” (with Angelica Huston, correct?). I’d suggest that there are many other fine adaptations out there, but that one is brilliant. I’ve only seen it once, many years ago in a little art house theater…but just thinking back to it makes me shiver.

  28. Anyone else seen “Bride and Prejudice?” It’s a surprisingly good Bollywood take. I don’t mind remakes if they have something to add, and this version works quite well — I love the scene where Elizabeth & her sisters get to sing and dance in their pajamas while making fun of Mr. Collins (well, his Punjabi equivalent). It remains fairly close to the book, too, although Lydia isn’t made to marry Wickham. It seems like that’s a pretty common change made in P&P adaptations, and in keeping with the modern idea that skankiness doesn’t deserve its just desserts.

    D., I disagree that Mary was the character Jane Austen identified with. She’s clearly shown as a moralizing, embarrassing, wanna-be intellectual bore every bit as silly as Lydia (also, I would point out that Elizabeth Bennett does enjoy reading). Most of the biographies of J.A. I’ve read have spent a lot of pages showing links between Jane & Cassandra Austen/Elizabeth & Jane Bennett.

  29. Also, I dislike Keira Knightly. Most of her acting is done by letting her mouth hang open and cocking her head to the side in a “aren’t-I-adorable” pose. She is adorable, but I’ve never thought she can act.

  30. I suppose I read it somewhere. Elizabeth was the character Jane Austen wished she were, and so she made her the second daughter (like Jane herself) and tomboyish and also, father’s favorite. But Jane was really more like her character Mary, and she satirized herself this way, wearing glasses, reading all day, completely anti-social. Both characters are probably sides of Jane.

    Anybody seen the Mormon Pride and Prejudice from a couple of years ago? Not half bad, really. Not good, but not bad.

  31. We made the mistake of letting our kids watch all of the song and dance numbers from Bride and Prejudice. Now our kids (including two-year old Stanley) walk around all day belting out the line, “I just want a man who gives some back / Who talks to me and not to my rack.”

    Really. I heard it five times tonight.

  32. Quoting a friend:

    “We watched the ’95 last night.

    I don’t know. It’s got plenty of things going for it. I definitely like Colin better than the guy in the 1980, but in a lot of ways I find the 1980 more satisfying. It’s more faithful to the novel, though it’s a little shorter and omits a few minor plot details. But the ’95 is overlong and confused.

    To try and deal with all those letters, for instance, in the ’95, they act out events the characters only read about in the novel and chop them up and re-order them, particularly the letter from Darcy to Elizabeth. In the ’95, it starts with him writing the letter, and he leads with the story about Wickham and Georgiana, and it’s not until later when Elizabeth is reading it (which she does “with unpleasing comments” interlaced) that we hear why he came between Bingley and Jane, and it’s not clear that he had good reason to do so.

    Also, they show us Darcy stepping in with Lydia and Wickham before Elizabeth hears about it, and they give us actual scenes of Lydia and Wickham hanging out in a bedroom in a state of undress together before the marriage, which is a little bit much.

    I’d say the 1940 is still unsurpassed as a good movie based on Pride and Prejudice, but the 1980 is like a visual talking book and is very valuable for that, and the new one has Colin Firth in the wet shirt. “

  33. I’ve seen this current version of Pride and Prejudice, twice now, while visiting relatives in Utah.

    Yes, I liked it. I liked a lot of the details (that probably aren’t in Austen). I liked that Mr. and Mrs. Bennet were drunk at the Netherfield ball, and were noticed — it seemed to provide reason for Darcy’s actions in separating Bingley from Jane. And that scene had my own favorite detail, too — Mary singing to a non-listening audience, and then crying about it and hugging her father (“I practiced for weeks…”).

    Some of the visual choices in the movie didn’t work at all. They seemed to have set it outdoors, this comedy of manners, and some of those choices seemed particularly random (like the rain during their big scene). But the acting of Lizzie and Dar seemed right on, romantic and intelligent, and very human and real in comparison to some others in the movie. I loved Mr. Collins, too, a real portrait of an odd unloved personality — not a caricature.

    Judi Dench, though fine in her scenes, was directed without a sense of comedy, and I think she didn’t fare well-enough in her two short bits. Again, the visual choice of having her appear in the dead of night was a mistake, I think.

    This one will not replace the old one in my heart, but it’s a worthy enough version. One reason I liked it, is because I find the 95 series so long and drawn-out — this one told a lot of the story but with real economy, perhaps too much at times (I thought Lydia and Wickham, in particular, received short-shrift of the screenplay), but nonetheless, it moved along, and I did find myself in tears at the end. Keira really was a changed Elizabeth, one who was attracted but put off by Darcy at the beginning, but really changed by his actions by the end.

    I also laughed, quite a lot, at the same places as all the other versions (except for Judi, whose performance of the line “I would have been a great proficient had I learned” is certainly better done by Edna May Oliver.)

  34. The BBC version of Pride and Prejudice has to be the definitive version.
    The new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, although I have major problems with the ending and iwht Johnny Depp’s interpretation of the character, is far closer to the book than the original Willy Wonka, so it’s I guess, a more definitive version.
    Finally, out of all the versions of Sherlock Holmes, the very best and definitive version of anything Sherlock would have to be the Granda TV series with Jeremy Brett!

  35. From Warner Home Video, October 10:

    Motion Picture Masterpieces Five-disc set with five restored and remastered literary classics; $49.92; individual titles available for $19.97. (Warner).

    Marie Antoinette (1939)
    Dir.: W.S. Van Dyke; Norma Shearer, Tyrone Power, John Barrymore, Robert Morley. Extras: Oscar-nominated short “The Great Heart,” vintage short “Another Romance of Celluloid.”

    David Copperfield (1935)
    Dir.: George Cukor; Freddie Bartholomew, Lionel Barrymore, Edna May Oliver, Maureen O’Sullivan, Basil Rathbone. Extras: Vintage Technicolor musical shorts: “Pirate Party on Catalina Isle” and “Two Hearts in Wax Time,” Classic MGM cartoon “Poor Little Me.” audio-only bonus “Leo Is on the Air” radio promo.

    Pride and Prejudice (1940)
    Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier, Maureen O’Sullivan, Ann Rutherford. Extras: Oscar-nominated “Crime Doesn’t Pay” short “Eyes of the Navy,” classic MGM cartoon “The Fishing Bear .”

    A Tale of Two Cities (1935)
    Ronald Coleman, Elizabeth Allan, Edna May Oliver, Reginald Owen, Basil Rathbone. Extras: Oscar-nominated short “Audioscopiks,” two classic MGM cartoons “Hey, Hey Fever” and “Honeyland,” audio-only bonus: Lux Radio Theater radio show adaptation starring Ronald Colman .

    Treasure Island (1934)
    Dir.: Victor Fleming; Jackie Cooper, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Otto Kruger, Lewis Stone, Nigel Bruce. Extras: Vintage early three-Strip Technicolor MGM short “The Spectacle Maker” (1934), Oscar-nominated MGM short “Strikes and Spares,” classic MGM “Happy Harmonies” cartoon “Tale of the Vienna Woods.”

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