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.


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.


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.


4 thoughts on “Pride and Prejudice Adaptations: BBC’s 1980 Production

  1. Though not my favourite version I do enjoy it every time I watch(although I have not seen it in awhile). I do like Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s portrayal but I think this is where my character admiration ends and oh yes Mr. Bennet lived up to his part of not being father of the year that other versions make him.

  2. Pingback: The Week: 6th – 12th July | Sonya's Stuff

  3. Pingback: Pride and Prejudice Adaptations: BBC 1995 | Sonya's Stuff

  4. Osmund Bullock

    Sonya, I’m slightly taken aback that you thought Bingley 1979/80 wasn’t even *remotely* handsome – but since it was me that played him, I would be, wouldn’t I?! Anyway, my apologies…and actually I agree that I probably wasn’t handsome *enough* for Mr B, at least on camera. I have a bit of a lantern jaw (blame my grandmother); and while it passes muster on stage, it doesn’t photograph well. Unhappily the make-up dept made things worse by perming my hair and bringing it forward and down in a row of wimpy little pin curls – even at the time I knew that I looked better with forehead exposed (to balance the lump below), and had I been older and more confident I’d have had a serious row with them about it. Hey-ho. As for how David Rintoul looks now – poor man, it *was* nearly 40 years ago…and even then they gave him a more aristocratic bridge to his rather blunt nose. It was made of putty and fashioned anew every day…and not always consistently!

    But enough of my vanity (David has none – a delightful, generous man, and an especially fine theatre actor). I’m delighted you liked so much of our version, and even aspects of Bingley. Yes, by modern standards it had a tiny budget. Virtually all the interior stuff was recorded in the old-fashioned TV way, in the studio on pretty low-res videotape, and shot in long sections (or complete scenes) at a time – more like theatre, in fact. Meanwhile the actors were followed around the set by four huge, manned cameras on hydraulically-assisted wheeled pedestals, each attached to a bunch of thick cables snaking across the floor – choreographing their planned movements during a scene without tangling themselves up was one of the great skills of the age. The exterior locations, meanwhile, were shot on film in a more familiar way, but many weeks before the rehearsals and studio period. Looking at it now, the change in visual and sound quality and feel when a scene cut from outside to inside was bizarre – but somehow at the time one accepted it.

    Marsha Fitzalan (Howard), who played Miss BIngley, is indeed the real thing – her father was the Duke of Norfolk. I think you could argue that she was actually *too* posh – the Bingley fortune is very new, made in trade by their father, while the Howards have been Dukes and great landowners for well over 500 years. Caroline Bingley is a great social climber, though, so perhaps she would have presented like that. In reality at the time both of them might well have had northern accents. Today’s standard English upper-class accent really only emerged during the course of the 19th century with the growth of what we call ‘public schools’ (i.e. private ones!) for educating the sons of the aristocracy – before that most were educated locally, and many would have had accents that gave at least hints of their regional origins.

    Thanks for the blog – very readable indeed – and all good wishes, Osmund

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.