Happy Birthday, Pride and Prejudice (1940)!

I saw my first adaptation of Pride and Prejudice on television in the 1960s, one afternoon at home with my sisters while my parents were at work. It was the 1940 black-and-white movie starring Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier. Because I hadn’t yet read Jane Austen’s masterpiece at the time, I viewed the movie as just another enjoyable Hollywood comedy.

Produced by MGM studios, the movie was released on July 26, 1940 to rave reviews. Newspaper and magazine columnists described the movie as “brilliant,” charming,” and “hilarious.”

All those descriptors suited MGM, since the studio made a deliberate decision to mine the novel for as many comedic aspects as possible, and their advertisements reflected that intention. Here’s one of their newspaper ads, which opens with the words, “Bachelors Beware!”

The ad below promised the movie would take viewers on “The Merriest Man-Hunt”:

And this movie poster proclaims the story takes place during a time “when pretty girls t-e-a-s-e-d men into marriage.”

Movie-goers ate it all up with a spoon and a smile. Book stores and movie theaters gave away copies of the novel in promotional campaigns.

Part of an ad in The Semi-Weekly Spokesman Review (Spokane, Washington) on Sunday, October 13, 1940.

One newspaper encouraged readers to submit stories (in 100 words or less) about how “pride or prejudice cost you a girl friend, boy friend, a friend or a job.” The prize: a copy of Pride and Prejudice autographed by the film’s star, Greer Garson.

From The Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser, Tuesday, August 27, 1940.

A couple years after I first saw the movie on television I read the novel and found the film was only somewhat faithful to the original. Here’s an early scene in the movie where Darcy (second from left) insults Elizabeth Bennet (second from right) at the Meryton assembly:

Elizabeth overhears Darcy’s insults at the Meryton assembly. Left to right: Charles Bingley, Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, Charlotte Lucas.

But while the scene appears visually faithful to the book, the dialog was altered for the movie. Jane Austen wrote Darcy’s insult in this way:

She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.

But in the movie, Darcy’s insult was altered so it was directed toward the assembly in general, not toward Elizabeth in particular:

Yes, she looks tolerable enough, but I am in no humor tonight to give consequence to the middle classes at play.

In another scene that rings true, Jane and Elizabeth tend Mrs. Bennet’s poor nerves while their father looks on:

MGM’s commitment to going for the big laughs is what probably led to several scenes that never appeared in the book, like the ridiculously improbable carriage race in the beginning of the movie. It also led to scenes like this one, where Mr. Collins and Mary Bennet show off their musical talents (or lack thereof):

The studio also added an archery scene that never appeared in Austen’s novel, although it is effective in conveying Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s personalities:

For me, the most jarring aspect of the movie is the costumes, which were created by famed Hollywood designer, Adrian.

An example of the over-the-top costumes worn by the characters of Charlotte Lucas and Elizabeth Bennet in the film.

Adrian did his research and was aware of the Grecian-inspired style of clothing in vogue during the time period in which Pride and Prejudice takes place; but for this film he decided to follow his own taste, instead. An article in the May 19, 1940 issue of The Detroit Free Press explains why:

Excerpt from an article in the Detroit Free Press on Sunday, May 19, 1940.

Despite its outlandish costumes and emphasis on physical comedy, this movie holds a special place in my heart because it was my very first introduction to Pride and Prejudice. And despite the fact that the majority of the film strays far from canon, I like it, and I enjoyed watching it again this week.

So, happy birthday Pride and Prejudice (1940)! Your old-fashioned 1940s charm and desire to please everyone still holds up 80 years later.

Note: The movie posters and still movie photos in this post can be found at IMDB.com. Click here to see more.

Lydia Bennet: She’s Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No

Hello, Austen Lovers! Can you believe the month of May is coming to an end? Sometimes it seems time is passing so slowly; and yet, we’re nearing the half-way mark of 2020 with surprising speed!

In my home state of Colorado we are still living under quarantine rules, although some restrictions have been relaxed. Now we can visit a salon to get a haircut (which I haven’t yet done, so I’m rockin’ a ponytail), and this week restaurants opened with serious limitations.

Since I have an underlying health condition to consider, I am still staying at home, where I know I’ll be safe. To pass the time, I’ve worked jigsaw puzzles, painted the entire interior of my house, and brushed up on my conversational Spanish skills.

I re-read Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time, and last week I watched a favorite old Hollywood musical, Oklahoma!

Now, maybe I’ve been under quarantine too long, but I hadn’t watched the movie for very many minutes before I began to notice elements of the story that reminded me of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

If you haven’t yet seen it yet, the film centers on the romance between farmer Laurey Williams and cowboy Curly McLain in 1907 Oklahoma Territory.

Curley and Laurey, singing their hearts out in Oklahoma!

As usual, their course of true love does not run smooth, due in part to a socially outcast farmhand named Jud Fry, who has the hots for Laurey. I confess he reminded me of Mr. Collins’ pursuit of Elizabeth Bennet, especially when Laurey says of Jud:

“He makes me shiver ever’ time he gits close to me.”

In the film, Laurey has a good friend named Ado Annie Carnes, a boy-crazy farmer’s daughter who loves cowboy Will Parker, but can’t stop herself from seeking attention from other men.

As Ado Annie explains to Laurey: “I’m just a girl who cain’t say no.”

Wasn’t that Lydia Bennet’s problem, too? Both Ado Annie and Lydia where raised in good families, and both were taught right from wrong. Yet when Ado Annie sang these lyrics in Oklahoma!, I couldn’t help but think of Lydia Bennet:

It ain’t so much a question of not knowin’ what to do
I knowed what’s right an’ wrong since I’ve been ten.
I heared a lot of stories an’ I reckon they are true
About how girls are put upon by men.

I know I mustn’t fall into the pit
But when I’m with a feller
I fergit!

A few verses later, Ado Annie chirps:

Ev’ry time I lose a wrestlin’ match.
I have a funny feelin’ that I won!

Despite her love for Will Parker, Ado Annie juggles a romance with Ali Hakim, the traveling peddler who promises to take Annie “to paradise.” But what Ali really means is, he wants Ado Annie to spend a few hours with him in a hotel room in the next town.

Ali Hakim, Ado Annie, and Will Parker.

Just as Lydia Bennet thought there wouldn’t be any harm in running off with Mr. Wickham, Ado Annie considers joining Ali Hakim on that trip to “paradise” he promised. And when her father finds out about it, and realizes Ali has compromised his daughter, Mr. Carnes forces him to offer Ado Annie marriage.

Ali put it this way:

I wanted to marry her when I saw the moonlight shining on the barrel of her father’s shotgun.

Shades of P&P! Lydia Bennet had a sort of shotgun wedding of her own after she ran off to London with Mr. Wickham; and, just like Ado Annie, Lydia was shameless in telling everyone she knew how her wedding came about, causing Elizabeth to scold her:

I do not particularly like your way of getting husbands.

I won’t give away the ending of Oklahoma! for those who haven’t seen it, but since it’s a Hollywood musical from the 1950s, you can be sure there are plenty of happy endings to go around, just like in P&P.

And this weekend, I plan to treat myself to another old movie—most likely a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musical from the 1930s.

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in Swing Time (1936).

I wonder if I’ll spot some parallels to Austen’s novels in that movie, too?

Are you like me? Do you see bits of your favorite Jane Austen novels in our modern movies and TV shows?

Do you have favorite movies you like to watch over and over again?

It’s a Year of Jane Austen!

There are so many wonderful Jane Austen related events and films to look forward to in 2020!

Today on Austen Authors I published a list of all the events I know about so far.

Click here or on the image below to read the full list on the Austen Authors blog:

 

Beau Brummell at Bonwit Teller

I’ve been working on a story that includes a secondary character who is an unabashed Regency Dandy. In his mind, appearance is everything.

In writing the character, I wanted to make certain I accurately described his attire, so I turned to my research files on the king of all dandies: Beau Brummell.

Beau Brummell, engraved from a miniature by John Cook.

When I skimmed through my files and the books I have about Beau Brummell, I realized they focused more on the events of his life and his sense of style, but really didn’t contain any actual descriptions of his clothing.

Beau Brummell, by Hubert Cole, from my library of Regency research books.

Also surprising: there’s precious little when it comes to detailed descriptions of Beau Brummell’s clothing on the Internet, either.

But in my online searches I did find something interesting. On The New School’s website, tucked into their online archives, were several photos of Brummell-inspired fashion from the 1950s.

Why were people in the 1950’s so interested in Beau Brummell? Because in 1954 MGM released a movie that was supposed to be about Beau Brummell’s life. The film starred Stewart Granger as The Beau, Peter Ustinov as the Prince of Wales, and Rosemary Harris (mother of Jennifer Ehle, my favorite Lizzy Bennet) as Mrs. Fitzherbert.

A black and white still from a scene in “Beau Brummell” starring (left to right) Elizabeth Taylor, Rosemary Harris, Stewart Granger, and Peter Ustinov.

Also in the film: Elizabeth Taylor as Lady Patricia, a totally fictional character who served only to showcase Elizabeth Taylor’s beauty and give Stewart Granger a heterosexual love interest in the midst of all the ruffles and tight breeches. (That’s the kind of thing they did in the fifties. Don’t ask me why.)

Poster for the 1954 movie, “Beau Brummell.”

The great New York department store Bonwit Teller caught a little of the Beau Brummell bug. They came up with an advertising tie-in to the movie and devoted several of their coveted 5th Avenue window displays to women’s fashion “inspired by” Beau Brummell’s dandyism.

Here’s a photo taken at the time of one of the window displays in 1954 (courtesy of The New School archives):

The female mannequin is dressed in 1950’s style high-waist pants, ruffled shirt, and a waistcoat that mimic the male’s attire. On the floor at their feet is an unraveled reel of film.

The male mannequin is wearing one of the actual costumes from the Beau Brummel movie. Here’s how that costume looked when Stewart Granger wore it in the film:

If you look closely, you can see his round hat tucked under his left arm.

Here’s another of the Bonwit Teller window displays from 1954. In this display the female mannequin is again wearing high-waist pants with a seam detail that mimics the brocade on the male mannequin’s military jacket.

He is is dressed in another costume from the movie. Here’s what Stewart Granger looked like in that same military uniform in the film:

There’s a scene mid-way through the movie when Beau Brummell joins the Prince of Wales on a hunt. Bonwit teller depicted the scene, matching their idea of a modern, 1950s woman in a red dress and heeled shoes with a gentleman’s hunting pink, which consisted of a long red coat, white shirt and pants, and black boots.

Here’s the same costume worn by Stewart Granger in the movie. With him in the scene is Rosemary Harris as Mrs. Fitzherbert and Peter Ustinov as the prince.

I was so glad to find these images, because they helped me realize Beau Brummell was not all about black tailcoats and understated fawn pantaloons.

Stewart Granger as Beau Brummel in the 1954 movie of the same name.

Those articles of clothing have been the mainstays of any Regency romance hero’s wardrobe since Georgette Heyer first described them in Devil’s Cub in 1932. But the movie costumes convinced me I can introduce color, stripes and pattern to my character’s attire and still hold true to the Dandy’s dress code.

With these costumes as a guide, I was able to write some descriptions of ensembles I think my Regency character will enjoy wearing. I even thought up an article of clothing he’ll wear that will end up playing a major role in the story.

I’m looking forward to sharing all of it with you soon!

In the meantime, if you’d like to see more photos of the Bonwit Teller window displays featuring costumes from the movie, click here to be taken to The New School Archive and Special Collections website.

 

Stories from Quarry Bank

Not long ago I wrote a post for the Austen Authors blog about Charles Bingley, a character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. (You can click on the Austen Authors logo to read the post.)

If you’ve read Austen’s classic novel, you know that Charles Bingley and his sisters are quite wealthy by the standards of their day. They certainly enjoyed the finer things in life and spent their money freely on travel, clothes, and large, expensive homes. Austen told us the Bingley siblings inherited their wealth from their father, and that the family fortune had been “acquired by trade.”

I’ve often believed “trade” meant ownership in a textile mill, a belief I explained in the Austen Authors post. Also in the post, I wondered what kind of mill owner the Bingley’s father would have been.

My opinion has always been that the elder Mr. Bingley would have been among the enlightened brand of mill owners. By that, I mean that he treated his employees with respect and probably established churches and schools for his workers. I based my theory on research I did about Quarry Bank, a real-life mill founded in 1784 in Manchester, England.

At the time I wrote that post, I didn’t know there was a book about Quarry Bank Mill that described the workers and the conditions at the mill. Nor was I aware English television had broadcast a dramatic series that told the stories of the children who worked at the real Quarry Bank Mill.

I haven’t seen the series, but last week I discovered the book on Amazon. You can click on the book cover to read more about it

I just ordered my copy, and it’s on it’s way (Thank you, Prime two-day-shipping!).

On a whim, I switched from the U.S. Amazon site to the U.K. Amazon site to see if I could find a DVD of the TV series. Lo, and behold, Amazon U.K. has quite a few books about Quarry Bank Mill! Oh, how I wish I had known about them before!

This book, for example, is only 128 pages long, but contains over 250 pictures of life at the mill:

And this one really piqued my interest:

It tells the story of the wife of Quarry Bank Mill’s owner, and her life-long efforts to improve the education, health and welfare of Quarry Bank’s workers.

Both of these books are must-haves for me! And if you’re a fan of North and South (another classic novel that centers around early English Textile mills), or ever wondered how those Bingleys got so rich, you may find these books of interest, too.

If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to know what you think of them!

Confessions of a Lookie-Loo

Be a Lookie-Loo with me and take a peek into Elizabeth Bennet’s bed chamber at the Inn at Lambton!

I’m on Austen Authors today discussing rooms and places in Jane Austen’s novels that haven’t been depicted in movie adaptations. Please click on the image to join me!

 

Remembering Alan Rickman

Actor Alan Rickman passed away on this date in 2016.

He was a beloved actor known for many roles, including the villain in the first Die Hard movie, and Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies.

But I’ll always think of Alan Rickman as the perfectly honorable, perfectly romantic Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (1995).

Here’s one of Alan’s performances you may not have seen yet. He joins a stellar cast of British actors (including Imelda Staunton, Geraldine McEwan, Bill Patterson, and Victoria Wood) in a delicious bit of silliness for Regency and Jane Austen fans. Enjoy!

Lizzy Bennet’s Doppleganger

I have a short post to share with you today, and it fits in nicely with my crusade to prove that not all my time spent on the Internet is wasted time (although, admittedly, some of it is).

I was scrolling through an online art site and came across this image:

It’s a 1799 portrait titled “Girl with Portfolio” by artist Guillaume Guillon-Lethiere.

As I gazed at the portrait, marveling over the artist’s skill, I got the feeling I’d seen that image before.

And then it hit me.

Actress Keira Knightley was made to look very similar to the sitter in the portrait when she played the role of Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice.

You see the similarities, too, don’t you? They both have striking dark eyes, their lips have the same shape, and they’re dressed similarly in dark coats with high collars.

Eerie coincidence? I think not. They say everyone has a doppelganger, and I think I just found Keira Knightley’s.

Rules of London

I love it when I find some unexpected bit of history while researching a totally unrelated topic. That’s what happened when I was researching famous places in Regency London, and stumbled across a reference to one of London’s most famous and historic spots.

I’m talking about Rules restaurant on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden.

Rules as it appears today.

First established in 1798 as an oyster bar, Rules is still in business and holds the distinction of being the city’s oldest surviving restaurant.

Thomas Rule, who founded the place, bragged in the early 1800s that his “porter, pies, and oysters” attracted the best “rakes, dandies and superior intelligence.”

A plaque outside the restaurant tells the story of Rules’ history.

For more than two centuries since then, the very best of British society have dined, gossiped, embibed, and entertained each other within Rules’ walls—from members of the Royal Family to movie stars Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Sir Laurence Olivier.

Literary giants Charles Dickens and HG Wells dined there, too. Rules has even been used as a set for Downton Abbey and the James Bond film, “Spectre.”

A scene from Downton Abbey, shot at Rules.

Perhaps Rules is most famously known as the place where Queen Victoria’s son and heir, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) wooed the beautiful Lillie Langtry.

Lillie Langtry.

The Prince frequently smuggled Mrs Langtry up a back staircase to a private room where they could dine alone, far away from prying eyes.

A cozy corner at Rules. I love the diamond-paned windows and rich wood tones of the mouldings.

Rules’ walls are covered with mementos and souvenirs from 200 years of historical events and famous customers.

One corner of the restaurant; its walls are adorned with photos, drawings, and caricatures of famous people.

It’s a beautifully decorated restaurant; and despite its present décor that leans heavily toward the Edwardian era, I can very well imagine a Regency gentleman partaking of oysters and porter at one of Rules’ tables. Who knows? Maybe some day, Rules may make an appearance in one of my Regency romances.

You can see more photos of Rules by clicking here.