Top 10 Goofs in Pride and Prejudice (1980)

Top 10 Goofs in Pride and Prejudice (1980)

Time for another Pride and Prejudice “goofs” post. Today we’re taking a closer look at the 1979/1980 made-for-TV series starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. Searching for errors in the various adaptations strikes me as akin to the “follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies” kind of fun that Elizabeth Bennet herself loves to laugh over. Unearthing these little mistakes is in no way intended to tear the work down, but rather to encourage viewers to immerse themselves more fully when watching it. There are so many details I pick up on by paying closer attention. My appreciation for the extensive work that goes into making these productions deepens with every viewing. Enjoy the list, and don’t forget to leave a comment. We love to hear from you!

10.) The curse of the Hunsford mantle clock – Considering that Lady Catherine values punctuality so highly, it is an ironic twist that the timepiece in the Hunsford parsonage appears to perpetually operate in suspended time. This clock makes an appearance in at least two scenes and is set to an appropriate hour for the respective events to occur, but makes no progress forward in time during the course of the conversation. If this goof sounds familiar, you may have read the “goofs” post for the 1995 adaptation.

Did the conversation really go on forever, or did it just seem that way?

9.) The eyes have it – To be more accurate, it should be said that first, they do, and then they don’t. The danger in splicing together multiple takes in post-production is that sometimes minor differences in mannerisms can introduce a continuity error, which is likely what happened here. In either case, Mr. Bennet’s reading glasses disappear from his nose during a brief cut to Mrs. Bennet, whose face we see over his right shoulder. If he had removed them during those few seconds, we would have seen his right hand come up, since when we next see the glasses, he is holding them in his right hand.

Now you see them, now you don’t.

8.) Where’s the war? – When we see Colonel Fitzwilliam at Rosings, he is wearing his regimental Army uniform, both at dinner and during a casual walk on the grounds of the estate with Elizabeth. Since he was off-duty and away from the area of his assignment, it would be inappropriate for him to be in military attire for anything other than a formal occasion, like a wedding or ball. As a well-bred gentleman on leave in the country, he should be dressed in civilian clothing. I think credit for this goof of etiquette likely falls to Joan Ellacott, the costume designer channelling her inner Lydia Bennet. They don’t call them “costume dramas” for nothing.

Colonel Fitzwilliam in his regimental uniform.

7.) Mr. Bennet’s superpower – Everyone with experience holding a cup of tea knows that a large, rapid movement results in a wave of tea sloshing over the edge. Everyone, that is, but Mr. Bennet, who waves a cup of tea around with impunity. In this case, although we see Elizabeth pour him a full cup of tea and we observe a tiny sip or two, observation leads to the conclusion that either he is not subject to natural laws or he was holding an empty cup when he lifted it in salute to Elizabeth here.

Mr. Bennet defies the laws of fluid dynamics.

6.) The disappearing hitchhikers – In the scene where the Bennet daughters walk into town with Mr. Collins, we see two young boys catch a ride on the back of a coach traveling down the road in Meryton. The equipage passes Bennet family, and when we see the rear of it again, just a few feet down the road, there is no sign of the boys, either on the carriage or in the street.

The young extras who jumped on the back of the carriage in one shot were missing in the next.

5.) With music, timing is everything – There is more than one goof on display here. The music we see on the piano when Lizzy sits down to play, clearly says, “Brahms.” Considering that he wasn’t born until 1833, the prop sheet music is a goof. She then plays and sings a lovely rendition of “The Ash Grove,” which is not actually a Brahms composition. The melody is authentic to the period, as it is a Welsh folk melody first published in 1802. Four years later, a version with lyrics was published–in Welsh–under the title of “Llwyn Onn.”  This is where the goof comes in. The first-known English language version of “The Ash Grove” wasn’t published until 1862, making her mesmerizing performance as anachronistic as the sheet music in front of her.

Elizabeth sings “The Ash Grove.”

4.) The Bennet girls flaunt the rules of the ball – This goof can, I think, be attributed to the social customs of the twentieth century, when dancing every dance of the evening with a single partner wouldn’t raise eyebrows. Before the Netherfield Ball, Elizabeth plans to “dance every dance with Mr. Wickham.” This proved impossible since Wickham was a no-show, but Jane managed to “dance every dance” with Mr. Bingley. Modern students of Regency etiquette will recognize that this would be an enormous breach of propriety in the Regency era, at the very least confirming speculation that the couple has reached an understanding, and are engaged. The screenwriter, Fay Weldon, was an author and playwright as well as a screenwriter. I suspect that if the rich historical archives available to writers today had been at her fingertips 38 years ago, this faux pas in the script would not have occurred.

Elizabeth dances once with Darcy, but Jane dances every dance with Bingley.

3.) Bingley bounces back to Hertfordshire – Caroline Bingley pens a letter to Jane explaining that they are returning to London, saying that “Mr. Bingley, himself, left yesterday.” This aligns with Austen’s source material which has Caroline “follow her brother into town.” How surprising then, to see Mr. Bingley board the carriage the next morning with Caroline and Mr. Darcy, both men doomed to suffer her particular brand of sarcastic needling as the carriage passes Longbourn.

Leaving Netherfield.

2.) Elizabeth’s secret correspondent – After Bingley and Jane are engaged, there is a scene where Mrs. Hill brings a melancholy Elizabeth a note on a silver salver. She reads it and smiling with relief, rushes out of the room, snatching her hat off the bed as she goes. A moment later it is evident that the note was a summons from Darcy to meet him outside for a walk. Since Elizabeth and Darcy were not engaged at the time, this communique would have been a gross breach of propriety.

Receiving a note from a man you are not engaged to, and involving the housekeeper in arranging the tryst? Scandalous!

1.) Elizabeth’s desperate run to Pemberley – When Jane’s letter imploring Elizabeth and the Gardiners to cut their trip short because of Lydia’s elopement, Elizabeth is alone at the inn, the Gardiners having gone to Pemberley, presumably on a fishing expedition. Upon reading the missive, Elizabeth bounds out the door, letter-in-hand, and races on foot, through the summer heat, the distance of “a few miles” to Pemberley. She arrives at the door, not sweaty, not dusty or disheveled, not breathless, and with the still-crisp letter in hand.

Not only can Elizabeth walk three miles to Netherfield, she can run five miles to Pemberley without breaking a sweat.

It’s your turn. Have you seen this adaptation? If yes, did you spot any of these goofs when you watched it? Are you aware of any goofs I missed? If you learned something today, I’m pleased. If you were entertained, I’m delighted. If you feel inspired to watch or re-watch this series with new eyes, I’m thrilled. Share your thoughts or expand our knowledge in the comments, below.

22 Responses to Top 10 Goofs in Pride and Prejudice (1980)

  1. I do have this version in my DVD collection but haven’t watched it yet. I will take time to do that as soon as ‘Elizabeth’s Choice’ is sent to my editor. Look forward to seeing if I can spot any more ‘goofs.’ Thanks for the fun post, Diana.

  2. I do have this DVD in my collection so tonight I will be watching it again and looking for those errors, although I do know several of them did catch my ear or eye: the letter when not engaged, the Mr. Bingley in the carriage going to London and the matter of only one, maybe two dances, if not engaged. Good eye on your part.

    • I hope you enjoy your re-watch. In my opinion, this adaptation deserves to be dusted off and viewed from time to time. It may not have the sex-appeal of the 1995 version, but I think in many ways, it’s truer to the way Austen wrote it.

  3. Good article with all the detailed explanations, Diana. I’m eager to read the conclusion to the trilogy. I remember when. . ..

  4. Hi Diana!
    This was fascinating to read and it never ceases to amaze me the expertise you have on this subject. I have a question: Are the costumes authentic to the period? The ball gowns are quite low cut, revealing more of the wearer’s skin than I had imagined they would given this point in history, but then I know nothing about such things. I am just imagining what my mother would have said if I wanted to go to a dance in such a dress: “Young lady, march right back into your bedroom and put a turtleneck on under that dress!” (Just kidding about the turtleneck. I may have exaggerated just a bit.)

    • Hi Colleen. The gowns are, to my eye, pretty much authentic. I love the running gag where they are constantly telling Lydia to tuck a piece of lace in her bodice to make it less revealing. There is an excellent write-up on the topic of modesty standards during the Regency Era here: To summarize, the French were less modest as were members of the aristocracy. Day dresses were usually quite modest, while evening and ball gowns were more revealing.

  5. This is actually my favorite P&P adaptation. I thought Moray Watson made a brilliant Mr Bennett. I got the one where Jane danced with Bingley for every dance and the one about Elizabeth’s run to Pemberley. Was interested in reading the others. Great post.

    • It will be interesting to see how many people feel the same way as you do about this adaptation, Teresa. If there is one thing I’ve come to realize about Janeites, it’s that they bear strong opinions when it comes to the adaptations. I find this 1980 version charming, and feel that Elizabeth Garvie was exceptional as Lizzy. Thanks for taking a moment to comment!

  6. I have that version as well as the others movies of Austen’s work in a box set. I have watched it many times and did not catch many of your goofs. Now that you have pointed them out… I remember them. One thing I noticed… Mr. Bennet barely fit in his chair due to his broad shoulders. I was always amazed that he would have allowed that in his own home.

    I had noticed the run from Lambton to Pemberley and was amazed that Lizzy ran the five miles with such ease. I wondered why they wrote it that way rather than have Darcy approach her at the Inn as in canon. Another area that amazed me… and I need to look at it again… what they were wearing. It seems they wore the same clothes quiet a bit in different scenes of different times. I need to look at that more closely. Continuity was a problem it appears. Thanks for this giggle. I love finding goofs.

    • You are right about the same dresses appearing in many scenes. I don’t know that I have a good sense of how many day dresses a young woman who is a country gentleman’s daughter with a spendthrift mother and four sisters would likely own. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  7. My favourite adaptation – I noticed Elizabeth’s long run into Pemberley and the clock in the Parsonage. As far as the secret correspondence between Darcy and Elizabeth – surely Darcy’s letter at Rosings – written by Austen herself would make this not a goof.

    • I love it when people are thinking! In this case, however, common sense leads us to a false conclusion. When I first started started studying Regency etiquette, I was astonished to learn that a letter of any kind between an unmarried/not-engaged couple was considered highly improper. Coming from an era when the passing of notes between even schoolchildren with crushes on each other was commonplace, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that it was scandalous behavior. To some extent, I think that was part of Austen’s point in having Darcy write the letter. He was so desperate for Elizabeth to have the information that he risked scandal to put it in her hands. Recall that he delivered the letter himself and did not involve anyone else (beyond Elizabeth) in his impropriety. To ask someone to do so would be unacceptable as well. Thanks for the comment, Vesper. I appreciate the chance to clarify this point.

  8. I watched this many years ago and I don’t recall catching any of these goofs although I think I would have caught some of them had I watched it recently as I have learned about some of these breaches in propriety through the jaff stories I have read.

    • I take much the same view of some of them. Had I not immersed myself in learning about the Regency in recent years, both through JAFF and research, I would never have caught them either. Thanks for commenting.

  9. I love this, Diana. You make it so much fun. My favorite is Mr. Bennet’s Superpower. Not my favorite goof, but favorite description of it by you. Thank you for the smile.

  10. I must admit I have only watched this version once as I really really don’t like this version of Darcy. In fact he is so much like a cardboard cut out that at first I thought it was a spoof!
    So as you can imagine I didn’t really notice any of those apart from the run to Pemberley! Allegedly 5 miles away from Lambton so a rare feat indeed!
    As for the rest – no.
    I’ll definitely stick to my 1995 & 2005 versions thanks. (even though I barely notice errors in those after watching them millions of times)

    • I think that many feel the same as you about this adaptation, Glynis. I have to admit, however, that in playing such a cold and aloof Darcy, Rintoul did portray a Darcy that was true to Austen’s description of how Elizabeth perceived him. All the criticisms of his behavior in her refusal of his Hunsford proposal hit with pinpoint accuracy because he truly oozes with selfish disdain and lack of feeling for others. He isn’t a sympathetic character, and I agree that he comes across stiff in comparison to Firth and MacFayden. Unfortunately, by being so extreme in the beginning, it was impossible for Rintoul to believably thaw more than he did. Whether this was his choice as an actor or if it was how the director instructed him to play it is impossible for us to know – unless someone from the cast were to speak up about it. I haven’t found any interviews on this production yet.

Your thoughts are precious!