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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.