Thursday, December 08, 2005

Pride & Prejudice Publicity: Gender, Glamour, Sex

Joe Wright (Director of P&P 2005) noted that he heard the 1940 P&P film referred to as the "Olivier version" and 1996 P&P mini-series referred to as the "Firth version." So he wanted his 2005 adaptation to be regarded as the “Knightley” version; the woman's point of view.*

In looking at the publicity stills, it’s easy to see his point. On the 1996 mini-series cover, Darcy looms large while the 2005 photo focuses on Elizabeth. I’ve believed this is partly due to the fact that both Firth and Knightley are more famous in the US than their co-stars.** (Note: both photos put Darcy at the center, looking out at "us").

So should I take these photos more seriously? Does emphasizing the male over the female (and vice versa) tell us about the audience each P&P adaptation hopes to attract?

The 2005 photo is sensual. Knightley appears both glamorous and natural, like a modern model, and MacFadyen looks like a rugged farmer. Wouldn’t he fit perfectly on a cover of Lady Chatterley's Lover?

On the 1996 cover, Firth appears the proud aristocrat. Sex is suggested by the bed Ehle sits on; by her (distractingly) pushed-up breasts.

So (in odd juxtaposition with Wright’s desire to show the woman’s point of view) is the sexy, youthful Knightley appealing more to men, to teens? Is the staid but dashing Firth attracting a more intellectual crowd (particularly women who have read the novel)?

On the 1980 BBC cover above (Elizabeth Garvie/David Rintoul), Darcy is barely seen at all. Elizabeth/Garvie looks meek, modest, unglamorous. No sex appeal here. It seems impossible to believe she belongs to the same world as Knightley.

On the 1940 cover above (Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier), Elizabeth and Darcy share the stage, but she has the upper hand. Darcy is the picture of galantry. Jane Austen is not being marketed here, but Hollywood-style glamour.


* Wright’s Interview with WNYC’s Leonard Lopate.

** One of my favorite examples of marketing the better-known actor instead of the story-lead is the DVD cover of Jane Eyre (1983). When looking at the picture below, I expect the film to be called "Edward Rochester"?

Wolfboy thinks that this cover alone (if the book was unknown) might suggest that Jane Eyre is a story about a transsexual.

The original video cover above, however, featured Jane (Zelah Clarke) & Edward (Timothy Dalton of James Bond fame) equally. The pose is loving and tender.

7 repartee:

Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

From the new poster, it is hard to tell whether it is for the latest version of "Pride and Prejudice" or a remake of "Out of Africa"? (Darcy sure looks like he has skipped both "pride" and "prejudice" and has gone straight to passion.)

12/08/2005 3:53 PM  
Blogger UltimateWriter wrote...

JERSEY REPRESENTIN'! Sorry had to get that out of the way. Jerseyans have to stick together. OK now about the movie, I am always wary of remakes of past films..i mean..what's the point? its already been done. think of something original already.
In your vast (wink wink)spare time, feel free to leave a comment on the Blog @

Chekkit out!

12/08/2005 6:05 PM  
Blogger Golgotha_Tramp wrote...

I agree with Ultimate writer, although I must put the modification of *new* re-makes shouldn't be attempted. I loathe these Classic 70's horror films being butchered to appeal to the popcorn grazing masses, 'The fog' and 'Dawn of the Dead' are still great today so why are we remaking them? Also anyone who goes and sees an American version of a Japanese film should be shot on sight! This has my blood pumping so I shall continue to rant about it on my blog at some point!

12/09/2005 6:07 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Out of Africa – oh, funny! - I hadn't thought of that!

As far as remakes of original screenplays, YES – they can seem utterly absurd and redundant (and very annoying when they're so inferior to the original!). Look forward to your rant, Golgotha...

But I'm fascinated by film adaptations of novels since current societal values (as well as production values) often affect the way a book is presented. From a historical perspective, it can be interesting to look at how a story is told and retold. As much as this P&P irked me, it also reminded me of what I liked in the 1996 version (and didn't like there). So the compare/contrast can be fun.

Thanks for the shout-out to NJ, Ultimate Writer.


12/09/2005 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Holly wrote...

Interesting comparisons and commentary. Did you manage to sit through the 1980 mini-series? I admit I tried but found it unwatchable: the script, the casting, the acting, the costumes! It was all dreadful.

12/17/2005 8:33 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Well, I watched the 1980 mini-series as a teen in the 80s! (But not since.) I remember feeling very excited at the discovery of a longer adaptation than the 1940 film version. But, while watching, I seem to recall a few fellow-viewers vanishing mysteriously from the room. It was clearly too much to ask of any friend or family member -:)

12/17/2005 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Holly wrote...

Yeah, I tried to watch the 1980 version long about 2001, after seeing the Ehle-Firth version at least a dozen times. I was interested, and wanted to be able to talk about it, but I'm afraid I didn't even make it through the first episode.

12/17/2005 2:55 PM  

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