HUGE thanks, again and again Sophie, for letting me know I misunderstood, and for getting my ticket for this magical event, at a time when I had no chance to.
And what a magical event it was! Set in the beautiful Chawton House, home of Edward Austen-Knight, it began with some delightfully informative and entertaining talks by several reputed Austen scholars: Devoney Looser (Arizona State University), Juliette Wells (Goucher College, Baltimore), Linda V Troost (Washington & Jefferson College, Pennsylvania), Sayre Greenfield (The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg) and Nora Nachumi (Yeshiva University, New York).
That Clark Gable and Robert Taylor were at some point short-listed to play Mr. Darcy in the 1940 adaptation. That there was supposed to be a 1974 version (which never was), casting Sir Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and Peter O’Toole as Mr. Darcy! That JAFF is much older than we think, and there were sequels, prequels and spin-offs as far back as 1949.
Simon Langton was a joy to listen to, and the stories he had to share were a delight. Not least the one about how, in the filming of the underwater scenes, in a special tank in Ealing, due to an unwise decision taken by his first assistant, our dear Mr. Darcy ended up surfacing straight into the edge of the last section of the heavy metal lid, leaving the distraught director to contemplate four dreadful possibilities: recasting Mr Darcy (the horror!!!!) after nearly half of the film had already been shot; waiting for months for Colin Firth to emerge from reconstructive surgery; seeing the whole P&P project shelved while the BBC battled with the insurance company, or spending the next 15 years in jail for murdering his first assistant :D. Luckily, none of these came to pass. There was just a relatively small bump, easily concealed, and the show could go on.
We met Kitty Bennet (Polly Maberly) who is full of life and wonderfully welcoming, and so much prettier in real-life than in the role of a petulant and spotty teenager! Mr Bennet (Benjamin Whitrow) was there too, to tell us that he had modelled his portrayal of the character on his own father, who absolutely adored his mother although he ‘took the mickey’ mercilessly. So was Mrs. Gardiner (Joanna David), to share moving and deeply personal stories from the filming of the scenes in the Peak District, and to show us that she has not changed in 20 years.
I was pleased and surprised to see that the photo I posted yesterday on Facebook, with the caption ‘Mr and Mrs Bingley, still going strong 20 years on’ was shared by Relationships Watcher :)
That’s one relationship we are definitely going to watch, for many years to come!
He, too, is as wonderful as ever, as ‘Mr Bingley’ as ever, in looks and in manner. Cheerful and engaging, his real-life persona is a perfect mirror of the role he had portrayed and made us fall in love with his delightful character.
Sadly, Mr. Darcy wasn’t there, just his wet shirt, but I guess it was just as well, otherwise the lovely people of Chawton House would have been treated to the spectacle of several ladies fainting in tight formation :D.
Oh, but we do! We don’t dress up to portray Lizzy and Darcy (we wouldn’t dare; it’s a tall order, that!), but what are all the Jane Austen festivals we merrily go to, but countless Pride and Prejudice conventions? If you’re going to one in the near future, I hope you’ll have a wonderful time! I’ll post more from the one in Bath, very soon.
Four days left!
Can’t wait - can’t wait - can’t wait!