Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, adapted by Richard C. Davis

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Download NBC University Theater's Pride and Prejudice

NBC Radio, 13 February 1949
This fascinating example of American radio adaptation from the 1940s offered an interesting slant on the Austen novel. 
Reduced into a 52-minute running time, allowing for an intermission and announcements, Richard E. Davis' version focused on the novel's romantic elements: it was Mrs. Bennet's (Norma Varden's) dream to have all of her five daughters married, while her spouse agreed with her in the hope of a quiet life.  All the daughters concurred with this wish, save for Elizabeth (Angela Lansbury), who tried to sustain her independence.  However even her potentially hard heart was melted when she learned of Mr. Darcy's (Philip Friend's) fundamentally good nature, as he tried to do right by everyone, even those whom he despised.  The adaptation ended with the two of them agreeing to marry, while Mrs. Bennet billed and cooed in the background at the thought that her wishes had at last been fulfilled.
Andrew C. Love's production was intended partly as entertainment, partly as education, in an ultimately failed by NBC to introduce the kind of public service broadcasting characteristic of the BBC at that time.  Eventually the word 'University' was dropped from the title, in the belief that it sounded too highbrow. 
However that requirement did not stop the adaptation from incorporating many of the stylistic elements characteristic of American radio drama of the period.  The adaptation was made up of short scenes linked by atmospheric bursts of music, giving the actors time to pause and settle themselves for the next movement.  The music also set the mood for each scene, giving listeners a hint of what was to follow.  The music also gave a feeling that this Pride and Prejudice was an exercise in style; to find a good husband, the Bennet sisters had to act according to certain behavioural codes of politeness and good breeding.  This made their marked RP accents seem particularly appropriate: speaking decently was an important quality.
On the other hand, Love's production had distinct links to more popular cultural forms - especially the plays of Noel Coward.  With their cut-glass accents and razor-sharp exchanges, Elizabeth and Darcy bore a strong aural resemblance to Elyot and Amanda in Private Lives (1930) - particularly when they tried and failed to tell one another precisely what was on their minds.  In a world where surfaces mattered, verbal sparring assumed particular significance.
While very different in terms of structure and style from British Pride and Prejudice radio adaptations, this version still held the attention, proving beyond doubt the capacity of the medium to exert a transhistorical power.