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Posts Tagged ‘Colin Firth’

I used to regard A&E as one of the premier cable channels in the U.S. Known then as the Arts and Entertainment Network, it ran such prestigious shows as the 6-hr 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Inspector Morse, Midsommer Murders, and Biography. (These days this once admirable network features rubbish like Storage Wars, Duck Dynasty, Dog, the Bounty Hunter, Flipping Las Vegas, and Donny Loves Jenny.)  Regardless of the transformation, I shall always be grateful to A&E for showcasing P&P in the fall of 1995. For six weeks we were treated to this marvelous adaptation of Jane Austen’s most famous novel. The mini-series held me spellbound (and my then husband as well). I wanted to be Lizzy to Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy. What romantic-minded lady didn’t?

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet

Rewatching the first minutes of the first episode, I was reminded of how compact and economical those opening scenes were – and how they crucially fed our expectations for the rest of the series. In interviews over the years, Andrew Davies, the screenwriter, said that he wanted to emphasize the lives of Regency men as well, and so the film opens with Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy racing through the fields on their steeds to view Netherfield Park, which was available to let. The relationship between Darcy and Bingley is immediately established – Bingley the eager puppy wanting his friend’s approval, and Darcy’s slightly caustic reply as a supportive older friend, cautioning him that he’ll find the society something savage.

As the two friends gallop away, the camera pans to Elizabeth, who pauses during her country walk to watch the men disappear. We follow the tomboyish Lizzy as she skips home over a dirt path, past a field with horses, and to the Bennet family home, Longbourn. Lizzy gazes through the window into her father’s study, while in the background we hear loud bickering between two young women. Mr. Bennet, holding a book in his right hand, rolls his eyes as Lizzy smiles in acknowledgment. This brief exchange demonstrates their close relationship in an instant.

We are then treated to a raucous scene in the parlor with Kitty, Lydia, and Mrs. Bennet in all their argumentative glory. Only Mary sits quietly, reading a book amid the mayhem. A calm, beautiful Jane greets Lizzy, who has just entered the hallway. Both respond to their mother’s shrill cries with half smiles and serene expressions. These scenes, in which the viewer meets quite a few of the principal characters, took all of 3 minutes.

We next see the Bennets at church in their Sunday best. The costumes are sumptuous; the locations are authentic – not the staged sets that were so prevalent in BBC dramas of the 70’s and 80’s. I recall the excitement I felt when I saw the care that the director and producers had taken to give us an “authentic” English Regency experience. Cameras followed the actors as they moved through the rooms of real houses and the lanes and paths of actual locations. The stilted production techniques inside studio interiors that used two or three fixed camera angles belonged to the past. The BBC and PBS had finally caught up with commercial television in shooting and producing drama that seemed realistic.

The church scene provides us with two of Jane Austen’s most famous lines. Mrs. Bennet runs after Mr. Bennet screeching, “Mr. Bennet, wonderful news. Netherfield Park is let at last!” We are then treated to the brilliant witty dialogue that Jane Austen crafted for Mr Bennet as he replies to his wife’s many suppositions and inanities.

Andrew Davies gives Lizzy the honor of speaking the novel’s famous opening line, “For a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” How apropos. Only 4:20 minutes have elapsed at this point. Even my ex, who had not read any of Jane’s novels, understood the plot for the full 6 episodes – two bachelors, five single girls, a silly mother, a sarcastic father, and romance and social history galore. We settled in for six hours of satisfying viewing time.

I could continue, but at this rate it would take me over 400 pages just to describe the first episode. Suffice it to say that I love Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and prefer Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy (horrid wig and all) over Keira Knightley as Lizzy 2005. Some critics with modern sensibilities found Ehle too old and zaftig for the part of Lizzy Bennet. Jennifer was 25 when she took on the role, only 5 years older than Lizzy. (Twenty-five year old Julia Sawalha, who played 15 year old Lydia, was ten years older! And let’s not argue about 30-something Greer Garson playing Lizzy Bennet in 1940 P&P. Awful.)

Mary Anne Clarke by Adam Buck, 1809. View more images here.

Mary Anne Clarke by Adam Buck, 1809. View more images here.

As for Jennifer Ehle being too heavy for the part of a 20 year old Regency girl, those critics need only to examine images of that era to see that Jennifer was the perfect size to play Lizzy. Keira Knightley possesses the thin fashionable looks that suit our 21st century tastes, but not those that depict early 19th century beauties. Feel free to disagree.

The 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice also benefited from the immensely satisfying performances of Benjamin Whitrow as Mr Bennet, Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet, David Bamber as the incredibly silly Mr. Collins, and Barbara Leigh-Hunt as insufferable Lady Catherine de Bourgh. I found very little fault with the supporting actors, who played their roles to perfection. I can’t say how often I’ve seen this version of P&P – 12, 15 times? I’ve lost count. Be assured that I’ll enjoy many more viewings.

In case you wondered how Mr. and Mrs. Darcy would look after 15 years of marriage, here’s a lovely image.

If you wonder how our favorite couple would have aged, here's an image of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth 15 years later.

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth 15 years later. Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in 2010 after the King’s Speech premiere.

Additional bits of information about P&P 1995:

Left to right; Anna Chancellor, Jane Austen, Rev. George Austen. Bottom: Francis (l) and Charles (r) Austen.

Left to right; Anna Chancellor, Jane Austen, Rev. George Austen. Bottom: Francis (l) and Charles (r) Austen.

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Gentle readers, I have been staying inside during this week’s heatwave, which shows no signs of letting up. As I showered, I wondered how people in days of yore dealt with their sweat and overheated bodies. Karl Philipp Moritz’s excellent and delightful travel journal from 1782, ‘Travels in England’, gave me a clue. Here are some excerpts from his account of wandering through the British countryside.

River Scene with Bathers, 18th century (oil on canvas), Vernet, Claude Joseph (1714-89) Image @Bridgeman

Now it is a pleasing exchange to find that in two hours I can walk eight miles.  And now I fancy I was about seventeen miles from London, when I came to an inn, where, for a little wine and water, I was obliged to pay sixpence.  An Englishman who happened to be sitting by the side of the innkeeper found out that I was a German, and, of course, from the country of his queen, in praise of whom he was quite lavish, observing more than once that England never had such a queen, and would not easily get such another.

It now began to grow hot.  On the left hand, almost close to the high road, I met with a singularly clear rivulet.  In this I bathed, and was much refreshed, and afterwards, with fresh alacrity, continued my journey.

A river landscape with bathers, Dutch 18th c. painting. Such scenes were common throughout Europe.

Karl, a romanticist, read Milton as he rested in between long walks. His account bears witness to his love of the British countryside, despite the poor manners of inn keepers, who were wary of a man on foot. (Those who traveled on horseback or in a carriage received preferential treatment. )The following description shows how people during the Georgian era were not as deprived of baths as we thought, or as adverse to bathing!

I went down into the coffee-room, which is immediately at the entrance of the house, and told the landlord that I thought I wished to have yet one more walk.  On this he obligingly directed me to stroll down a pleasant field behind his house, at the foot of which, he said, I should find the Thames, and a good bathing place.

I followed his advice; and this evening was, if possible, finer than the preceding.  Here again, as I had been told I should, I found the Thames with all its gentle windings.  Windsor shone nearly as bright over the green vale as those charming houses on Richmond Hill, and the verdure was not less soft and delicate.  The field I was in seemed to slope a little towards the Thames.  I seated myself near a bush, and there waited the going down of the sun.  At a distance I saw a number of people bathing in the Thames.  When, after sunset, they were a little dispersed, I drew near the spot I had been directed to; and here, for the first time, I sported in the cool tide of the Thames.  The bank was steep, but my landlord had dug some steps that went down into the water, which is extremely convenient for those who cannot swim.  Whilst I was there, a couple of smart lively apprentice boys came also from the town, who, with the greatest expedition, threw off their clothes and leathern aprons, and plunged themselves, head foremost, into the water, where they opposed the tide with their sinewy arms till they were tired.  They advised me, with much natural civility, to untie my hair, and that then, like them, I might plunge into the stream head foremost. Refreshed and strengthened by this cool bath, I took a long walk by moonlight on the banks of the Thames.  To my left were the towers of Windsor, before me a little village with a steeple, the top of which peeped out among the green trees, at a distance two inviting hills which I was to climb in the morning, and around me the green cornfields.  Oh! how indescribably beautiful was this evening and this walk!

Women Bathers by a River, Tharp, 1900. This painting was made over 100 years after Karl’s journey. Notice the segregation of the women from the men, which held true over a century before this painting was made.

About Karl Philipp Moritz (from Wikipedia): Karl was a German author, editor and essayist of the Sturm und Drang, late enlightenment, and classicist periods, influencing early German Romanticism as well. He led a life as a hatter’s apprentice, teacher, journalist, literary critic, professor of art and linguistics, and member of both of Berlin’s academies. Karl traveled through England in his 20s; he died young, when he was 37.

This scene in Pride and Prejudice 1995 might not have been in Jane’s book, but Darcy’s desire to cool off in his stream-fed pond made sense and was historically accurate.

You can download Karl Philipp Moritz’s book for free into your Kindle or Kindle app. [Moritz, Karl Philipp, 1757-1793. Travels in England in 1782 by Karl Philipp Moritz (Kindle Locations 987-992). Mobipocket (an Amazon.com company).]

Colin Firth in a wet shirt.

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In 1993 Colin Firth starred opposite Jemma Redgrave (Lady Betram, Mansfield Park) in Chatsky, in which the hero of the play tells the truth and is mistaken for a lunatic.  It is amazing to see the images from that play,  for, since it is set during Regency times, Colin in full costume could easily be mistaken as Mr. Darcy, a role he would play two years later. Jemma played Lady Bertram in 2007′s Mansfield Park. Although the part was written against type (at the end of the film, Lady Bertram energetically unites Fanny with Edmund), her portrayal of that indolent lady was fresh and memorable.

Image @The AFirthionado Archive

To see more pictures of Chatsky and to read about the play, go to: The AFirthionado

Colin in 1993. Image @The AFirthionado Archive

Colin in 1995

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The King’s Speech: Best actor, Best film, Best director, Best screenplay. Best all around.

Colin Firth and his Oscar.

Colin Firth and wife Livia on the red carpet

Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth, red carpet

Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham-Carter, and Colin Firth

Helena shows where her loyalty lies

A much deserved win for writer David Seidler (and guest)

Tom Hooper, director

Oscar winners 2011 emerge onstage

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Copright (c) Jane Austen’s World. Katie Couric interviewed Colin Firth in this half hour interview about The King’s Speech and King George VI’s stammer. Click on this link to view the video.

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Colin Firth wearing a reindeer jumper in Bridget Jones' Diary

The blog, Built on Facts, discusses Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones’s Diary in a post entitled: Metafiction and Self-Reference in Bridget Jones’ Diary

..not only is [Bridget Jones’ Diary] a retelling, it’s a retelling that’s very explicit about that fact. But that’s just the start; in fact Bridget meets him at a party wherein Mr. Darcy is standing around being standoffish, precisely as in Pride and Prejudice. And Bridget comments on this, pointing out to herself that if one is going to be named Darcy one shouldn’t be standing around standoffishly at parties.

More Intelligent Life dot Com features a long interview with Colin Firth about his movie, “A Single Man,” and his life and career. Quite insightful.

LOOK UP Firth’s name in a casting director’s address-book, and you’d find it under “a” for Archetypal Englishman. He has played the comedy version (the cuckolded, tongue-tied writer in “Love Actually”), the villainous version (a Blackadderish lord in “Shakespeare in Love”) and the subtle, smarter-than-he-first-appears version—decent Clifton, the young buffer who’s actually a spy, in “The English Patient”. Yet in reality Firth doesn’t have much time for England.

Both his major relationships have been with women from other countries—first the Canadian actress Meg Tilly, with whom he has a son, and now his wife Livia Guggioli, an Italian documentary producer and mother of his two younger children.

Trousseau features fashion from the 19th century through the early 20th century. This page shows gowns from 1801-1839. Clicking on a dress will lead you to a page; clicking on each image will lead you to an enlarged detail.

Detail of embroidered muslin dress, 1810-1814

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Oh what a fun site this is! Its creator has assembled a host of interesting facts about P&P ’95, some of which are highlighted below:

        • Jane Austen figured largely in the BAFTA television award ceremony 1996. Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth’s perfomances as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, and Benjamin Whitrow’s portrayal of long-suffering Mr Bennet, earned them Best Actress and Best Actor nominations. In the end, Jennifer Ehle was the only one to receive an award for best actress.
        • Colin Firth: “When Pride and Prejudice was offered I just thought, without even having read it ‘Oh, that old warhorse’ and I unwrapped the huge envelope with great trepidation. I think I was only about five pages in when I was hooked. It was remarkable. I don’t think any script has fired me up quite as much, just in the most basic, romantic-story terms”
        • Colin Firth in The Times while still filming P&P: “There’ll be people who will object strongly simply because it’s my face instead of the one they have in their mind. Everyone believes he is dark, though I don’t believe Jane Austen ever described him as such. So they’ve dyed me dark. You have to be very careful not to make him either too idiosyncratic or too bland, and the danger is that you don’t dare to do anything at all. So you have to take over and say, ‘To hell with it, he’s mine now. I own this character and he has to be me’.”
        • In a Blog Critics interview, Jennifer Ehle says: “The relationship between Mr. Bennet and Lizzie was always my favorite part of the book. It was, for me growing up, the love story in the book; and I would weep whenever I reread it and would get to the bit where Lizzie tells Mr. Bennet that Darcy is the best man she has ever known. It is such an important part of the whole female fantasy of the story — the favorite daughter who idolizes her father above all men and then, when he fails to protect Lydia from herself, is exposed as a mere human being.” Update: Find her answers to a hundred questions in a PDF document at Jennifer Ehle Fan Blog.

        • Although she often believed to be British, [Jennifer] actually was born and raised in North Carolina. Both her parents are well-known. Her father, John Ehle, is a novelist while her mother, Rosemary Harris (above with Jennifer in a recent photo) is an acclaimed actress.
        • Jennifer Ehle played George Clooney’s girlfriend in Michael Clayton, although no one will see her performance. In Entertainment Weekly, George weakly explains the reason why her role was cut: “We shot it with Jennifer Ehle — she gave a wonderful performance,” George Clooney told Entertainment Weekly. “And the more we did it, we realized you have to isolate this character more. And having a girlfriend, he’s not in as much trouble.” George then wrote Jennifer a note to apologise for being cut. “I didn’t cut it, but I still felt bad about it.”

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