Day 10: Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice
When I was in the 10th grade, I was supposed to read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but I totally didn’t. I bought the cliff notes and actually…didn’t even read those. I think I got an F…I definitely deserved an F! But worse than a failing grade, was missing out on loving one of my favorite authors and her works much earlier in my life.
It wasn’t until college that my horizons were broadened. I caught the 1940’s Lawrence Olivier/ Greer Garson version on TCM one night and rethought my adolescent decision to skip Austen altogether. I feel in love with Mr. Darcy, saw myself to be an Elizabeth Bennet and then quickly poured through the works, biographies and extended universe of Austen’s Regency England. Persuasion has actually come to be my very favorite Jane Austen novel. But Pride and Prejudice is right behind it, with Emma coming in as third.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, I wanted to take a look at one of the most romantic figures in all of literature…Mr. Darcy himself. I’m hard pressed to find anyone that matches up to this paragon of moral fiber. So instead of pitting people against him. I’ll pit him against himself and share some of my favorite Darcy’s with you.
I admit, it was hard to rank them, if only because everyone who I’ve seen take on the role has brought something delightful and fully their own to the great visage of Mr. Darcy. And has only managed to cement my love of Darcy with each and every scene. From movies to television mini series to the You Tube phenomenon. Here are the Darcy’s I know and love. Let me introduce…
#1: Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy
No one more embodies the qualities that I look for in a Darcy, than Mr. Colin Firth from the BBC mini series version of Pride and Prejudice. These days when I read the book over and over again, it is Firth’s face that I picture offering Elizabeth his hand in marriage. It’s Firth that saves poor Lydia’s reputation from the evil clutches of George Wickham and it is Firth that comes to Elizabeth again and asks if her heart has changed towards him. He is THE Darcy for me. So he deserves his place at the top! I dare you to defy this!
#2: Colin Firth as Mark Darcy
Is it any wonder that when Helen Fielding wrote Bridget Jones’ Diary she was inspired by Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy as the hero of her story. BJD is a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (for those of you who didn’t know.) And in casting Fielding’s homage to the original Mr. Darcy, who better than the original Mr. Darcy. Enter Colin Firth…again! For all the reasons that he makes a truly great Darcy, not only in a period drama, but in modern times, I refer you back to point #1!
#3: Sir Lawrence Olivier as Mr. Darcy
Next up is the classic, the incomparable (I know, I am in fact comparing him) Sir Lawrence Olivier. This 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice was actually my first introduction to the Jane Austen story. (I admit I never read the book when I was supposed to in high school.) One night this treasure came on TCM (my favorite channel in college) and I was enchanted. Starring Lawrence Olivier as Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet, it was the first time I gave Pride and Prejudice a real chance. And yes, you read that right, it wasn’t until college that I truly fell in love. And it was Sir Lawrence who did the wooing. This adaptation actually strays from the book in many places. Lady Catherine comes to like Elizabeth and even recommends her to Darcy. We never even see Georgiana Darcy. And the costumes are not representative of the correct time period. But it just goes to show that sometimes accuracy does not always entreat the deepest of loves. This film sparked my love of all things Austen, which is probably why Olivier holds so high a placement on this list. I won’t apologize for it. He belongs here. And I still have a copy of this movie on VHS to prove my love!
#4: Daniel Vincent Gordh as William Darcy
As each adaptation is released and spun in a new direction, I find brand new ways to love this age old story. Enter The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. A You Tube web series that in fact inspired me to try my hand at telling my own stories through the use of a web series. Lizzie Bennet is a grad student in mass communication and starts a vlog. Charlotte Lu, her best friend, helps her shoot and edit the videos. William Darcy is the haughty owner of Pemberley Digital, a media company that Lizzie eventually visits as part of her study. Darcy doesn’t even get screen time till Episode 59. The viewer relies on Lizzie’s retelling and reenacting of events and is the better for it, because Ashley Clements’ Lizzie Bennet is definitely one of my all time favorites. Will Darcy is significantly more hipster than his predecessors, but the result is simply delightful.
#5: Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy
While Macfadyen makes a very good Darcy, I have so many issues with this version of Pride and Prejudice. The line “Well then, your hands are cold” said by Elizabeth Bennet after Darcy confesses his love a second time, irks me to no end! And his declaration of “I love-I love-I love you”… BLECK! Even Mr. Bingley telling Jane Bennet that he’s “been an unmitigated and comprehensive ass” rubs me the wrong way. But Macfadyen makes so high an entry on my list, not based on the merit of the entire film, but on his performance as Darcy alone. There is a moment when he and Elizabeth are flirting about Lizzie’s proficiency at piano and he smiles at her…that smile alone earns him a high ranking! But the rest of his performance is sufficiently Darcy-esque. And it should be noted that I also really enjoy Kiera Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet, it’s just the other liberties that grate.
#6: Martin Henderson as Will Darcy
I have such a soft spot for this Bollywood adaptation, Bride and Prejudice. The flourishing musical numbers alone sold me on it. But the way they weaved the story into the culture of India’s Bollywood is effortless and maintains the integrity of the original work. Martin Henderson’s Will Darcy is appropriately charming at times, but can also play a snobbish prig as well. His chemistry with Aishwayra Rai’s Lalita Bakshi is straight out of an Austen novel and it just works!
#7: Matthew Rhys as Mr. Darcy
This Darcy is a newer entry for me. I never read the P.D. James novel, Death Comes to Pemberley (mystery novels are more my mother’s speed.) But I can never seem to pass on an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. So when Netflix suggested that I watch it, I did! And boy am I glad that my Netflix knows me so well (scarily well!) Matthew Rhys has everything one could want in a classic Darcy. This PBS Masterpiece mini series is a continuation of the story of P+P. Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam have a son and are living in marital bliss, until there’s a murder at Pemberley and the infamous George Wickham is a suspect. Darcy starts to question everything, including his devotion to his beloved Elizabeth. I have to tell you, this is a sexier Pemberley than Austen lovers are used to. There’s even some Darcy and Elizabeth make-up sexy times. Didn’t see that one coming! If you haven’t seen this movie…head to your nearest Netflix and do it!
#8: Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy
I already shared all my thoughts about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies earlier this week. (Click Here) But I’ll reiterate the merits of Sam Riley’s hardened, zombie-killing Darcy. He is prejudiced. He is prideful. He is a charming bad ass!! Look at that gif…oh the brooding!! He has what it takes to earn the Darcy title. He is only so far down on the list because all of his Darcy predecessors stole my heart first. Else, I’d say he definitely deserves higher placement. There just isn’t any room. Sorry, Sam!
#9: Elliot Cowan as Mr. Darcy
Enter Elliot Cowan’s Mr. Darcy in the mini series, Lost in Austen. Cowan is also an excellent Darcy, but again…he suffers the number 9 spot because everyone else beat him to it. But excuse me…there is an homage to Colin Firth’s Darcy that cannot go unmentioned. When Amanda Price trades places with Elizabeth Bennet and finds herself smack in the middle of a story she has grown up knowing, watching and loving, she takes it upon herself to try and keep the characters true to their story lines. And even interjects some deliciousness here and there. Including this moment where Mr. Darcy emerges from the water (after Price told him he had to jump in and do this to appease her.) YUM!
#10: David Rintoul as Mr. Darcy
Ah! Poor David Rintoul. Here he is rounding out the end of my list. David is an excellent Darcy, as Darcy’s go. What he suffers from is a very slow paced, 1980’s version of Pride and Prejudice that I find much harder to watch then every other adaptation on this list. Rintoul has all the appropriate airs and looks darn good in a top hat and ascot, if I do say so myself. But this is not a version that I pop in on sick days. In fact, rewatching it for this list was mildly painful and I didn’t make it through the whole thing…just skipped to the good parts. If you don’t know what the good parts are, then you have homework to do and better get to it!
There you have it. My comprehensive list of Darcy’s. I’ve got a crush on all of them, but how about you?
Ladies, which Darcy floats your Valentine’s boat?
Men, is there a Miss Bennet that you prefer above all others? One of these days I’ll get around to ranking the Elizabeth Bennets of the small and silver screens.
In the meantime, don’t miss Friday’s #NerdySlumberParty. We are talking all about crushes! Which means Darcy will definitely have to be mentioned! 😉