Monday, February 28, 2011

The Darcy Effect

Colin Firth won an Oscar last night for his performance in The King's Speech. Yes, I know, that's a movie, and this is a blog on television. But I've been a big fan of Firth since 1995, when he starred as Fitzwilliam Darcy in the BBC/A&E Production of Pride and Prejudice. As Darcy, Firth made quite an impression.

The story of Pride and Prejudice, of course, is that Darcy is prejudiced against the country folk, and insults them, including Elizabeth Bennett. But she rejects him out of pride later after he has changed his mind. Seemingly too late she discovers that he is a good man, worthy of her. But, of course, it really wasn't too late, and the two end up marrying, and living happily ever after.

The BBC version was aired on A&E, back when it did more than exploit drug addicts, obese people, and hoarders. It was an exquisitely produced version, and I fell in love. With Firth, obviously. With those wild curls, the disdainful manner followed by a decent heart, how could I not? On top of all that, he was English, too. That never hurts. He was so charming in the role, and did an excellent job of showing the changes that Darcy made from boorish snob to a man in love. The producers also took great effort to showcase the physicality of the man as well, even having him take a swim in his clothes at one point.

To be fair, I must admit that I also fell a little in love with Jennifer Ehle, who is one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. She was perfectly cast as Elizabeth Bennett, and demonstrated much wit and intelligence in the role. And yes, I've followed her career since, but she hasn't won an Oscar. (Ironically enough, she did have a role in The King's Speech as Geoffrey Rush's wife).

I'm not the only one who fell for Firth. Many a woman I've discussed this with has admitted to an attraction to his portrayal. Helen Fielding was so taken with the miniseries that she wrote Bridget Jones' Diary. In it, Bridget is fascinated with the miniseries, obsessing over the actors, and feeling disappointed upon learning that Firth and Ehle had an affair during the filming of the series. Further, she met a disdainful man named Mark Darcy. In case you couldn't tell, Bridget Jones' Diary was loosely based on Pride and Prejudice. How wonderful when Colin Firth was cast as Mark Darcy in the movies!

After Pride and Prejudice, I kept an eye out for Firth. He remained a little under the radar for a few years, playing the cuckolded husband on The English Patient and the jilted fiance in Shakespeare in Love. Maybe it was Bridget Jones that pushed him into the leading man roles in movies? I don't know. I do know he has a vital part in Love Actually (a film I've sadly yet to see), and of course, was nominated for A Single Man last year. I think Firth's going to do alright by himself.

Firth's role as Darcy was so definitive that I refused to see the Keira Knightly movie version. My father thought I was crazy. However, had I know that Matthew Macfadyen...

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