A Video Tribute to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy

I’ve been playing around with iMovie, trying to put together a decent video tribute to Jane Austen’s beloved Mr. Darcy of “Pride and Prejudice,” featuring the various actors who have portrayed him. I did manage to cobble something together and get it uploaded to YouTube. I’ve had a lot of fun doing it, but rest assured that I have no plans to quit my day job…

The Bitch in a Bonnet

Sometimes it takes a guy to remind many of us women what Jane Austen was really about. In his new blog, Bitch in a Bonnet, Robert Rodi, author of satirical novels, explains why Jane Austen is one of his influences and why it pisses him off that he can’t tell people that because she’s widely viewed as the dewy-eyed, romantic mother of “chick lit.” He’s out to reclaim her reputation as a superb social satirist.

I don’t agree 100% with his views of Austen or chick lit. While much of Austen’s literary reputation lies in her ability to roast upper class hypocrites to a crisp, her comedies of manners did take the form of love stories, after all. Pride and Prejudice is about the strictures and hypocrisy of uppercrust Georgian society, but it is also about how love often arrives in disguise and is a worthy reason for marrying. Emma is a good meditation on the dangers of an aristocracy with way too much time on its hands, but it’s also about how the love of your life can turn out to be your oldest friend, the guy you’ve been taking for granted all these years.

As for “chick lit,” the best of it does follow in Jane Austen’s steps, using love stories as the vehicle to make points about society and gender roles.

But Rodi makes a good point. When people ask me why I like Jane Austen, my first response is usually, “Because she’s got a wicked sense of humor. She’s merciless.” Those who haven’t read her books look puzzled when I say that. If I’m reading an Austen novel and I don’t laugh or say “Ouch!” at least every other page, I figure I need to reread it because I’ve just missed something.

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Challenge Yourself with Everything Austen

Been meaning to read Sense and Sensibility or Mr. Darcy’s Diary? Never did get around to seeing the movie “Mansfield Park”?

Deadline for entering the Everything Austen Challenge is July 15.

Deadline for entering the Everything Austen Challenge is July 15.

Well, here’s your chance to catch up on all things Austen, and maybe win a prize in the process. The blog Stephanie’s Written Word has announced the Everything Austen Challenge. Between July 1, 2009 and January 1, 2010, simply finish six Austen-themed things, such as reading one of Austen’s books, watching Austen-related movies, or attending an Austen event.

Since I’ve seen just about every Austen-related movie out there, my list is heavy on books. The first item on my list is reading The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy, which is proving to be quite diverting (look for a review shortly). I’m also going to read Sense and Sensibility…I never have read it all the way through. Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife should be arriving soon. I’m also keen to read Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World. And I look forward to “Clueless,” one of the rare Austen-inspired movies I have not seen. In a more proactive mode, I’m also working on a couple of Austen-related YouTube videos.

Of course, the list may evolve as the months pass.

How about you? What’s on your Austen Challenge list?

Jane Austen Popular as Ever with Filmmakers

Next to Shakespeare, Austen is one of the most widely adapted English writers. The plots of her novels have been modernized, satirized, idolized, and revised every which way. And she’s as popular as ever, judging by projects in the works:

  • The BBC is once again filming a mini-series of “Emma,” for release this fall. The four-part series stars Romula Garai (“Atonement”) in the title role, with Jonny Lee Miller (who played Edmund Bertram in 1999’s “Mansfield Park”) as Mr. Knightley. We last visited “Emma” in 1996, which saw the release of both a BBC miniseries (starring Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong) and a feature film. I’m not sure anyone can top the latter, with Gwyneth Paltrow’s delightfully dizzy Emma and Jeremy Northam’s devastatingly charming Mr. Knightley, but more of “Emma” can never be a bad thing. Thanks to the folks at Pemberley.com, you can see set photos of Romula Garai and Jonny Lee Miller. And there’s a video slide show of the filming in Kent on YouTube.
  • After having fun with the popular and highly regarded “Bride and Prejudice,” Bollywood is tackling “Ayesha,” the Indian equivalent of “Emma.” “Slumdog Millionaire” star Anil Kapoor is producing, and his daughter, Sonam Kapoor, plays the title role and Abhay Deol is her Mr. Knightley.

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Pride Gone with the Wind

The budget was tight (there was  a war on, after all) and legend has it that many of the costumes were borrowed from the previous year’s “Gone with the Wind.” The studio favored Clark Gable for the male lead, and Vivien Leigh was in the running, at least briefly, to play Elizabeth Bennet, though Greer Garson got the role.

Yes, it’s Longbourn meets Tara, better known as the 1940 version of “Pride and Prejudice.” Fortunately, Rhett Butler does not re-materialize as Mr. Darcy—the role went to Laurence Olivier—though Vivien “Miz Scarlett!” Leigh might well have made quite a feisty and lively Lizzy.

Somehow I had escaped seeing the 1940 movie of Jane Austen’s most beloved novel until recently. My first inclination was to laugh at the costumes. At any moment, I expected Lizzy Bennet to tear down the draperies to make a dress. My second inclination was to cringe at what MGM had done to Austen’s marvelous love story. While they kept much of her dialogue, they threw out some of the best lines, and dulled her sharp, sometimes caustic wit with a typically syrupy Hollywood story.

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‘Lost in Austen’ DVD Finally Arrives

Lost in Austen's Mr. Darcy, portrayed by Eliot Cowan

Lost in Austen’s Mr. Darcy, portrayed by Elliot Cowan

A couple of weeks ago, “Lost in Austen” finally came out on DVD in the United States. Those of us who delight in this marvelously twisted take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice couldn’t be happier.

This sharply written four-part series, which originally aired on British TV, then on the Oxygen channel (and PBS) here, revolves around what happens when a modern woman, Amanda Price (excellently portrayed by Jemima Rooper), finds herself transported into fictional Georgian England, right into the heart of Jane Austen’s most famous novel. As Amanda tries to negotiate the intricacies of early 19th century dancing, dining and etiquette, Lizzy Bennet, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, is living it up in 21st century London and shows no signs of wanting to come back.

Like many women, Amanda loves Pride and Prejudice for its timeless love story between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Then she meets the famous Fitzwilliam Darcy, who bitterly disappoints her by being a “relentlessly unpleasant,” overly arrogant aristocrat. Ah, but we knew that, didn’t we? Elliot Cowan excels as Darcy. He’s proud and overbearing, then contrite, and finally passionate. And he looks really, really good in a wet shirt. (Yes, “Lost in Austen” pays tribute to that famous jump-in-the-lake scene in the 1995 version of P&P, which cemented Colin Firth’s reputation as the Mr. Darcy for all time.)

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Jane Austen Movie Men Stand Tall

Want to play one of Jane Austen’s male romantic heroes in the movies? Don’t bother to audition unless you’re at least 6 feet tall. (Well, maybe you can squeak by at just a shade under.) Consider the evidence:

  • Colin Firth (Mr. Darcy, “Pride and Prejudice”), 6’1”
  • Jeremy Northam (Mr. Knightley, “Emma”), 6’2”
  • JJ Feild (Mr. Tilney, “Northanger Abbey”), 6’1”
  • Matthew McFadyen (Mr. Darcy, “Pride and Prejudice”), 6’3”
  • Mark Strong (Mr. Knightley, “Emma”), 6’2”
  • Ciaran Hinds (Captain Wentworth, “Persuasion”), 6’1”
  • Rupert Penry-Jones (Captain Wentworth, “Persuasion”), 6’2”
  • Alan Rickman (Col. Brandon, “Sense and Sensibility”), 6’1”
  • David Rintoul (Mr. Darcy, “Pride and Prejudice”), height unknown but it’s obvious that he’s pretty tall
  • Elliot Cowan (Mr. Darcy, “Lost in Austen”), 6’2″

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