Category Archives: Colin Firth



It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book by my favorite author, upon turning 200 years old, will be written about A LOT in this blog. Seriously I’m thinking about baking a birthday cake today. I’m just that excited.  [YES, I get this excited about Jane Austen, I realize its not everyone’s cuppa, but bear with me. It will be over soon and tomorrow I’ll be back to proper Thought of the Day bioBLOGS. Promise.]

So, as you may have noticed, for the past week I’ve been giving you my take on the major players in Pride and Prejudice. Today I thought we’d take a look at the different adaptations over the years.

The Originals

First the source… the Austenian Holy Grail if you will, the first editions. I was lucky enough to attend a Jane Austen Society of North America meeting that started at the Goucher College Special Collection Library. Their Jane Austen collection is the largest in North America and it houses several first editions and first illustrated editions.

Opening page of a 200 year old first edition Pride and Prejudice.

Opening page of a 200 year old first edition Pride and Prejudice.

These beautifully letter pressed editions came in three volumes and are handsomely bound and typeset. The type size, letter and line spacing, weight and size of the books were perfectly designed for long afternoons when reading was a prime source of entertainment. One look at these beauties and you will never want to read another trade paper back again.

Goucher also has first illustrated editions and the illustrated editions that followed. It is fascinating to see how the look of the characters changed through the times.

An early illustrated edition of Pride and Prejudice from the Goucher Library.

An early illustrated edition of Pride and Prejudice from the Goucher Library.

The Goucher Library is hosting a special 200th Anniversary exhibit from January 28, 2013 through July 26, 2013 Click Here for more information on Exhibit.   For more information of the Jane Austen Collection at Goucher you can Click Here. And if you are patient you can read all about the Goucher Austen Collection in an article I’ve written for ARRIVE magazine in the March edition!

The Adaptions

Here's my first Austen bookshelf.

Here’s my first Austen bookshelf.

From the original we move to adaptations. What happened BEFORE Mr. Bingley moved to Neitherfield? What happened AFTER Darcy and Lizzie got married? There are hundreds of these books out there and they vary in genre and quality. As an Austen fan I get one or two spin-off books every holiday and birthday. I recommend Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife and Darcy & Elizabeth  and the trio of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman books for those of you yearning to know what MIGHT happen next.

Here's my second Austen bookshelf

Here’s my second Austen bookshelf.

I’m all for anything that brings new reader to Austen. So I enjoyed the Marvel Comics version of Pride and Prejudice.

Cover of "Pride and Prejudice (Graphic No...

Cover of Pride and Prejudice (Graphic Novel)

I like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies too — I found myself reading along, enjoying the original Austen prose and then BAM Zombies. It was fun.

Oh, here are some more books that didn't fit on those other shelves.

Oh, here are some more books that didn’t fit on those other shelves.

I liked Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and its companion Rude Awakenings for their Alice through the looking glass approach to P&P. And I’ll give a thumbs up the more romance-y Definitely Not Mr. Darcy too.

Others are either on the “To Read” pile or have been read so long ago that I don’t remember them well enough that I can’t give you n review. That’s the problem with a lot of these book adaptations… they don’t stick with you like the original.

The Multimedia

On to film. If you were to gather a table full of Jane Austen fans and ask them which is their favorite film version of Pride and Prejudice you’d probably get a half-dozen answers.


In 1940 Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier starred in a “Hollywoodized” version of the novel. I liked the lead’s chemistry and think they did a good job portraying Elizabeth and Darcy. But the movie takes huge liberties with the novel — from the hoop skirts, to cutting out characters and scenes, to adding new scene (archery any one?),  to rewriting the reason Lady Catherine’s visit to Longbourn.

PrideAndPrejudiceBBCElizabeth Garvey and David Rintoul took on the famous Lizzie and Darcy in the BBC 1980 series. It is my friend and fellow JASNA:MD member Joyce Loney’s favorite of the movies.  She’s a big fan of Garvey’s Elizabeth. And, she writes:

David Rintoul’s Darcy is stiff (okay, some people have called him a stick), but he cracks during the Pemberley visit and he finally relaxes during the proposal scene.  Amy Patterson has a great article (Choose Your Darcy) in the current issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World, and she says that David Rintoul “gets closer than any other to capturing the essence of this wonderful, complicated, shy, angry and passionate hero.”

But Loney’s favorite Darcy, and mine, is Colin Firth. Firth played opposite the beautiful Jennifer Ehle in the A&E mini series in 1995. Ehle is my favorite Lizzie and Alison Steadman and Benjamin Whitrow are far and away my favorite Mr. and Mrs. Bennets.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

At six hours the A&E version fits in almost all the book. And I believe it is the truest film adaptation out there. I could  (and do) watch it again and again. It is a delight (with or with out the wet shirt.)


Gurinda Chadha brought a distinctly Bollywood approach to her Bride & Prejudice version in 2004. The movie, complete with colorful blockbuster musical numbers, spans three continents and stars Aishwarya Rai as Lalita (Lizzie), Martin Henderson as Darcy, Namrata Shirodkar as Jaya (Jane) and Naveen Andrews as Balraj (Bingley). Obviously there are a lot of changes from the original novel, but it is fun and bright and they did a great job conveying the heart of the  story.


2005 brought us Kiera Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen in Joe Wright’s take on the Novel. Like the Greer Garson version this one leaves out characters and compresses the novel — I guess it has to in order to fit into the 129 minute running time. Personally I had a lot of hope for this version because I love a lot of the actors in it, but, sorry it just falls flat. Tons of style but not so much substance… and when you start with Pride and Prejudice there’s just not excuse for that. There are moments in the movie that are terrific — I thought Macfayden and Knightly were wonderful in the “taciturn” dance and the proposal scene (though why it was in a down pour I don’t understand.) And I give this version the best sound track award. I loved the music. I also really liked Simon Woods as Bingley.

The last adaptation I’m going to cover is also the most current. In fact it is still going on, the brilliant Lizzie Bennet Diaries. The LBD have completely reimagined the story as a video blog circa 2013 LA. Click HERE to go to the home page. From there you can follow the story from the top, explore twitter and tumblr accounts for both the characters and the actors (as well as the producers and director.)

The Wrap Up

I hope you’ve enjoyed my take on Pride and Prejudice. I thank those of you who played along and commented here and on Google and Facebook. As always, please drop me a line an let me know what you are thinking.


Pride and Prejudice Essay Contests

Today’s blog features two essay contests: the official JASNA Student Essay Contest,
and the ritaLOVEStoWRITE Essay Contest for the rest of us.



JASNA essay contest






Attention: Students at the high school, college and post-graduate levels:



In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, JASNA (The Jane Austen Society of North America) is looking for short essays on the following topic:



“Though Pride and Prejudice may be regarded as timeless, nevertheless within the novel Austen plots her time very carefully. Timing is everything for important relationships and events. And the characters are deeply connected to the time in which they live, which is both like and unlike our times. What do we discover about time, times, or timeliness from reading Pride and Prejudice?”


Title page from the first edition of the first...

Title page from the first edition of the first volume of Pride and Prejudice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Judges will be awarding scholarships ranging from $250 to $1000, plus a years membership to JASNA, plus tickets and lodging to the 2013 JASNA Annual General Meeting in Minneapolis. The winning essays will also appear on the JASNA website.



Deadline is May 15, 2013. 



Click HERE to go to the JASNA Essay Contest Page for more details.



[Please note that the contest is open to students outside the United States too, but the essay must be written in English.]






English: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Austen, Jane. Pr...

English: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London: George Allen, 1894, page 5. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ritaLOVEStoWRITE  Contest for the rest of us:



So what about the rest of us Pride and Prejudice lovers? Can’t WE write an essay*? Well, sure you can. I’m calling for entries right here and right now.



We too will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of P&P! But guess what? Any one can participate!  Couple of RULES here:



  1. TRY and keep it under 1200 words please.
  2. The “essay” should be Pride and Prejudice centric.
  3. Please submit your essay in English.
  4. Have fun with it!
  5. Oh, and no pornography == THIS is Austen after all!


English: Français : Une gravure de 1833 illust...

English: Français : Une gravure de 1833 illustrant une scène du chapitre 59 du roman Orgueil et Préjugés de Jane Austen. À gauche M. Bennet, à droite Elizabeth. Avec File:Pickering – Greatbatch – Jane Austen – Pride_and_Prejudice – This is not to be borne, Miss Bennet.jpg, il s’agit des toutes premières illustrations de l’œuvre. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Prizes include… All entries will be published in an upcoming special edition of the award-winning ritaLOVEStoWRITE blog. All entries will receive a participation banner for your blog. The top three entries will receive a special “Finalist” banner for their Blog Page, and the top entry will win a Darcy mug! (Please make sure to include an email contact — which I will remove before posting so the whole world doesn’t see it.)



Deadline: 28 January 2013 (That’s the anniversary date of the novel’s publication)



*I seriously encourage you to think outside the box. For you illustrators out there… how about some character studies? Are you a play wright? Why not treat us to a re-imagined scene or two?



AND … Although I’m not going to snark on your intellectual property I strongly suggest you throw a copyright on all your original material in case any one else takes a liking to it.


English: This diagram, or map, illustrates the...

English: This diagram, or map, illustrates the relationships between each of the main characters in the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought of the Day 9.28.12 Gwyneth Paltrow

“Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.”
–Gwyneth Paltrow

03092011-DSC_0697_Gwyneth Paltrow

03092011-DSC_0697_Gwyneth Paltrow (Photo credit: brixton21)

Gwyneth Kate Paltrow was born on this day in Los Angeles, California in 1972. She is 40 years old.

Paltrow has show business in her DNA. Her father, the late Bruce Paltrow, was a film producer and director, and her mother, Blythe Danner, is an Emmy and Tony Award winning actress. Brother, Jake, is following in his father’s footsteps as a director.

Gwyneth grew up in Santa Monica. The family moved to Massachusetts when she was 11 and she split her time there between summer stock at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in the Berkshires and the all girls Spence School in Manhattan during the winter.

“My playground was the theatre. I’d sit and watch my mother pretend for a living. As a young girl, that’s pretty seductive.” [Paltrow]

She flirted with Anthropology at the UC Santa Barbara, but Acting called and she dropped out.

At 19 she made her film debut in the movie Shout in which John Travolta plays a  teacher at a West Texas home for boys who helps the kids learn to love music through the magic of Rock and Roll. She was Young Wendy in Steven Spielberg’s Hook. After a slew of made for television movies she returned to the big screen in 1995 in Se7en opposite then love interest Brad Pitt.

In 1996 she sparkled in the title role of Emma. It’s always a good career move to play a Jane Austen heroine in my opinion, and  Paltrow did a delightful job with the role of Emma Woodhouse. [Emma is my first pick of Paltrow movies that  you should put on your Netflix queue — if you don’t already own it.]

Paltrow as Emma [Image courtesy: Austenitis]

Now a Hollywood a-lister, Paltrow had an impressive run of  films in 1998; a modern version of Great Expectations with Ethan Hawke, Sliding Doors, A Perfect Murder (a remake of Dial M for Murder), Hush, and the magnificent Shakespeare in Love.

Paltrow plays Viola de Lesseps opposite Joseph Finnes’ Shakespeare in a story of mistaken identity, love, comedy and drama worthy the bard. With Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench and Collin Firth in supporting roles, Shakespeare in Love is fantastic. Paltrow and Dench won Oscars and the movie took home Best Picture.  [Shakespeare in Love is my second Paltrow pick for your Netflix queue.]

She was in Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley opposite Matt Damon and Jude Law in 1999.

In 2000 she showed the world that she could sing in Duets with Huey Lewis. Then played opposite her long time friend Ben Affleck in Bounce.

She had roles in the ensemble movies Anniversary Party & The Royal Tenenbaums in 2001. And co-starred with Jack Black in the comedy Shallow Hal.

Paltrow and Arron Eckhart played the sexiest literary researchers EVER in an adaptation of A.S. Byatt’s Possession. The pair uncover letters linking two Victorian writers (played by Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle.)

Paltrow and Eckhart in Possession [Image]

Paltrow rather famously said:

“I don’t really understand the concept of having a career, or what agents mean when they say they’re building one for you. I just do things I think will be interesting and that have integrity.”

which explains the swings from serious/dramatic roles to the campy fun fest that dot her filmography. She took on poet Sylvia Path in Sylvia  (Blythe Danner played her mother) then the next year she played reporter Polly Perkins in the highly stylized retro/sci fi Sky Captain and the World of Tommorow. Then it was back to serious Gwyneth for Proof.

She had small roles in Infamous, Love and Other Disasters, and Running With Scissors and a supporting role in The Good Night before landing the role of Pepper Potts in the big budget film Iron Man opposite Robert Downey, Jr.. She reprised the role in Iron Man 2 and in the Avengers. (And because you can never flog a dead horse too much… you can look for Pepper Potts AGAIN inIron Man 3 in 2013)

She brought out the pipes again for Country Strong where she played struggling country singer Kelly Canter. Here’s “Shake That Thing” from the movie:

Paltrow has had three guest spots on the popular television show Glee as substitute teacher Holly Holliday.

She had a small but pivital role in Contagion. The film also stars  her Talented Mr. Ripley co stars Matt Damon and Jude Law, and her Possession co-star Jennifer Ehle. [Contagion is another movie you should put in your queue.]

This  year you can see her in the romanic comedy Thanks for Sharing with Mark Ruffalo and Tim Robbins.

Thought of the Day 9.10.12 Colin Firth

“Colin is the sort of name you give your goldfish for a joke.”

Colin Firth

Colin Andrew Firth was born on this day in Grayshott, Hampshire, England in 1960. He is 52 years old.

He spent much of his first four years in Nigeria where his parents, Shirley and David Firth, were missionaries.They returned to England where his parents took up University posts and Colin and his younger  siblings, Kate and Jonathan grew up. In 1972 the family moved to St. Louis, MO,for a year. The transition did not go well and, he says, he reacted badly, becoming rude and defensive.

The family settled in Winchester when they returned to England with David at King Alfred’s College lecturing on History, and Shirley at the Open University teaching comparative religion. Colin’s rebellion streak continued.

He was a troubled teen, scruffy and cocky, and often railing against a middle class whose children progressed via academia while the working class were pushed towards carpentry and other manual skills. [TalkTalk, Colin Firth-Biography]

At 14 he declared that he wanted to become an actor, and by 18 he had joined the National Youth Theatre in London. S-L-O-W-L-Y he built his career, at first doing grunt work, like fetching tea and answering phones, then enrolling in more acting classes — this time at the London Drama Center and learning the Stanislavski method. After 3 years of study he started to see lead roles — including Hamlet — come his way at the school.

[Image Courtesy Probert Encyclopaedia]

In 1983 a talent scout saw his portrayal of the great Dane and offered him a spot replacing Daniel Day-Lewis in the West End production of Another Country. He went on to play another role in the movie production of the play, his first film. Though the movie was a success, and his role it was critically acclaimed, he went back to the theatre  — working at the Churchill Theatre and  the Old Vic. He also did some television, including Camille with John Gielgud and Ben Kingsley, and the mini-series Lost Empireswith Laurence Olivier.

Firth and Tilly in Valmont [Image Courtesy: Pure Cine]

He stepped easily from stage to screen (small and large). Another film of note from his early career is Valmont, “An earthy, physical take on the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses…” [TalkTalk]He co-starred here was Annette Bening, as

 ‘Lustful, manipulative aristocrats in 18th Century France, they would toy with the affections and bodies of others, until real emotions leads to the downfall of them both.’ [TalkTalk]

During the film ing of Liaisons he fell in love with actress Meg Tilly who played Madame de Tourvel. They dropped out the acting world, moving to a cabin in  the wilds of British Columbia. The two had a son William.   After the two-year hiatus he returned to the stage, Almedia, the small screen Hostages, and the indie film circuit, The Hour of the Pig (aka The Advocate).

If you want to see Firth as a creepy bad guy you can rent Playmaker (a film not even he likes) or The Deep Blue Sea (in which he plays a no-good cad.) He also plays a bit of a cad in Circle of Friends.

But nobody wants to see Colin Firth play a cad…am I right? In 1995 he was offered, and REFUSED, the role of Fitzwilliam Darcy in Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  There is a certain Darcy-esque story behind Firth’s refusal of the role. For a serious actor trying to build a serious career — an actor who was NOT trying to make it on his pretty face — the role “seemed tiresome and predictable.” [Talk Talk] He was as aloof about the role as Darcy is about  society in Meryton. He just wasn’t looking for a role that simply required that he throw on a Waist coat, snarl in a period costume, and pick up a pay check. He also didn’t think that Austen’s story was too female centric, and that just wouldn’t be enough for him to do. But Sue Birtwistle, the show’s producer, was persistent. She got him look at the script and rethink what he could bring to Darcy.

Firth as Darcy [Image Courtesy: Period]

Filming began in June 1994.

“As Mr. Darcy in the acclaimed 1995 television adaptation of Pride and PrejudiceColin Firth induced record increases in estrogen levels on both sides of the Atlantic. Imbuing his role as one of literature’s most obstinate lovers with surly, understated charisma, Firthcaused many a viewer to wonder where he had been for so long, even though he had in fact been appearing in television and film for years.” [New York Times, Movies & TV]

The series was wildly popular and is THE standard against which all other Jane Austen adaptations are judged. Firth’s stock as both movie star and sex symbol sky rocketed. But instead of taking on another leading role, his next turn on the silver screen was a relatively minor role as Kristen Scott Thomas’ lightweight husband in The English Patient. He looses Scott Thomas to Ralph Fiennes in that movie. He played an even bigger cuckold (and a less amiable one) in Shakespeare in Love, where he looses his screen love — it’s Gwyneth Paltrow this time — to another Fiennes brother, Joseph. Speaking of Shakespeare…He’s an American farmer in A Thousand Acres which is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, then does a comic turn AS Shakespeare in Blackadder: Back and Forth. 

From Shakespeare in Love [Image Courtesy: My Favorite Things]

It must have felt like he was looking in a mirror when he took on another Mr. Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason, (especially as the former loosely echos the plot of P&P.)

Here’s a rundown of most of his other post Pride and Prejudice work:

  • Other Rom-Com work includes… Hope Springs, Fever Pitch, Love Actually, The Accidental Husband, Relative Values, Four Play, Then She Found Me and Easy Virtue.  I suppose you can add Mamma Mia to that list as well. (I can vouch for Firth’s performances in the first three. I think Hope Springs is his best Romantic Comedy, Fever Pitch is funny if a bit too sporty for me, and he was the best thing in Love Actually, actually.)
  • For period pieces you can choose from… Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Importance of Being Earnest, Nostromo, The Turn of the Screw (briefly) and Dorian Gray. (Pearl Earring was excellent, if a little slow-moving — in a beautiful kind of way. Earnest was funny — but it’s Wilde, so, you know, that’s kind of a given. Dorian Gray was based on a Wilde novel too… but I didn’t like that one nearly as much.)
  • Looking for more modern drama? Try… My Life So Far, Conspiracy, Born Equal, Trauma, Where Lies The Truth, Main Street, And When Did You Last See Your Father? and Genova. (Of this lot I’ve only seen Conspiracy, which is a chilling drama about a Nazi conference where officials discuss the “Final Solution.” It is a beautifully acted film all around with Firth in a lessor role.)
  • He seemed a little out-of-place in the family films What a Girl Wants and Nanny McPhee  and the historical action flick The Last Legion. 

Then came A Singe Man in 2009, and suddenly Colin Firth went from being movie star (small caps) to MOVIE STAR (big caps) all over again. His performance as George Falconer (in the movie based on the Christopher Usherwood  novel of the same name) was understated and amazing. It’s 1962 and Firth’s George plays a university professor who is in mourning after the accidental death of his long time partner, Jim. Firth was nominated for an Academy Award, and won a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor.

Firth in A Single Man [Image Courtesy: Talking Movies]

The next year, 2010, was golden, and Firth finally got his Oscar for The Kings Speech. On the brink of WWII King Edward VIII abdicates the throne of England, leaving the job to his ill prepared brother “Bertie” (Firth). Bertie must overcome a terrific stammer and self-doubt to lead his country in its time of greatest need.

Satisfaction! []

In 2011 he took a supporting role in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spyas Bill Haydon (the “Tailor”) to Gary Oldman’s George Smiley.

Next month Gambit co-starring Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci and Cameron Diaz will hit theaters. This remake of the 1966 Shirley MacLaine/Michael Caine comedy caper is a Joel and Ethan Coen project.

Firth also hasArthur Newman, Golf Pro, The Railway Man, Bridget Jones’ Baby and Devil’s Knot on the way. 

Still from the upcoming Arthur Newman, Golf Pro with Emily Blunt [Image Courtesy: Best Movies Ever]

The actor has rather famously down played his sex appeal.

“I think it’s quite extraordinary that people cast me as if I’m Warren Beatty: until I met my present wife, at the age of 35, you could name two girlfriends.” [Colin Firth  on]

Besides his romance with Tilly, he had an affair with Jennifer Ehle (Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice) and has been married to Italian film producer/director Livia Giuggioli  since 1997. The couple has two sons, Luca and Matteo.

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