Category Archives: Norma Shearer

Pride and Prejudice characters: Charlotte and Mr. Collins

Charlotte & Collins

For a woman who came from a family of clergymen — her father, two brothers and four cousins wore a collar — Jane Austen certainly enjoys poking fun at them in her novels. And Pride and Prejudice’s  Mr. Collins is her most ridiculous clerical caricature. How on earth does sensible Charlotte wind up with such a buffoon?

A clergyman was a professional, just like a lawyer or doctor. He made his living in the pulpit, not at the bar or in the examining room, but he still needed to be a well educated man. Add to that a vicar needed have a high moral standard, be a good speaker and have compassion for the poor and needy.

David Bamber is Mr. Collins  in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

David Bamber is Mr. Collins in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Instead we get conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly, self important Mr. Collins. He is a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, a social climber with a very good opinion of himself and his patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

He comes to Meryton to visit the Bennets. As closest male relative he is set to inherit the Longbourn estate on Mr. Bennet’s death. That is something, to his credit, that he feels some guilt over. So he decides to marry one of the five Bennet sisters. Jane is all but engaged to Mr. Bingley so he sets his sites on Lizzie.

Tom Hollander as Mr. Collin in the 2005 movie

Tom Hollander as Mr. Collin in the 2005 movie

Poor Lizzie receives two of the worst proposals  of marriage in literature. The first is from Mr. Collins. He wants to get married because:

  1.  as a clergyman it would set a good example to the parish.
  2.  it will add to his happiness.
  3.  it is “the particular advice “ of Lady Catherine.
  4.  he has a violent affection for Elizabeth

Of course he doesn’t expect a rejected. For one thing he’s SUCH a catch, and for another he’s chosen well. The girls are desperate and he has them in a corner.

He literally can not believe that she declines his offer. Neither can her mother. And for a while Longbourn is long born with strife.

Queue Charlotte.

Charlotte Lucas is plain, pragmatic, good-tempered, funny, sensible, intelligent and unromantic.  She is 27 years old and Lizzie’s intimate friend. She’s such a good friend, in fact, that she comes to the rescue when Lizzie refuses Mr. Collins. She keeps him in good humor by listening to him and, one assumes, diverts him, making sure he’s out of ear shot of the shouting Mrs. Bennet and the giggling Lydia and Kitty.

Lucy Scott in the 1995 series

Lucy Scott in the 1995 series

Lizzie thanks her friend,  but “Charlotte’s kindness extended farther than Elizabeth had any conception of; — its object was nothing less than to secure her from any return of Mr. Collins’s addresses, by engaging them towards herself.” With a little encouragement on her part Mr. Collins transfers his ‘violent affections’ form one lady to the next and…

”In as short a time as Mr. Collins’s long speeches would allow, every thing was settled between them to the satisfaction of both… he earnestly entreated her to name the day that was to make him the happiest of men… and Miss Lucas, who accepted him solely from the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment, cared not how soon that establishment were gained.”

Lizzie is surprised that Mr. Collins could so quickly change his mind  and settle on another life partner. But she is astonished that Charlotte could accept his proposal.  Charlotte reminds her however that she is…

”not romantic, you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.”

In some ways Charlotte winds up in same situation as Mr. Bennet in the marriage department. Neither of them respect or love their partners. And both do what they can in daily life to avoid interacting with their spouses Mr. Bennet shuts the door to his library, while Charlotte sits in her parlor and encourages Mr. Collins to work with his bees or visit Lady Catherine.

Claudie Blakley in the 2005 movie

Claudie Blakley in the 2005 movie

At the end of the novel Mr. Bennet writes to Mr. Collins informing him that — despite warning to the contrary by both Collins and Lady Catherine — Lizzie and Darcy are soon to marry. Mr. Bennet advises Mr. Collins to  “Console Lady Catherine as well as you can. But, if I were you, I would stand by the nephew. He has more to give.” If Mr. Collins heeds this wise advice he’d shift his alliance to Darcy who would never put up with the vicar’s toady behavior. That, combined with Charlotte’s even handed temper–which (hopefully) would rub off on Collins–MIGHT make him a more tolerable fool.

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Here’s a clip of the wonderful Julia Cho and Maxwell Glick in a scene from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries…


Thought of the Day 8.10.12 Norma Shearer

“An adventure may be worn as a muddy spot or it may be worn as a proud insignia. It is the woman wearing it who makes it the one thing or the other.”

Norma Shearer

Edith Norma Shearer was born on this day in Montreal Canada in 1902. Today is the 110th anniversary of her birth.

Shearer showed early promise as a pianist. Indeed, her mother, who was a bit of a stage mother, wanted her to become a world class concert pianist.  But when Norma was treated to a Vaudeville show for her 9th birthday all that changed. She wanted to become an actress. In 1918 when her father’s business failed and her parents separated her mother sold the piano and bought tickets to New York City. A Montreal theatre owner had given Norma a letter of introduction to Florenz Ziegfeld of Ziegfeld Follies fame. The Follies audition didn’t pan out, but Norma got work as an extra on several films.

She took up modeling (for the much needed money it offered)

 “I could smile at a cake of laundry soap as if it were dinner at the Ritz. I posed with a strand of imitation pearls. I posed in dust-cap and house dress with a famous mop, for dental paste and for soft drink, holding my mouth in a whistling pose until it all but froze that way.” [ From Norma Shearer: A Life]

Springfield Tires hired her as their go to model and dubbed her “Miss Lotta Miles.

It took her a year of bit parts, walk ons and modeling gigs, but in 1921 she got a break and was cast in The Stealers. In 1923 she caught the eye of Hollywood talent scout Hal Roach and signed a six month contract with Louis B. Mayer for $250 a week. She met Irving Thalberg, the vice-president of the studio and did a screen test. After a rocky start on the West Coast, Shearer hit her stride and was cast in six movies in  eight months. By 1924 she was a big enough star that she landed the role of Consuelo (the love interest) in He Who Gets Slapped MGM‘s first big budged attraction.

She renewed her contract with MGM (making considerably more money) and began dating Irving Thalberg who was then the chief of production. While she was filming The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg the couple became engaged. They were married on September 29, 1927. She refused to take off her wedding ring, even if a role demanded it (she covered it with flesh-colored tape instead.) The two stayed together until Thalberg, who had a serious heart condition, died in 1936. Having a husband who was chief of production didn’t hurt her career. She could pick and choose the juiciest roles (something other starlets, like Joan Crawford, openly resented. — Crawford rather snarkily referred to Shearer at “Miss Lotta Miles.”)

Her first talkie was The Trial of Mary Dungan. She won an Oscar a year later for The Divorcee. And she earned the moniker the First Lady of MGM. Other notable movies include: The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Romeo and Juliet, Marie Antoinette and The Women.

Soon after she retired in 1942 she married her second husband, Martin Arrouge, a ski instructor eleven years her junior. They withdrew from the glitz and glam of Hollywood and Shearer refused interviews and roles (like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard — a gig that won Gloria Swanson an Oscar) Shearer once quipped: “Never let them see you in public after you’ve turned 35. You’re finished if you do!”

 

[All photos courtesy of the Norma Shearer Annex.  Except Miss Lotta Miles which is from Hollywood-Legends.webs.com ]

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[Please Note that ritaLOVEStoWRITE is stepping away from the keyboard for a few days to get some fresh air. Be back soon.]


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