1 October 2020 Susannah

Colin Firth and that shirt

Colin Firth as Mr Darcy

It’s hard to believe, and makes me feel rather old, but it is now a quarter of a century since Colin Firth in a white shirt dived into a lake, and the female half of the world gasped in delight. Ironically that famous ‘wet shirt’ moment is not even in the novel, but it became so iconic (it has been voted the favourite television moment of all time!) that most Jane Austen adaptations made since have felt obliged to add some wet shirt scene to the script.

With a script by Andrew Davies, gorgeous country houses as locations, and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, the 1995 Pride and Prejudice could hardly fail to please. It was critically acclaimed and won several awards, and the public loved it. It was watched by about 11 million people in Britain (more than the entire population of the country when Jane Austen wrote the novel), the first video set sold out within 2 hours of release, and it sold all over the world. My sister, when on holiday in Spain, turned on the TV in her hotel room and got to see Mr Darcy talking about “Mi casa Pemberley”! There had of course been other dramatizations of Pride and Prejudice, some of them excellent (I’m especially fond of the 1980 version, with wonderful Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennet) but it was the 1995 version that sparked Austen-mania and shot Colin Firth to stardom.

There’s a new adaptation of the novel coming out next year – it promises to be a “dark” and “adult” version. I guess every generation needs its ‘own’ Pride and Prejudice – our grandparents loved Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, my children’s generation prefers the Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen film, and goodness knows how many versions my grandchildren will be able to watch. But I think the 1995 adaptation did set new standards of sexiness and quality casting (with the exception, for me, of Alison Steadman as Mrs Bennet – she ruined every scene she was in and was too over-the-top for me) and it will remain an influential and beloved series. So happy 25th birthday, BBC Pride and Prejudice.

And next year we will also have a new movie version of Persuasion to enjoy. Australian actress Sarah Snook will play Anne Elliot, and the script is by Jessica Swale. Interestingly, it will be the first version of the much-loved Jane Austen novel actually made for the cinema – all others were originally made for TV.

Do you agree with me about the best version of Pride and Prejudice? Do you think Sarah Snook will make a good Anne Elliot? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, 1995 BBC TV production https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112130
Body image credit- Sarah Snook https://cutewallpaper.org/21/shiv-photos/view-page-21.html

Comments (26)

  1. Penny Morris

    I may have to take offence at your comment regarding “our grandparents” and their love of the Greer Garson / Laurence Olivier version of Pride and Prejudice. I am only in my early 60s but have a much treasured VHS copy of that movie with preface by Bill Collins having seen it on television possibly during my HSC year when I had access to daytime TV (in between studying for exams of course!). The musical themes for each group of characters are just wonderful even if the version is not entirely true to the book.

    Ultimately though, even Sir Laurence cannot compete with the wet shirt Colin Firth look.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Good point, Penny. For many years I had a video version of it too. However, I guess I was thinking of the year it came out in the cinemas which was 1940.

  2. Rebecca

    I too believe the 1995 P&P the best adaptation. I felt Alison Steadman made a perfect Mrs Bennet…frilly and fussy and socially awkward but never in doubt as to her motivations.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I felt Alison Steadman was too shrill. The actor playing Mrs Bennet in the 1980 TV series was way better in the role, in my view.

  3. Cant wait to see persuasion remake,loved this so much,but anxious to see a different actress as anne, love this character! I too loved p&p because of colin firth!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t Anne a marvellous heroine – intelligent, gentle and strong.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I do hope she is good in the role. Anne is such a wonderful character and it is awful to see her mis-cast. I don’t think they have announced yet who will be playing Wentworth.

      • Beata

        I am a big fan of Jane Austin. I have all of her books. “Pride and Prejudice” i recored on my tape recorder to back to it very often. Kisses from Poland

        • Susannah Fullerton

          Jane Austen’s books can’t be easy to read when English isn’t your first language. Well done.

  4. Angela

    Non c’è niente che possa superare orgoglio e pregiudizio di Colin Firth, io lo amo e dico che oltre alla scena del lago ce ne sono altre che mi fanno impazzire. Ad esempio quando si tocca il viso mentre guarda Elisabeth in casa della zia e altre ancora. ..Stupendo!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I’m afraid I don’t speak Italian, but if you are saying that Colin Firth was ‘stupendo’ as Mr Darcy, I agree!

  5. deviyanee sumputh

    I Just loved the 1995 Version. I watched on videos, much after it first came out. In fact i have most of the versions of each Jane Austen books which have been televised. Bolin Firth as Darcy was terrific, but Rupert Penry Jones in Persuasion was swoon worthy. I am eagerly waiting for the new Persuasion.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t Rupert Penry Jones gorgeous. But I did NOT like Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot, so am hoping Sarah Snook will be better. I wonder who will act Capt. Wentworth?

  6. V.olkhard wehner

    I THINK Alison Steadman was marvellous. Over the top may be, but certainly superb.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I know there were many who liked her performance – I just wasn’t one of them. But it is a fabulous series.

      • Delma

        Me senti identificada con la version de Keyra Knightley. Siempre es un desafio para quien la dirige y para el espectador. Encontrar “la novedad” , sorprenderse y disfrutar de una creacion donde parece que ya todo esta dicho va a ser un ejercicio digno de todos quienes amamos el romance.
        Hace tiempo descubri el misterioso atractivo que tiene un camisa blanca en un hombre…se transforma en piel y lenguaje para UNA mujer.

  7. Maria

    Hard to believe it’s been a quarter of a century since Colin Firth took that swim! It went by very quickly – imagine how poor Colin must feel? I’m not familiar with the Elizabeth Garvie version and my favourite is the BBC production, though I’m also fond of the Keira Knightly version. Sarah Snook is a wonderful actress who gave sterling performances in Succession and The Beautiful Lie (a 2015 ABC series based on Anna Karenina and set in contemporary times). I hadn’t thought of her in a period role and I’m looking forward to seeing her Persuasion made for the big screen.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, it’s really hard to believe that it’s a whole quarter of a century since that gorgeous production.
      Thanks for telling me more about Sarah Snook. We will hope she makes a fabulous Anne Elliot.

  8. Margi Abraham

    Sarah Snook is an Australian actress who plays the scheming, amoral but clever daughter in the Hit TV series Succession, clearly about a version of the Murdoch family and its media Empire. She is one of three siblings who vie for their despicable father’s favour. The show is riveting but the characters are appalling. SO it is almost impossible to imagine her playing Anne Elliott, my favourite Austen heroine! However, if she is a great actress, she may be able to. I do hope so.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I clearly have to watch Succession. Yes, it will be hard to picture someone playing a horrid woman in the role of wonderful Anne Elliot, but we will hope. Should be lots to discuss when the film comes out, and maybe an organised JASA outing to go and see it?

  9. Lorraine Batterham

    I too love the 1995 version of a long time favourite novel and I have always wondered how Mrs Bennett, ever gave birth to Elizabeth. This novelis my ultimate idea of a grand romance!
    I too think Sarah Snook will play Anne admirably and hope our little Glenbrook cinema may reopen by then!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t P & P utterly wonderful! I think Elizabeth does inherit some qualities from her mother – she is too quick to judge people, sometimes qoo quick to speak thoughtlessly (look at her reaction to Charlotte’s engagement). From her father she gets her intelligence and wit and also slight cynicism. I see her as the child of both her parents.
      I agree – Sarah Snook looks interesting and will hopefully be a lovely Anne Elliot.

  10. Lindy Bonham

    I do love the BBC Version of Pride and Prejudice. My favourite Austen book is Persuasion so I will be very interested to see the new movie. I don’t know of Sarah Snook but she has an interesting look about her. Thanks for all your delicious information you post on email.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Like you, I have not seen Sarah Snook act, but will be most interested to see what sort of job she does in ‘Persuasion’ – such a gorgeous novel!
      I am so glad you enjoy my Notes from a Book Addict.

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