Monday, June 14, 2010

It is a truth universally acknowledged...

Well, I'm certainly keeping up my renewed fervour in the blog. A recent text from Sandy about the amazing experience that is the BBC's adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South has inspired this post.

I've been meaning to write a post like this for some time, but have been faintly embarassed. Ah well, with renewed fervour comes renewed chutzpah! Presenting...

The Camel Diaries' list of the FIVE BEST period drama heroes/actors: from Austen to Eyre to Gaskell... (listed in order of preference, ahem, I'm saving the best for last!)

5. Timothy Dalton, Jane Eyre, BBC (1983)
I studied Jane Eyre when I was 14 (or was it when I was 13?). Can't remember exactly. But depending on the day, it is my favourite novel of the era. On a sunnier day, the answer is Pride and Prejudice. We watched the BBC version at school all those years ago and I was captivated from the word go. But it was when Mr Rochester first meets Jane on the misty road to Thornfield, high on his steed, that my heart did a little double-lurch. Timothy Dalton remains, and always will, the definitive Rochester in my mind. Toby Stephens (2006 BBC adaptation) was pretty good, William Hurt (1996 Zeffirreli film) appalling. But no one captured Rochester's thunderous brow, simmering anger, and urgent despair quite like Timothy Dalton.

4. Ciaran Hinds, Persuasion, BBC (1995)
Ah. This is the best adaptation of my second-most favourite Jane Austen novel. Ciaran Hinds transforms Captain Frederick Wentworth into an at once stoic, yet passionate, man who is trying to move on from his his first love. His chemistry with Anne Elliot (played by the unfortunately named Amanda Root) is palpable and believable, and I find their portrayal of autumnal love very moving. There is no dancing or singing to be had here. This is a serious love story with two very serious protagonists. The final revelatory scenes are particularly delightful to watch. Go youtube it! (ps: If you are a Persuasion fan, then Ruper Penry-Jones in the BBC 2007 version would have been by number 6 on this list!)

3. Matthew Macfadyen, Pride and Prejudice, Working Title Films (2005)
Well, this is a toughie. Matthew Macfadyen's Darcy vs Colin Firth's? I loved both interpretations, and I must admit Mr Macfadyen has a voice that could sell anything to anyone, but I think he's my second favourite Darcy only because he had less screen time, given that this version was a feature film! I loved the chemistry between him and Keira Knightley, and the way he played Darcy as shy and socially awkward rather than arrogrant and morally uptight. In any case, had a mini obsession with him when I first watched the film. Made me want to buy Spooks on DVD just for him (never did so in the end as I feared the violence portrayed)! Anyway, two wonderful Mr Darcys can't be bad right? Which leads me to #2 favourite period drama hero/actor of all time...

2. Colin Firth, Pride and Prejudice, BBC (1995)
For the longest time, Colin Firth occupied the highest pedestal of romantic period hero dashing-ness. He was the unparalleld ONE. His yin to Jennifer Ehle's yang was so inherently perfect, that every single minute of the six-hour long production was nothing short of perfect. Everyone raves about the lake scene at Pemberley (me included!), but my favourite scene is one of the more subtle Lizzie-Darcy moments - when Elizabeth receives news that Lydia has eloped with Wickham and is in tears, and Darcy offers her some wine and briefly holds her hand. Argh! The subtlest of romantic gestures! And the way he calls her "dearest, loveliest Elizabeth" during the second proposal scene is just completely heart-a-flutter inducing. So as you can see, my admiration for Colin Firth's Darcy has long run deep. I thought he held the permanent 
title of best romantic hero of all time. That is, until a certain moment in 2009 changed everything...

1. Richard Armitage, North and South, BBC (2004)
For those of you woeful souls who are unaquainted with Mr John Thornton of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, well, let me introduce him quickly to you. He is NOT what Austen would have termed a gentleman, in fact, he is in (God Forbid!) trade - he runs a cotton mill in the Northern town of Milton for crying out loud! He speaks with a strong Northern accent, and is a bit rough round the edges. He's been described as saturnine, aggressive, brusque and not carrying out his moral duty where the wellbeing of his mill workers are concerned. But of course, the tough exterior conceals an empathetic, compassionate heart, enlightened enough to embark on a philanthropic mission for his poverty-stricken workers. Such a gentle soul he has. And faultlessly portrayed by the then relatively unknown Richard Armitage, whose role-of-a-lifetime portrayal of Thornton was not just compared to Colin Firth's seminal Darcy, but also spawned the obsessive fan base called the Armitage Army. Now I haven't signed up online to be on their fansite yet, but I can understand why some would! Heh heh. In anycase, North and South is so beautifully rendered, and the last four-and-a-half minutes of the series are possibly the best four-and-a-half minutes I've ever experienced on celluloid. Go ahead and youtube it if you don't believe me! Actually, I'll save you the trouble. You can just click here. Of course this is a major spoiler if you don't know the story, but heck, it's so good I can't resist putting it up.

So there you have it. My ultimate list. Do you have one? I'd love to hear it!

PS: I should end this post by saying what a wonderful husband I have in D who has good-naturedly tolerated my Victorian romantic hero obesssions. He knows he is the 21st century equivalent to me :) xxoo


maree said...

A+ for this Dora... Loved them all too - Judy & I watched the whole of BBC production over one weekend - we couldn't leave it! ( pre Finnie days ) & we had it sent over to NZ before it was even on tele here!One of my very favourite weekends! I know but you'll understand! haven't watched North & South for ages - must get it out again - ahhh -

maree said...

- Pride & Prej BBC production that is - sorry left name out in my comment

evelina baddely said...

I don't know if it is because he's so much more generally known for playing baddies, but Alan Rickman in Sense & Sensibility sets my little heart a flutter every time.

And, a bit outside the time period, I imagine, but Damian Lewis in The Forsythe Saga also really did it for me. So much so that I sympathized with his every devious move and despised the characters that I believe the author and filmmakers intended for the audience to love.

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