I read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice for the first time in high school, and fell headlong in love with Fitzwilliam Darcy. I carried that Darcy around in my head for years, looking pretty much like the C.E. Brock illustrations in the edition of the book I first read: Brooding, a little snobby, rich, handsome, and brought low by a woman's love.
Ahhh, Darcy! What's not to love?
In 1980, the BBC produced a mini-series that eventually made its way to Masterpiece Theatre in the U.S. This introduced us to Darcy as performed by David Rintoul, who bore an uncanny resemblance to the Brock illustrations of Darcy. Unfortunately, he bore little to no resemblance to the Darcy who had taken up residence in my subconscious. My Darcy, though repressed and haughty, had a ton of suppressed passion just waiting to be released by the love of a good woman (either Elizabeth Bennet or me, we were pretty much interchangeable by this time). Unfortunately, the resemblance between my Darcy and David Rintoul stopped at the appearance.
Mr. Rintoul's Darcy, I am sorry to report, had apparently had a broomstick permanently implanted in his backside. I mean, could the man sit down? Or smile? Or even move his eyebrows? No, sorry. This was not my Darcy.
Laurence Olivier, the Darcy from 1940 was nobody's Darcy. I don't blame him, you understand. He had the look, he had the affect, he had the lovely manners. What he didn't have was the script. Coming hard on the heels of Gone with the Wind and right before the United States entered WWII, this adaptation eschewed period-correct costume for something a tad more hoop-skirted and insisted on making all of the English characters (even Lady Catherine De Bourgh) good-hearted. Laurence was a lovely hero, but I'm afraid he wasn't my Darcy.
Then! Then! 1995. The BBC did another mini-series that aired in the U.S in 1996 on A&E. What can I say other than 'Oh! Colin!'? Finally, I had found my Darcy. This adaptation had it all: wonderful script, great cast, excellent locations, and a Darcy to die for. Colin Firth nailed it.
It turns out he was the Darcy of my subconscious as well as the Darcy of my dreams: rich, handsome, brooding (oh yes! Brooding in a big way), snobby and brought low by the love of a good woman (Elizabeth Bennet and not me, damn it). But, at last I had found my Darcy. And so had several hundred thousand other women, apparently.
But there were some out there who hadn't. In 2005, Joe Wright directed a feature film of Pride and Prejudice, with Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy. He was very nice. And he was probably somebody's idea of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Well, he was obviously quite a few people's idea of Fitzwilliam Darcy, if we are to judge by the fan sites littering the web. Was he handsome and rich? He was cute and rich; will that do? Was he brooding? Yeah. A bit. Was he snobby? I'm afraid not. He was shy, and we all know that the real Darcy was absolutely not shy. Was he brought low by the love of a good woman? Brought low from what? This Darcy was lifted from brooding shyness by the love of a good woman.
Elizabeth can have him. This was not my Darcy.
There are other Darcys out there. The IMDB has a long list. But I rest content that I have found my Darcy. Have you found yours?