WCW: Elizabeth Bennett

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I can’t believe we haven’t done a Woman Candy Wednesday featuring EVERYONE’s favorite (historical) fictional heroine, Elizabeth Bennet! Nobody writes fabulous female characters better than Jane Austen, and none is more fabulous than the heroine of Pride and Prejudice. Sure, we asked you to vote as to whether Jennifer Ehle or Keira Knightley better portrayed our Lizzie (y’all loved Ehle), but there’s still much to appreciate about both, and many other actresses who’ve given her a whirl!

Elizabeth Bennet: she of the sharp wit, (generally) discerning judgement, and (despite it being the Regency era) usually fabulous outfits. Let’s appreciate the major on-screen portrayals of Elizabeth Bennet!

 

Greer Garson in Pride and Prejudice (1940)

It’s been too long since I’ve seen this version to remember Garson’s take on Elizabeth! For shame!

Pride and Prejudice (1940)

She’s certainly very lovely!

Pride and Prejudice (1940)

This seems to be a patented facial expression for her…

Pride and Prejudice (1940)

Such floof!

 

Daphne Slater in Pride and Prejudice (1952)

An early BBC TV adaptation, which I haven’t yet seen!

Pride and Prejudice (1952)

That’s Peter Cushing as Mr. Darcy, which just seems WRONG!

 

Celia Bannerman in Pride and Prejudice (1967)

Another BBC production I’ve yet to see!

Pride and Prejudice (1967)

Ah, the Regency bouffant hairdo…

 

Elizabeth Garvie in Pride and Prejudice (1980)

For many people, Garvie IS their Elizabeth Bennet. I was impressed with her wittiness, even if David Rintoul didn’t do it for me as Darcy.

Pride and Prejudice (1980)

Garvie has a good look for Elizabeth — interestingly pretty.

Pride and Prejudice (1980)

You can feel her naturalness!

 

Jennifer Ehle in Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Others prefer Ehle’s thoughtful take on Lizzie (okay, she’s my favorite!). I love how much she can convey with her expressions, and her way with the witty dialogue, and the chemistry she has with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Brainy!

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Pretty!

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

And great hair!

 

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Bride & Prejudice (2004)

Nope, it’s not the least bit historical, but it’s my blog and I wanna! I seriously LOVE Bride & Prejudice, the Indian Bollywood take on P&P, and I think Aishwarya Rai is just gorgeous. So there!

Bride & Prejudice (2004)

That face! So pretty!

Bride & Prejudice (2004)

And the story is so much fun. I seriously put this on in the background all the time!

 

Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Okay, so we like to pick on Keira Knightley. And we don’t have much love for the pig version of Pride & Prejudice around these parts. But you know what? While I didn’t LOVE Knightley’s Elizabeth, I found her performance one of the few redeeming qualities in that pig fiesta. And I’m not going to judge you if you like this movie or like Keira Knightley. So hey, I made an actual effort to find some decently pretty pictures for those that want to enjoy them.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

She has a great neck, and a great profile.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Not commenting on the hair!

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Or the 1960s bouffant.

 

Gemma Arterton in Lost in Austen (2008)

Elizabeth is actually a minor character in this loosely-based-on-P&P TV miniseries, but since I’m a fan of the show, I’m including her!

Lost in Austen (2008)

Arterton has a great look for Lizzie.

Lost in Austen (2008)

Love the little curls!

Lost in Austen (2008)

And if Elizabeth Bennet DID time travel to our time, she would SO get a pixie cut!

 

Anna Maxwell Martin in Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)

Yep, many of you think that Martin isn’t pretty enough to play Elizabeth Bennet in this sequel to P&P, but I loved her, so shut up!

Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)

She captures Elizabeth’s elegance.

Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)

And, most important to me, her intelligence.

 

Lily James in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

James’s take on Elizabeth, if I subtract all the zombie killing, was one of the better aspects of this horror reboot.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

She looks good in a redingote.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

She’s smart enough.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

And her hair doesn’t annoy me that much!

 

Who’s your favorite Elizabeth Bennet on screen?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

44 Responses

  1. Broughps

    Elizabeth Bennet? No, no, no P&P is all about Darcy. Give me some Matthew Macfadyen any day of the week.

    Reply
  2. Jessica

    While it was a youtube series, one of my favorite Lizzies is from The Lizzie Bennett Diaries. ADORE that series. But the Jennifer Ehle one still has my all time favorite vote.

    Reply
    • Melanie Clark

      I second Ashley Clements’ great take on Elizabeth in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries! Even though it’s modernized, it shows how Austen’s world was similar, in so many ways, to today. I think that’s why Austen’s popularity continues to endure. And this version shows Lizzie’s blindsides better than any other. Other versions tend to portray Elizabeth as the victim of false information, rather than a flawed woman with a lot of room for growth.

      As for historical versions, Elizabeth Garvie’s look and manner is closest to my reading of the book. But that version is so stagey–Jennifer Ehle has my vote!

      Reply
  3. Melanie Clark

    Don’t forget Ashley Clements’ perfect take on Elizabeth in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries! http://www.pemberleydigital.com/the-lizzie-bennet-diaries/

    Even though it is modernized, this series shows how well Austen’s world parallels our own which, I’m convinced, is why her popularity has grown so much in the last 50 years. This version also explores Elizabeth’s blindsides more than any of the others.

    Elizabeth Garvie’s looks and manner are closest to my reading of Lizzie in the book, but that version is so stagey…Jennifer Ehle has my vote!

    Reply
  4. bshaurette

    Jennifer Ehle 4 eva! (Although I am also on the Anna Maxwell Martin bandwagon – she really did capture Elizabeth’s braininess.)

    Reply
      • Frannie Germeshausen

        I agree as well – Jennifer Ehle is the best, but Anna Maxwell Martin rocks whatever she does. (Bletchley Circle, anyone?)

        Reply
        • Athene

          Jennifer my fave, Garvie a close second. And although I love Anna M-M in everything, I *loathed* DCTP, although I really don’t want to blame it on her.

          Reply
  5. Susan Snare

    Elizabeth Garvie! There’s something about your first Elizabeth Bennet. That stilted production was my introduction to Austen as a 16-year old. Life has never been the same. Plus Jane looks just how I always picture her.

    Reply
    • MoHub

      Garvie will always be my ideal Lizzie. She precisely matches the mental image I developed when I first read the novel. And I rather liked Rintoul.

      Reply
    • Mary

      Garvie! She was intelligent, caring, had a good sense of humor, and held her own against Darcy and Lady Catherine. I first saw her portrayal after coming off the horror of seeing the Greer Garson adaptation. After that, the Garvie/Rintoul production was so soothing. It so perfectly followed the book.

      Reply
  6. Caroline Macafee

    Not really relevant, but having seen Aishwarya Rai in a few Bollywood films, I thought she was just a pretty face and couldn’t really act much (or do Indian dancing any great shakes). But then I saw her in The Last Legion, with an American director, and she was great, and also did swashbuckling. So I assume it’s the Bollywood directors who’ve been limiting her to four facial expressions.

    Reply
    • Melanie

      Haha! Well, the Bollywood directors know that those 4 facial expressions have to translate for audiences who don’t necessarily speak the same language. I think her acting varied a lot in Bollywood, too. She’s terrible in things like Dhoom 2 and completely out-acted by Madhuri Dixit in Devdas, but I really liked her performances in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Raincoat, and Jodhaa Akbar. She also made a pretty decent Marianne Dashwood in Kandukondain Kandukondain.

      Reply
  7. shoujofan

    I love Jennifer Ehle and the 1995’s version is my favorite, but Elizabeth Garvie is a far superior Lizzie Bennet. Gemma Aterton had little time screen in Lost in Austen and I wishe she could stay for one more episode. She was an interesting Lizzie too.

    Reply
  8. Charity

    I like them all (I’ve only not seen three of these, the earlier ones minus Greer Garson, but CUSHING as DARCY? NO WAY) but… I like Keira’s Lizzie a lot. Maybe more than the others.

    Please don’t hurt me. ;)

    I was shocked how much I liked the Darcy in PPZ.

    I also cosplayed Lizzie from that last year for Halloween. It stunned me how many guys hit on me in that long purple coat, with a fake sword strapped to my hip. Maybe they think a girl who can kick their butt is super awesome?

    Hmm. I should wear it more often. :P

    Reply
  9. Catherine Nielsen

    I first fell in love with P&P watching the 1980 version. That was in college, I was the perfect age. I promptly read the book. The 1995 version blows all of the others away, though, so I have to go with Jennifer Ehle. I actually like the ‘pig’ version as well–I can’t help but love the music in it.

    Reply
  10. ladylavinia1932

    I love Greer Garson, Elizabeth Garvie, Jennifer Ehle, Keira Knightley and Anna Maxwell-Martin’s take on Elizabeth Bennet for different reasons.

    Reply
  11. Susan Pola

    My favourite is Jennifer. Her eyes ARE Lizzie’s. And her acting was superb. I, too liked James in PPZ. But I wanted a sequel. The ending was such a cliffhanger. Also Lena, er Lady Catherine de Burgh, kicked butt.
    But if I couldn’t use those two. I loved Bride and Prejudice. I’d put money on the way Cobra Dance as an alternative to The Time Warp of RHPS. Keira’s was good, too, but I wish her hair was not falling out of her pins and her walk is 20th century in her walking in the fields. Wonder if I’d find those glaring if they set in during WWI (1914-1918)?

    I mean Greer’s looks 1840s or thereabouts, and she had Larry as her Darcy. And the Peter Cussing looks almost like part of Barret’s of Wimpole Street. But Peter Cussing is totally NOT Darcy *shudder*. Why not a P&P set during the Great War?

    Reply
  12. Susan Pola

    I changed Cussing to Cushing and saved the name, but Rogue Auto-correct strikes again. Someone please tell me how to disable it?

    Reply
  13. Adina

    Another really good bollywood movie-that actually takes place in the 18th century-is Bajirao Mastani.

    Reply
  14. Daniel Milford-Cottam

    Having just stumbled across a shot of Jane Downs’ Lizzy from the 1958 BBC adaptation, I am now thinking that she looks like a very humorous, witty Lizzy, and pretty well-cast as far as looks go, based on the one picture – not really “pretty-pretty” but has the good eyes.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/genome/entries/14eeb171-641a-4e17-a05d-9bc7640f790f

    And I’ve just found some more pics from the 1952 BBC adaptation and the clothes actually look pretty damn good for 1950s Regency costuming….!

    Reply
  15. ladylavinia1932

    I mean Greer’s looks 1840s or thereabouts, and she had Larry as her Darcy.

    That is because the story was set in the 1830s, for the 1940s production. I’ve always found it ironic that so many have complained about this, considering that the 1980 and 1995 productions are set in the 1810s, yet Austen’s story is supposed to be set near the end of the 1790s.

    Reply
  16. Jenno

    I tried to watch the Greer Garson version one time when it came up on one of the old movie channels, but I had to stop after about five minutes, because the costumes were hhhhhhhhorrible and she didn’t seem like Lizzie to me at all. Then I checked IMDB and realized it’s because she was a 36-year-old woman playing 20. It didn’t work at all for me.

    I too could play the Ehle/Firth version on a loop 24/7 and never tire of it. And Bride and Prejudice is a favorite in our household, for every crazy single lip-synched musical number, especially the gospel choir on the beach.

    Reply
    • kt

      I love the Greer Garson version. I have watched it dozens of times. Laurence Olivier is superbly haughty and she has such a playful manner – I find it really enjoyable. I know the costumes are wrong, but I think they got the “spirit” of it right, although Mr Bennett is more sympathetic than in other versions and in the book. Mrs Bennett is great, as is Mr Collins and Lady Catherine. They flubbed the ending, but apart from that, I completely LOVE it!

      Reply
  17. Lin

    My mom got us Bride & Prejudice for Christmas when I was little. Such a good movie! My sister and I watched it over and over and over and over. Then the disc went “missing”. Always thought it was carelessness but now I suspect my mom just wanted a break.

    Reply

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