As we take a closer look at the movies of Pride and Prejudice and begin our discussion of the characters, let’s start with Mary and Kitty Bennet. They are the middle girls, for the line-up is: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty (aka Catherine), and Lydia.
Mary is described in the book as “being the only plain one in the family”, having “neither genius nor taste, and though vanity had given her application, it had given her likewise a pedantic air and conceited manner” -- chapter six. She is an accomplished pianist, the one who usually plays for the small family get-togethers, but at Bingley’s Netherfield ball, when Mary tries to sing for the crowd, her “powers were by no means fitted for such a display; her voice was weak, and her manner affected” -- chapter eighteen. But it is also Mary who explains this to us: “Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” -- chapter five.
We are given even less information about Kitty, other than that she follows Lydia in whatever she does, even though Kitty is two years older. Most middle children will testify to being easily overlooked, and since with P&P we have proof of that happening for centuries, the habit is probably too entrenched now for it ever to change! One might wonder if Jane Austen purposely had the two middle children be obscure, or was it nature at work, beyond her control.
Therefore, naming a favorite Kitty is just about pointless since there is so little about her, except her ‘timing her coughs ill’ and that she received some information from Lydia when she was away at Brighton. Most of the movies honor this ‘let’s overlook the middle child’ and Kitty is almost a non-entity, so I will say the Kitty (played by comparatively young Polly Lucinda Maberly) in the 1995 BBC version is my favorite, because we at least see more of her in it than in the others. The P&P version with Elizabeth Garvie may also give more air time to her, but the girl that comes to mind readily when I think of Kitty is this one.
Mary, on the other hand, has more of a character to be developed and scenes to be in. Even though the portrayal in the version with Colin Firth is perhaps more like what the book describes, I like the Mary (played by Marsha Hunt) in the 1940 version with Greer Garson & Laurence Olivier, and the one (played by Tessa Peake-Jones) in the 1980 BBC version with Elizabeth Garvie. Playing the part less seriously and more lighthearted seems to be a better fit in the transition from page to screen. As an example, I would cite the scene in the 1940 version when at Netherfield she is playing the piano and singing off-key. You still feel the same sense of embarrassment in that older version, but it just comes across better than the more serious portrayal of the 1995 one. And besides, though she is plain, in both of these there is still a hint of that Bennet beauty, which seems only natural.
One other minor character worth mentioning:
Pics of Mary Bennet: 1940, 1980, 1995, 2005
Pics of Kitty Bennet: 1940, 1980, 1995, 2005
Mrs. Reynolds, second from the left: 1995 version