Miss Caroline Bingley
When we think of Pride and Prejudice, we automatically consider Darcy's pride and Elizabeth's prejudice and, of course, they each had their share of both. But the one person that exhibits these two qualities potentized is Caroline Bingley. She scoffs at people who make their money in trade, even though that is how her father made the family fortune. She asserts herself into a higher rung of English society by assuming a superior air, and nothing pairs so well with snobbishness as hypocrisy -- Caroline Bingley is the epitome of both. I suppose a book about her could be called Snobs and Hypocrites ... maybe I should think about that as my next P&P variation!
The 1940 movie must have set the example for most of the others that followed with reference to the way Caroline is portrayed. I'm referring to leaving out the dynamic of her wanting Darcy for herself; the 1980 BBC, the 2005 P&P, and Bride & Prejudice all have Miss Bingley not showing that much interest in Darcy. Only one version does that, the 1995 BBC series with Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle and Anna Chancellor. This dimension of the story being left out, though, is a big mistake. There are some spicy exchanges in most versions between Caroline and Elizabeth which are fun to watch, but without the aspect that Caroline is fighting for Darcy's attention, all that is being portrayed is Miss Bingley being full of -- dare I say it? -- pride and prejudice!
The real laugh of all this in the book is that Lizzy, who has no interest in Darcy, is simply enjoying the comedy playing out before her as she sees Caroline doing all she can to get Darcy to take notice of her, only to be ignored by him. Sure, you will enjoy the story without her interest in him shining through in these other movies, but why leave Austen's brilliance on the sideline? You might as well hang a copy of the Mona Lisa on your wall that is only partly done.
Now as to who plays the best Caroline Bingley in the movies we've been discussing, I was tempted to say it is a tie between Frieda Inescort in the 1940 movie and Anna Chancellor from the 1995 BBC version. However, the scales tilt in Anna's favor, because she really can be so Caroline -- gracious, elegant, with jealousy and pride all mixed together.
Honorable mention goes to Indira Varma as Kiran from Bride and Prejudice -- just looking at her IMDb photo, you might think she didn't even have to act the part!
Our choice for best Miss Bingley, Anna Chancellor
|1995 Anna Chancellor|