Friday

Pride and Prejudice movie characters, part 12

Miss Jane Bennet


Jane is described as the most beautiful of the Bennet girls and, in fact, of all Meryton. As to her character, the following excerpts give us a good idea of what Jane should be like in a movie:

(Chapter 17)
“ELIZABETH related to Jane the next day, what had passed between Mr. Wickham and herself. Jane listened with astonishment and concern; she knew not how to believe that Mr. Darcy could be so unworthy of Mr. Bingley's regard; and yet, it was not in her nature to question the veracity of a young man of such amiable appearance as Wickham. The possibility of his having really endured such unkindness was enough to interest all her tender feelings; and nothing therefore remained to be done, but to think well of them both, to defend the conduct of each, and throw into the account of accident or mistake, whatever could not be otherwise explained.”
"They have both,'' said she, "been deceived, I dare say, in some way or other, of which we can form no idea. Interested people have perhaps misrepresented each to the other. It is, in short, impossible for us to conjecture the causes or circumstances which may have alienated them, without actual blame on either side.''
“Very true, indeed; and now, my dear Jane, what have you got to say in behalf of the interested people who have probably been concerned in the business? Do clear them too, or we shall be obliged to think ill of somebody.''
In Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth, he says of Jane:
“Her look and manners were open, cheerful, and engaging as ever, but without any symptom of peculiar regard, and I remained convinced from the evening’s scrutiny, that though she received his attentions with pleasure, she did not invite them by any participation of sentiment. ... the serenity of your sister’s countenance and air was such as might have given the most acute observer a conviction that, however amiable her temper, her heart was not likely to be easily touched.”

With that, judging the portrayals of Jane in all the movies we’ve been discussing from this standpoint, here’s how I see it:  


1940 - Maureen O'Sullivan is surely pretty enough to be Jane Bennet, but the movie is not long enough to develop the character and therefore those qualities of overriding concern for others and eagerness to think the best of everyone are never shown by her.

1980 - Sabina Franklyn is not as pretty as Elizabeth Garvie, who plays Lizzy in this version, so she begins badly on that first impression! And then we don’t see the angelic Jane that her sister praises so much.

2004 Bride and Prejudice - Namrata Shirodkar is lovely enough, but here again the movie does not give time for the Jane of the book to come out.

2005 - Rosamund Pike most fits what I would think of in the beauty department - her face can easily take on the serenity that is striking (and having Keira Knightley as Lizzy is perfect because Kiera is so unattractive by comparison). However, this movie is so badly done in so many ways, and once more that wonderful dynamic of Jane’s qualities being a counterbalance to Lizzy’s is lost.    

1995 - Susannah Harker is not really pretty enough to play the part as far as I’m concerned, but she definitely is given enough screen time to capture Jane Bennet, which she does better than all the other girls listed here that have played her. My vote for best Jane Bennet goes to her.


Rosamund Pike
Prettiest Jane Bennet


Susannah Harker
Best Jane Bennet