Those of you in America who haven't yet seen Andrew Davies' 1995 critically acclaimed adaptation of Jane Austen's best loved novel are in for a treat when the first episode hits your television screens tomorrow. A strong cast, led by Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, bring Austen's Britain to life so impressively that when it was first shown in the UK it attracted a whole new generation of fans to Austen's novels.
David Bamber, in turn pompous and obsequious, makes a superb Mr Collins whilst Alison Steadman's portrayal of Mrs Bennet, cringe-makingly embarrassing at times, reminds us there were were few stratagems a mother with five daughters to marry off wasn't prepared to stoop to in order to see them comfortably settled.
Ehle shines in the role of the principled and spirited Lizzie Bennet but it's Colin Firth's Darcy, with his searchingly aloof expressions and brooding good looks that stays with the viewer long after the credits have rolled. His powerful performance conveys the impression of arrogant superiority attributed to him in the book but manages to hint as well at a heart brimming with sensitivity lurking beneath his fastidiously correct exterior.
By and large the adaptation remains true to the book but there are, of course, a few deviations, the most widely documented being the famous scene where Darcy returns to Pemberley a day earlier than expected. The weather is warm and impulsively he strips off his outer garments and dives into the lake. His emergence, dripping wet, clothes stuck to his impressive torso, earned him a cult following of adoring female fans at the time. Firth himself was reported to be surprised by this, wondering how anyone could find him even remotely sexy!