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How many of you ever remember the actress who played Lizzie Bennett opposite Colin Firth’s Darcy?

It seems to me that for years, we’ve cooed like mad over Colin Firth’s portrayal, but nobody ever seems to mention the fact that without such a strong actress to play Lizzie, the Pride and Prejudice that we all love, would have been as forgettable as the Keira Knightley version.

And as I’m having a Pride and Prejudice day today, I find it quite annoying that we don’t celebrate the actress who played Lizzie, as much as we do Colin Firth.

Just sayin’.


  • Jennifer Ehle 🙂

    Very good actress, IMO. She makes the P&P mini series and is far more interesting a character than Darcy. (Again IMO.) Think I first saw her in Paradise Road before seeing P&P. Also in Pride & Glory last year, a cop movie with Edward Norton. She was bald, but I recognized the eyes and cheek bones. Think I posted about it at the time because she looked so very different.


  • jane
    January 3
    6:49 pm

    Jennifer Ehle – Jasper Carrot’s daughter I believe. Why?


  • When I think of the series, I always see Jennifer Ehle rather than Colin Firth. Not that he wasn’t good – he was – but she was brilliant. I think she captured the character wonderfully, especially the restraint required of a spirited woman in ‘polite’ society during the time.

    When I watched the Keira Knightley version, it struck me that she played Elizabeth much more as a modern woman – some of her scenes and lines not exactly petulant but self-focused and almost complaining, rather than Ehle’s observations with that gentle but critical wit.


  • Mireya
    January 3
    7:20 pm

    I loved her portrayal of Lizzie so much that whenever I think of a screen version of Pride and Prejudice I remember her as much as Colin Firth. She was fantastic. However, I’ve never seen her in any other movie, made for t.v. or otherwise.

    I can’t say I liked Keira Knightley’s version that much.


  • I agree re:thought on Lizzie Bennett. When I read the book, J. Ehle is the Lizzie I see in my head. And I had never thought about why we don’t celebrate her as much. For me, there will never be another Lizzie besides her.

    I have seen her (J.Ehle) in a couple of other flims, and did not like her at all. I think I just don’t like her in contemporary dress. I saw one other film where she played a historical character (I think it was called “Alex & Emma”, if I remember correctly), and I saw her and thought, “oh my gosh, it’s Lizzie Bennett!” So I guess that just proves your whole point. 🙂


  • Barbara B.
    January 3
    7:39 pm

    Sorry Karen, apologies in advance for veering off course once again.

    I’m not an Anglophile so I’ve never watched Pride and Prejudice, but can’t the same thing be said for most romances as well? Often the best a heroine can do, no matter how wonderful she may be, is to be inoffensive to many readers. In good romances readers seem to love/recall the heroes more than the heroines. The heroine walks a very fine line with most romance readers. She can’t be too much of any one thing in case she’s considered unworthy of the hero or she’s seen to be competing with or overshadowing him.

    I’ve noticed that many women seem quite a bit misogynistic(sp). Behaviors by males that are perfectly acceptable to many readers or at least tolerated are excoriated in female characters. I know that some readers claim to fall a little in love with the hero, but why must the heroine’s range be so narrow? I want a heroine just as memorable as the hero. I actually check the one-starred romance reviews on Amazon because that’s how I find books with strong heroines. Only they’re called bitches by the reviewers.

    This of course is true IRL as well. Why are women so hard on other women?


  • Most of the time, I refer to the “Colin Firth” version of P&P because that brings to mind the one I mean instantly.
    Jennifer Ehle isn’t as well known to me as an actress, but she is my favorite. IMHO, she’s the only one who captured the nuances of Elizabeth Bennett.
    Interestingly, I refer to my favorite version of “Persuasion” as the “Amanda Root” version and my fav version of “Emma” as the “Kate Beckinsale” version. Yet neither of those versions would be successful without their male counterparts Cairan Hinds and Mark Strong.


  • Often the best a heroine can do, no matter how wonderful she may be, is to be inoffensive to many readers. In good romances readers seem to love/recall the heroes more than the heroines. The heroine walks a very fine line with most romance readers.

    @Barbara You make a good point. For me personally, when I look back to my fave books, the heroines have been as good, if not better than the heroes. With the exception of some of Ward’s BDB books, and Ann Stuart’s Black Ice, my full enjoyment of most romance novels stem from having a strong heroine.

    I’ve noticed that many women seem quite a bit misogynistic(sp). Behaviors by males that are perfectly acceptable to many readers or at least tolerated are excoriated in female characters.

    I totally agree. The average romance reader is willing to forgive the hero of most things, but tend to not have patience with strong females. Look at the popularity of the ‘Rake’ in hysterical romances. A lot of the bastard-like behaviour would get some of those heroes banged up these days.

    I also think that this isn’t just a romance-related phenomenon. In real life, there’s also a lot of woman-on-woman hate/indifference.

    You see the examples of this in reality shows that rely on the public voting people in/out. The pretty/handsome no-talent male seems to almost always trounce the attractive talented female.


  • Shelby Reed
    January 3
    8:39 pm

    I loved Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett! With the costume and severe hairstyles of that era, it was hard to tell in that production just how physically lovely she is. She was in another movie with Gweneth Paltrow–think it was called “Possession” or something like that, and it actually took me by surprise how beautiful she is. Gorgeous woman! Prettier than Colin any day.


  • ardeatine
    January 3
    9:34 pm

    She was also in the Chamomile Lawn miniseries.


  • joannef
    January 3
    10:53 pm

    I’m in full agreement that Jennifer Ehle is the best Lizzie Bennett on film. I wasn’t crazy about the Keira Knightly version. But I think it’s recognized as the “Colin Firth version” because he’s a bigger star than Ms. Ehle, just as the newer version is referred to as the “Keira Knightly version” rather than the “Matthew Macfayden version.”

    Besides, Crispin Bonham-Carter’s adorable Mr. Bingley stole my heart anyway. Keep Darcy, I’ll take Bonham-Carter’s sweet, sincere, & sexy Bingley any day!


  • Marianne McA
    January 4
    1:00 am

    I’d have known it was Jennifer Ehle: I could actually name half the cast I’ve watched it so often.
    Just thinking back on other adaptations, I’d know Billie Piper was Fanny in the most recent edition of Mansfield Park, but couldn’t tell you who played Edmund. And with Emma, I’d know Kate Beckinsale, but not who played Mr Knightley. And despite how famous Hugh Grant is, I’d always think of it as Emma Thompson’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’. (Ciaran Hinds ‘Persuasion’, though.)Outside of Austen, I know Ehle was in the Camomile Lawn, but can’t recall her male co-stars.
    So sometimes it is the female lead that sticks in my head.
    There were many, many factors that made P&P such a great production. (Even the music: the theme comes on, and that alone makes me happy.) However, despite all that, I’ll put my hand up to celebrating Firth more than Ehle – I don’t think you could ever convince me that she contributes as much to my personal love of that series as he does.


  • eggs
    January 4
    5:21 am

    I think the difference is that Firth was already famous when he played Mr Darcy, whereas Ehle was not. When I see Firth on screen in whatever role (including Darcy), my brain says “Colin Firth!”. When I see Ehle on screen in whatever role, my brain says “Lizzie Bennett!”. It’s a bit like watching the guy who played Luke Skywalker in something else: my brain goes “Luke Skywalker!”, but must struggle around a bit before coming up with “Mark Hamill”. Same deal with “Mini-me”, the chick who played “Lois Lane” in the first Superman movies, “Peggy Bundy” from Married With Children, etc. I think it’s a mental filing system thing, not a sexism thing.


  • Love Jennifer Ehle. Am I the only one who thinks she resembles Meryl Streep? (Eyes, cheekbones, intelligent expression.)


  • Karla
    January 4
    4:01 pm

    Didn’t Ehle & Firth have an actual thing going on? I thought there was a kid, too – or maybe I’m getting confused with Firth & Meg Tilly off-screen during Valmont. He’s, uh, he’s productive, that’s for suresies.


  • I’ll be the outlier here and admit that I think Jennifer Ehle was considerably too old for the role and that that perception really overshadowed any acting for me. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the Knightley version and didn’t care for her much either.


  • Edie
    January 5
    2:46 am

    I heart Jennifer Ehle muchly, just to randomly share that.


  • She’s the definitive Elizabeth alright.


  • Anion
    January 11
    1:30 am

    Jennifer McKenzie, I LOVE the Kate Beckinsale version of Emma! Not only because it’s so much more accurate and has a stronger period feel, and not only because of Kate, but because Mark Strong was such a perfect Knightley. Jeremy Northam (in the bleh Gwyneth Paltrow version) was too cute and smooth to be a good Knightley. I love Mark Strong in just about everything.

    And my hatred for the Keira Knightley version of P&P knows no bounds. She was a terrible Elizabeth, in a terrible, charmless film.


  • Joanna
    January 16
    8:07 pm

    Love both Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth! I do think it partially has to do with the fact he has been a bigger star – many more films – plus he played Mr. Darcy again in a way in the Bridget Jones movies. I am always excited when I see Jennifer in something but it hasn’t been often enough. I think she does a lot of theatre. Oh and her mother is the actress Rosemary Harris.


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