Friday, October 1, 2010

Top Costume Drama Heroes: Part II

Right! Since writing this post ages ago (was it really only last year?), I have seen various new (for me) period films, and discovered many wonderful new heroes. Plus, there are several heroes who didn't make it into my original Top 10, but who deserve to be recognised!

So, without further ado. . . 

Top Costume Drama Heroes ~ Part the Second

(And I think there may even have to be a "Part the Third" sometime, too ;-)

The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982The Scarlet Pimpernel aka Lord Percy (Anthony Andrews - The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982) is sitting pretty with Henry Tilney at the top of my list of all-time favourite heroes! Lord Percy is awesome beyond awesomeness; his awesomeness defies description. (Yes that sentence is cringeworthy - forgive me, I'm an SP fangirl.) The ultimate superhero - the original "superhero" in fact - and the ultimate romantic hero. And guys, I still haven't gotten round to reading the books or watching the 1999 series, but I'm convinced Anthony Andrews (of SP 1982) will forever be the Scarlet Pimpernel, as far as I'm concerned.

Little DorritArthur Clennam (Matthew Macfadyen - Little Dorrit 2008) is a different kind of Dickensian hero. Many of Dickens' best-known heroes (think David Copperfield, Pip) tend to be young, earnest, and idealistic. Arthur is considerably older - approaching 40 - and has experienced great sadness and rejection. He has had almost no joy or light in his life. But in spite of all this, he remains tenderhearted and compassionate, rather than growing embittered with life and with others. A gem of a hero. 

The Princess BrideWestley aka The Man in Black aka The Dread Pirate Roberts (Cary Elwes - The Princess Bride). Westley rivals Errol Flynn's Robin Hood and Anthony Andrews' Lord Percy for pure swashbuckling awesomeness. Westley epitomises courage and heroism. 'Nuff said.

Our Mutual FriendEugene Wrayburn (Paul McGann - Our Mutual Friend 1998). Eugene, Eugene! Not really a hero - more of an anti-hero. A troubled soul who comes good in the end. For the first 20-odd years of his life, Eugene is aimless, lazy, purposeless - until love jolts him out of his apathy. I'd always had a great deal of sympathy for Eugene, but I had never thought of him as being a truly - well, deserving hero. *SPOILER WARNING* I mean, his intentions towards Lizzie were undecided and potentially less than honourable. If he hadn't been bashed almost to death by Headstone, his relationship with Lizzie would probably have ended in shame and heartbreak. Well, I put all this to my blogging friend Lizzy, and her response was an interesting one! (See the comments section in linked post.) In the end - Eugene didn't deserve Lizzie's love, and he did not deserve to live happily ever after with her - but he did. He was undeserving, but he was redeemed by unconditional, selfless love. Sound familiar? :-) 

Our Mutual Friend

John Harmon's (Stephen Mackintosh - Our Mutual Friend 1998) and Bella Wilfer's romance is perhaps a little more conventional and predictable than Eugene and Lizzie's, but it is none the less beautiful. John Harmon is a wonderful hero - strong, patient, good-hearted, yet also with a vulnerable side that endears him to the reader/viewer. Stephen Mackintosh gave an excellent perfomance as John in OMF 1998.

Lord of the RingsFaramir! (David Wenham - The Two Towers/The Return of the King) I disclosed in my earlier post that I've always had a soft spot for Boromir - essentially the "tragic hero" of The Lord of the Rings (the fact that he was played in the films by the amazing Sean Bean doesn't hurt, either ;-). But Faramir certainly doesn't suffer by comparison with Boromir - in fact,  Faramir is arguably the more truly heroic of the two characters. Boromir is a great warrior and leader - strong, courageous, charismatic. Faramir is at heart a man of peace, not of war - though he still has courage and valour in bucketloads! And ultimately, he showed more true strength of character than his brother. Faramir's and Eowyn's romance is possibly one of my favourite love stories in literature. 

Emma - BeckinsaleMr. Knightley (Mark Strong - Emma 1996). Mr. Knightley (it is impossible to call him anything else; "George" doesn't sound right, and one daren't call him "Knightley" for fear of being thought an upstart, vulgar being) has legions of female admirers - indeed, he is probably Fitzwilliam Darcy's closest rival in the Most Universally Adored Jane Austen Hero stakes, and deservedly so. He is the nicest, kindest, most honourable. . . in fact, he's almost Mary Poppins-ian - er, practically perfect in every way. (Actually, I'm curious - can anyone think of any fault in Mr. Knightley's character?! If you can, please leave a comment!) I loved both both Jeremy's Northam's and Mark Strong's Mr. Knightleys. Jonny Lee Miller. . . hmm. . . yeah. . . maybe he'll grow on me. I still haven't re-watched Emma '09, so we'll see.

Lorna DooneJohn Ridd (Richard Coyle - Lorna Doone 2000). Gentle giant, and hero of R.D. Blackmore's epic Lorna Doone. Contrary to its title, Lorna Doone is really John Ridd's story - it's almost a coming-of-age tale, really. Richard Coyle's John differs considerably from the book's John - he is physically smaller (in the book he's a giant of a man, and a champion wrestler), and mentally quicker. However, he still captures the basic essence of John Ridd's character - a genuinely good, decent, big-hearted man.

Far From the Madding CrowdGabriel Oak (Nathaniel Parker - Far From the Madding Crowd 1998). Gabriel must surely win the prize for being the most patient, long-suffering hero in literature! He is infinitely kind and good; the only stupid thing he does in the entire story is fall in love with Bathsheba. Why, why, why?! Oh well. . . if Bathsheba Everdean is one of the silliest, most frustrating "heroines" in English literature, Gabriel has got to be one of the nicest, most amazing heroes. He also has the decided advantage of being in one of the very few Thomas Hardy novels that actually has a happy ending! So he gets the girl in the end - without either of them dying or committing murder or suicide or anything like that. I found Far From the Madding Crowd 1998 a frustrating story at times (if there's one famous 19th author I don't like, it's Thomas Hardy), but Gabriel makes it all worthwhile. And Nathaniel Parker. . . wow! :-D

The InheritanceJames Percy (Thomas Gibson - The Inheritance) Once again, the film and the book incarnations of this character are somewhat different. Thomas Gibson's James Percy in the 1997 TV movie is a dashing, handsome, lively young (well, young-ish) man. James Percy in the book (actually, he's referred to as Lord Percy - Louisa May Alcott's book, written when she was seventeen, is set in England at some indefinite period in the 18th or early 19th century) is "old" (35 or so), quiet, and plain. If anything, I think I prefer the book's version - he's such a lovely, Colonel Brandon-ish sort of character.


Whew! And that rounds out the sequel to my Top 10 Heroes post! This has been a fun post to write. . . I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did! 

Please share your thoughts on any or all of these characters in the comments section! Or tell me who some of your favourite costume drama heroes are, and why.


Traxy said...

Faramir, Knightley and Westley are the only ones I'm familiar with as characters. But ohh yes, you're quite right about all of them! :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, Anthony Andrews was a very fine Pimpernel. I've read all the books (including the Dutch prequels and one about a descendant of Percy and Marguerite) and I think it's safe to say he played the character almost perfectly.

I. must. see. Little Dorrit. Favorite Dickens after Bleak House!

Yay! Westley!!! He's super wonderful, and I love swashbuckling. (I'm an old movie nut...just watched Errol Flynn's Robin Hood last night.)

Mr. Knightley is the perfectest hero ever. Can I marry him please? :D

Is the 2000 Lorna Doone terribly gory? I'd like to see it, but my mom didn't even let me read the book myself because she thought some of the scenes were too graphic.

Sorry for such a loooong comment!

Jane said...

Mr. Knightly is the best hero ever. And, no, I can't think of any real faults.
I did prefer the Jonny Lee Miller version though. You should watch it again. The reason I loved that version is because he is so quiet, but if you watch him on different scenes, you can tell exactly what he's thinking. JLM plays him with a subtlety that the other actors didn't have.
Like, on the scene when Emma is helping Hariet with her manners, watch Mr. Knightley. He is sitting there following exactly what is going on and being highly amused by it.
Anyway, enough ranting, I just really loved this version.


Anna Olivia said...

Austen men. . .I just do not understand female attraction to them. =/

Atlanta said...

Ooh! very fun! I think I agree with all your opinions - the only character I'm not familiar with is Gabriel Oak.

Marian said...

Percy, Faramir, and Boromir are definitely some of my heroes! Some of my other faves are Gandalf, Frodo, Samwise, and (of course) Sherlock Holmes.

Elinor Dashwood said...

You touched on some of my absolute favorites!!! Arthur Clennam and Mr. Knightly are two of my absolute favorite heroes in all literature...Love Westley...Love John Harmon... find Eugene Wrayburn a very interesting character, though sometimes frustrating, but I love to see how he changes at the end...James Percy is sweet. :-)

I definitely prefer Jonny Lee Miller's Mr. Knightley, though I love Jeremy Northam's too. I wasn't impressed at all with Mark Strong's-- he was too old and too angry. But yes, Mr. Knightley is "practically perfect in every way". :-)

StoryGirl said...

The Scarlet Pimpernell is my all-time favorite hero! I'm actaully in the process of writing a blog post about him! :) I haven't seen the movie, but the book is GREAT! (be warned- it does have some launguage) Mr. Knightley and Westley are my other favorites. Love your picks!

Jo March said...

Ditto on The Scarlet Pimpernel and Westley! Especially Westley :) I'm so glad you mentioned him...he gets left off of a lot of lists since The Princess Bride isn't a Jane Austen :P

Alexandra said...

Oh, yes, yes, yes. AA *is* Sir Percy. Period. No question. His awesomeness is beyond the realm of awesomeness in a totally awesome way.

Fellow SP fangirl. ;-)

Liked the list...John Ridd, yes...Mr. Knightley, yes...Westley, yes-oh-yes...

You're right, I've seen a bunch of new stuff since making my favorite heroes lists as well...that's a thought...

I am surprised to see no one from POTO on here. ;-)

The Editrix said...

Emm - yes indeed, you must see Little Dorrit! Be warned though, there are a couple of iffy scenes - as always, check out Charity's Place for a complete review.

There is one rather gory scene in Lorna Doone that I sometimes skip. As for the book. . . hmm, I don't know, it's been a while since I last read it. I can't remember any graphic violence, but I'm not sure.

Jane - you're right, I really should watch Emma 09 again. Once I get past the fact that JLM just doesn't look at all how I imagined Mr. Knightley to look, I'd probably really enjoy his performance, LOL. The fact that he gets so much more screen time to develop his character than Mark or Jeremy did is a huge advantage.

Anna Olivia - well, in my defense, there was only one Austen hero in this post. :-) Let me guess - are you more of a Bronte girl?

Marian - LOL, I could do a whole series of posts like this about LOTR heroes!

Alexandra - Hahaha! :-D

And yes, you should do a second heroes post, too!

POTO. . . well, Erik is more of a villain than a hero. . . and I didn't really like Raoul that much. . . But, if I ever do a favourite baddies post, the Phantom will definitely be right up there. ;-)

Thank you everyone for your comments! I do love hearing from you! :-)

Charity said...

You are not missing anything in not having seen the later "Scarlet Pimpernel" -- it's atrocious. It delves into all the smut of French society and none of its virtues, it kills off one of the League (and Percy doesn't even seen to mind), and paints both Percy and Margot as... well... immoral. Richard E. Grant almost made me loathe the Pimpernel, and that should never happen. Yech.

Lovely collaboration of heroes. I'm with you on most of them, particularly Mr. Knightley -- although for me, it will always be Jeremy Northam. ;)

Theresa said...

I've always had a soft spot for Faramir, strange huh? :P

I totally agree with you on the Scarlet Pimpernel thing, I love that version of the film. :) I've only read one of the books, there are so many. I think they stole little bits out of each book to make the film.

And Mr Knightley? Yes! But Henry Tilney is still the best! :P

Anna Olivia said...

@ The Editrix:
I am not a Bronte girl either, no. Nor a Gaskell girl. Or any of those. BUT especially NOT an Austen girl. The only good Austen story is Sense and Sensibility. MHO. ;)

The Editrix said...

Anna Olivia - well, that's fair enough! :-) Who are some heroes - in books or on film - whom you do like?

Charity - hmm. . . maybe I won't bother with the 1990s version at all, then. Especially since the 1982 version seems pretty much perfect, with nothing wanting.

Theresa - yep, Henry Tilney will always be the best. :-D

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree about Mr. Knightly, Arthur Clennam, and Westley (i really must watch that again), as they are the only ones with whom i am acquainted (I’ve been reading to much Austen again) i can't comment on the rest.

I must say though, i DO NOT think any of the film Knightlys really capture who he is and what he stands for. I don’t know it might just be me though.

And for the records, of CORSE Mr. Knightly doesn’t have any faults.

Staci said...

So yet again I haven't read every book and seen every movie you have listed here, I just however couldn't keep this opinion to myself!

The first time I saw Emma was with Jeremy Northam, and he remained my favorite until Emma 2009. I was very excited to watch the version with Mark Strong and was disappointed by the performance. Even my Mother (whom I watched it with) thought he was slightly creepy. I agree that Mr. Henry Tilney is quickly becoming one of my favorites in this category!

Andrew said...

Can I find fault with Mr Knightely? Perhaps because he married as unworthy a character as Emma :)

I think, in some instances, he should have rather kept his opinions regarding the failings of Frank Churchill to himself. There were a couple of times where his censure did not seem to suit the the company he was in.

I also think that Mark Strong is the only actor who did justice to Mr. Knightly. The others were too weak and not 'manly' enough.

Glad you got Faramir in there. He is so noble, and like Gandalf he is wise enough to know he cannot use the ring. He is certainly far better than Boromir in the book.

Jackson ruined Faramir's character in the movie needlessly. Even though I thought the movies were brilliant I hated the way he had the Ents, these ancient wise creatures, deciding not to go to war and being tricked by Merry to do so. In the movie they go to war purely on the strength of an emotional response.

Mr. Jarndyce is perhaps another contender for a place on your list. In my opinion he is even better in the book.

Anonymous said...

Not very familiar with any of your heros *GASP*. I know. I'm weird.

I'll give you brief list of who I love though . . . (in no particular order---although, Holmes and Robin are always the top two).

1. Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone version/the book)
2. Robin Hood (Errol Flynn version)
3. Christian (from Pilgrim's Progress)
4. Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston Version/the book)
5. Hercule Poirot (David Suchet Version/books)
6. Ivanhoe (book)
7. Fred, Scrooge's nephew (book)
8. Beowulf (book)
9. Great-Heart (Pilgrim's Progress)
10.George Baily (It's a Wonderful Life)

Do a baddies list---I've done one myself! There can be some real good villians! Lol.


Rosie said...

A wonderful post,
I know ( and love ) all the characters mentioned, having watched the movies many times.
Westley, Faramir and Lord Percy, being favorites .

I'm more of a "Jane Bennet " type, and have always gone for the Mr. Bingley type, but the others are all incredible characters too.