If you were lucky enough to be introduced to the world of Jane Austen through the 1995 six-part production of Pride and Prejudice, then there is every chance you will recall the emergence of Mr Darcy, played by a youthful Colin Firth, in his clinging and dripping white shirt, from the ponds at the fictional Pemberley Estate. The Regency style shirt, used in Andrew Davies’ adaptation of the novel and now considered an iconic addition in the sphere of television moments has been awarded a place among the BBC’s 100 object collection in celebration of the corporation’s 2022 centenary. The online collection includes familiar and notable pieces from programmes spanning the last 100 years of its existence.
This impromptu swim of Darcy’s does not feature in the original 1803 novel and would certainly have been considered inappropriate for the period. In a scene that symbolised the arousal of passion between him and Elizabeth Bennett, played by Jennifer Ehle, following her uninvited arrival at his country residence, the image of Firth loosely attired in wet calico, artfully portrays the transformation of Darcy from stern and unapproachable to a man of vigour and vitality.
Indeed, so monumental was the appearance of Firth in the skin hugging piece that a 12-foot fibre glass statue of the actor, which apparently took many months and hands to construct, has been erected in the pond to which we owe the scene. Filmed at the beautiful Lyme Park in Cheshire, the statue stands tall and disconcertingly lifelike in the water.
The shirt can be found through the 100 Objects feature on the BBC’s website. The collection includes many celebrated pieces from the BBC archives.
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