Vanity Fair was a BBC television drama serial adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel of the same name, broadcast in six episodes in 1998. The screenplay was written by Andrew Davies. The BBC previously adapted the novel as a serial in 1967.
Philip played William Dobbin.
“I am poor and put upon,” concedes Becky Sharp during the first episode of Vanity Fair, but it rapidly becomes clear that she intends to change this situation, scrambling up the social ladder by exploiting her guile, good looks and the gullibility of doting males. In the light of her selfish, single-minded resolve to achieve success, Sharp may be viewed as an optimistic dreamer, pragmatic schemer, proto-feminist or a coquettish combination of all three.
Certainly, this lavish adaptation emphasises the anti-heroine’s kinship with the beguiling Scarlett O’Hara, and although Margaret Mitchell strenuously denied any connection, the plot-line and characters involved in her epic Gone With the Wind frequently resemble those conjured up in William Makepeace Thackeray’s first novel, published in 1847.
Responding to claims that the author’s characters had been modernised, producer Suzanne Harrison stated that this had been a deliberate decision. The criticism, however, seems to miss the point. Screenwriter Andrew Davies is not looking to replace the original book. As ever, he simply takes the spirit, main plot and characters of a novel in order that a long-standing classic can be introduced to, and enjoyed by, a fresh, contemporary audience.
By 1998, he had achieved considerable success with other period pieces including Pride and Prejudice, Moll Flanders and Emma. Vanity Fair continued their tradition of high production values, if anything upping the ante with filming across England, Wales, Belgium and the Rhone Valley, 2000 extras and 75 speaking parts, sumptuous sets, impeccable, Bafta-nominated costumes and director Marc Munden instilling a cinematic feel to the drama, most noticeably in the impressive and brutal battle scenes.
Davies was delighted with the result, citing Vanity Fair as one of his favourite period adaptations, due largely to Munden’s success in making the adventures of Miss Sharp sparkle so enjoyably. (Written by Gavin Collinson BBC Film and Drama)
Cast: Natasha Little, Frances Grey, David Ross, Philip Glenister, Michele Dotrice, Janine Duvitski, Anton Lesser, Nathaniel Parker Series Writing credits Andrew Davies (6 episodes, 1998), William Makepeace Thackeray (author) Series directed by Marc Munden Series Produced by Gillian McNeill …. producer (6 episodes, 1998) Delia Fine …. executive producer: A&E Network, Suzan Harrison …. executive producer Nigel Taylor …. associate producer Michael Wearing …. executive producer BBC/A&E 1998