Friday, January 28, 2011

My Favorite Villains & Scoundrels

I've been working on this post since before Christmastime and have finally finished it.

A while ago I had posted My Favorite Literary Heroes and My Favorite Literary Heroines. I have quite a few more heroes and heroines that I'd like to add to the list some day, but for now I'd like to share my favorite literary villains and scoundrels!

Photobucket 1 John Willoughby
Photobucket 1 John Willoughby
1. John Willoughby of Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility
Mr. Willoughby is a young man who own a large estate and is awaiting the death of an old aunt before he comes into the inheritance of Allenham. He was made some very unwise choices and knows that his only hope is to marry a rich woman. The in the middle of this mess that is his life he meets Marianne Dashwood who is different from any woman he's ever met before. Beautiful, passionate, strong-minded, independent and yet with an purity of love and a zest for life. He falls head over heals for her and as is his wont continues to make bad choices.
Willoughby is my favorite Austen "villains" of all time for various reasons. The biggest reason is because rather than consciously acting with evil intent (like Henry Crawford of George Wickham) or with revenge in mind Willoughby seems to bumble through the story. Unwise choice after unwise choice as if he couldn't help himself. But the greatest reason I prefer Willoughby is that different from other Austen villains he did indeed love Marianne for herself and seek for forgiveness in the end. His future may not be one of total reform but it's as near to one as we get.
Four actors to date have portrayed John Willoughby in film: Clive Francis, Peter Woodward, Greg Wise and Dominic Cooper. I think each actor has given a different idea of Willoughby from dashing to passionate to truly repentant. I really enjoy the older portrayals of Willoughby because they always include his confession scene with Elinor and I think those actors being younger and lighter better show the character's nature.

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2. William Elliot of Jane Austen's Persuasion
As heir presumptive of Kellynch Hall Mr. Elliot has high prospects but he is also smart and knows it will be a long time before any money will come his way. He marries a rich by lowly born young lady for her money and lives the high life with his friends, distancing himself from his titled family. But when his wife dies and he finds that his chances at the title of Baronet are threatened by a devising Mrs. Clay.
Mr. Elliot's principle attraction for me is that he is wise enough to choose Anne over Elizabeth, and to like Anne for herself. He even admires Anne before he knows who she is! He is a sensible man, gentleman-like, good breeding, good manners and good conversation. It is a little more difficult to see the real Mr. Elliot, but we find that he is actually just as proud and selfish as Sir Walter himself. His end is rather a tangled one as he seems to have eloped with Mrs. Clay. If he marries her (which I still doubt) he will have a tedious life ahead.
Three actors have portrayed Mr. Elliot but I've posted pictures of my two favorite versions. Actor Samuel West played a curly blond haired Elliot who is gentlemanly and with very pleasing manners. But, my favorite is Tobias Menzies who played a dark and decidedly handsome Mr. Elliot. What a scoundrel!

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3. John Thorpe of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey
John Thorpe is your basic public college boy. He likes wine, parties, pretty ladies and fast wheels. His pride and joy is his open carriage which he likes to drive at top speed whenever possible. He is a rattle and a tease, especially to his sisters and mother. His best friend at present is James Morland who seems to be falling in love with John's sister Isabella. Morland has a very pretty sister too and the moment John meets Catherine a plan starts to form in his mind.
Whenever I read about John Thorpe I just have to laugh! He's such a funny character really. What really makes him a scoundrel is the way in which he presumes too much about Catherine and in telling General Tilney that she is an heiress he causes problems for her later on.
There have been two actors who have portrayed John Thorpe both of whom I have enjoyed. Jonathan Coy was a sly red-headed John with shifty eyes. But I enjoyed actor William Beck's portrayal of a younger John Thorpe who was quite perfectly cast!

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4. Mr. Smallweed of Charles Dickens' Bleak House
A first rate villian, Mr. Smallweed knows how to make his presence know! He enters a room yelling at the footmen who carry him in, makes quite a stir while there and leaves with everyone loathing him. All the while he is so comical with his "shake me up Judy" and his clever quips.
Every time I watch Andrews Davies' adaptation of Bleak House I discover a new facet or character who I really enjoy. From the very first time I saw that miniseries I was quite taken by Mr. Smallweed. He is so evil while being so comical! Every interview I've watched actor Philip Davis is praised for his stellar performance in the role and envied by his fellow cast members who wish they could have done as much with an interesting character like that. I always have a good giggle when Mr. Smallweed is on screen!

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5. Reverend Mr. Philip Elton of Jane Austen's Emma
Although not quite a villain, rogue or scoundrel, Mr. Elton is far from a perfect gentleman. As vicar of Highbury Elton is neither humble nor focused on the Lord's work. He is in fact a ladies man. Emma's brother-in-law John Knightley sees straight through him saying: "I never in my life saw a man more intent on being agreeable than Mr. Elton. It is downright labour to him where ladies are concerned. With men he can be rational and unaffected, but when he has ladies to please every feature works." Mr. Elton thinks so well of himself that he decides that rich Emma Woodhouse is the woman he deserves and he goes about boldly showing his affections. When Emma tells him she was thinking of him only as a match for her friend Mr. Elton is down right rude with his words about Harriet. To add insult in injury his next move is to go to Bath where he marries the first rich woman who catches his fancy and brings her home to flaunt under Emma's nose. He is trying to injure more than Harriet when he slights her at the ball. And Lord only knows what boasts he told Mrs. E about his acquaintances in Highbury as she goes about calling his employer "Knightley" and giving Emma set downs at every opportunity.
My favorite Mr. Knightley had been the kind and pleasing Reverend Elton as portrayed by actor Timothy Peters in the 1972 adaptation of Emma. But now I am coming to prefer the very arrogant and affected Mr. E portrayed so well by Blake Ritson in the newest Emma film. As Mr. Knightley says: "That man is so full of himself that I'm surprised he can stay on that horse!"

6. Bradley Headstone of Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend
As a simple school teacher Mr. Headstone quickly becomes the friend and champion of poor schoolboy Charley Hexam. After meeting Charley's lovely sister Lizzie, Mr. Headstone quickly fall head-over-heels for her. He tried to help Lizzie, first by offering himself as her teacher, then by helping Charley confront a questionable admirer and finally by asking her to be his wife. After Lizzie refuses him Bradley Headstone seems to become obsessed with finding out why she refused and how to get the handsome and educated Eugene Wrayburn to leave her alone. His obsession leads him to sickness and ruin. Overall I like Mr. Headstone and feel quite sorry for him as Lizzie does because she couldn't love him and then especially when he's being made a joke of by Mr. Wrayburn. His actions are wrong and he's a bit scary at time but I just have to pitty him. He has his uses though and ultimately helps Lizzie and Eugene Wrayburn realize their need for each other.
Actor David Morrissey played Mr. Headstone very well in the 1998 adaptation of Our Mutual Friend, capturing his raw emotions.

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7. Fagin of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist
Fagin is a character draped in mystery and darkness. Sometimes he seems to act as a father to the group of homeless boys who orphan Oliver Twist joins, then he makes deals with criminals and uses underhanded acts to support himself. But all in all he adds a lot of comedy to the story and helps to move the plot along in many ways.
I've only see three actors portray Fagin: Ron Moody in the old Oliver! musical is full of comedy, Robert Lindsay in the 1999 adaptation of Oliver Twist adapts the perfect accent and mannerisms, and Timothy Spall in the 2007 adaptation of Oliver Twist adds a great deal of mystery to the character. Whoever is portraying him the character of Fagin is fun to watch!

7 Mr Tulkinghorn
8. Mr. Tulkinghorn of Charles Dickens' Bleak House
As a lawyer Mr. Tulkinghorn is in the position to know many personal matters about his clients, especially of Sir Leicester Dedlock and his wife Lady Dedlock who is an heir in the famous Jarndyce case. But Mr. Tulkinghorn's intelligence and and power also make him deadly to those who stand in his way. When he smells a scandal he follows the trail ruthlessly running over anyone who gets in his way. The strange thing is that he seems to think it's his duty to root out these secrets and expose those who "threaten" his client's reputation. He is the man of whom Mr. Boythorn (Sir Leicester's neighbor) says:
"You're the villain who writes me threatening letters!" He really doesn't have any redeeming qualities which makes him the ultimate villain.
In the 2005 adaptation of Bleak House actor Charles Dance so brilliantly portrays Mr. Tulkninghorn that I couldn't imagine this character with a different face.

9. Mr. Preston of Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters
It took me a few viewings of the 1999 adaptation of Wives and Daughters before I started to understand Mr. Preston's character and his relationship with Cynthia. He's not a villain in the general sense but his obsession with Cynthia and blackmailing of her makes him a nasty character. Iain Glen cuts a very handsome and roguish figure in the 1999 adaptation.

3 Carver Doone
10. Carver Doone of R.D. Blackmore's Lorna Doone
There aren't many reasons to like Carver Doone. He's young, impetuous, arrogant and determined to have young Lorna at any cost. He's a very dark and brooding character, harsh and cold. So I suppose it must be the actor Aidan Gillen in the 2000 adaptation of Lorna Doone who makes this character appeal to me. Funny but he sort of adds a touch of rockstar to the character.

So that's it! I'm not sure if they're really in order of my favorite or not, I just generally tend to put Jane Austen's characters above others. Funny how most of these characters are either Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. They're just the best!

Who are your favorite villains and scoundrels?


Anna Olivia said...

I like Willoughby. I know he's supposed to be a scoundrel, and I guess he is, though I believe he only made a very bad mistake. He seriously did love Marianne and intended to marry her - only it was his past sin that kept him from doing so, and he was obviously regretful, as it shows in the very last scene of S&S ('95 version) when he was staring out over Marianne's wedding party. ='(

Besides, Greg Wise was so handsome. How wouldn't find his portrayal of the character charming, and feel sorry right along with him in the end? ;)

Alexandra said...

Ooh, great list! I'm going to have to work on one.

I love Willoughby as well. Greg Wise did such a fantastic job with the character.

And Carver Doone is sooooo slimy...and he does remind me of a rock star.

We've just been watching the 2005 Bleak House this week for the second time, and Mr. Tulkinghorn is pure amazingness. Absolutely wonderful villain.

I'd have to add Chauvelin from The Scarlet Pimpernel...another truly amazing villain, esp. as portrayed by Ian McKellen in the 1982 film version.

Michaela said...

Willoughby is my favorite Austin fellow. ;)haha, I know that sounds AWFUL, but he has so much more personality then most of the hero's, and I also think he's very misunderstood. (I didn't like Dominic Coopers interpretation of Willoughby at all, though I know the 2008 movie is closer to the book.)

ANYWAY - as far as the "hero's", Colonel Brandon is fantastic, and I liked Mr. Knightly. *ahem* Darcy I really, truly don't care for. ;)

Charity U said...

Ooo, those are some terrible "villains."

Anna Olivia, I think it was money that kept him from marrying Marianne. He cared more about money than love...

MISS LAURIE!!! You missed Wickham! He's the worst. ;)

Mmm, Mr. Preston. Pretty bad!

And Mr. Elton was definitely the worst in the last one. Did you know he was Edmund in one version of Mansfield Park? I had just watched that, and then saw Emma for the first time...oooo. :( ;)

And Mr. Elliot...eek!

Anonymous said...

I'm SO glad you included Carver Doone! He's so handsome and deliciously dark. I usually go for the bad boys, and he fits it perfectly. Almost like that misunderstood type.
Some of my favorite villains/scoundrels:
Guy of Gisbourne (BBC's Robin Hood show)
Rochester (I would think of him as more as a hero, but still a scoundrel)

lol I sound lovesick... lol
Love your blog! God bless!

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