Andrew Davies adapts William Thackeray's novel in this 1998 BBC dramatisation. Becky Sharp (Natasha Little) is a scheming governess who tries to seduce her best friend Amelia's (Frances Gray) buffoon of a brother, Jos (Jeremy Swift), in an attempt to climb the social ladder. Becky then turns her attentions to aristocratic bounder Rawdon Crawley, while the mild and meek Amelia marries her childhood sweetheart, George Osborne. However, fate has a few twists in store for both women.
Thackeray's Vanity Fair
had already been filmed by the BBC in 1987, when in the costume drama boom which followed the success of Andrew Davis' adaptation of Pride and Prejudice
(1995), the Corporation commissioned him to write this new version. It is a tale of driving social ambition against a background of the Napoleonic wars, with Natasha Little, also to be seen in The Clandestine Marriage
(1999), making a purposeful Becky Sharp. Virtual newcomer Frances Grey is the more appealing Amelia Sedley, while Nathaniel Parker, here Far From The Madding Crowd
(1998), is the foolish Rawdon Crawley. The difficulty in adapting Thackeray--he also wrote the novel on which Kubrick's appropriately cold Barry Lyndon
(1974) was based --is that he created unsympathetic characters for the purpose of satirising, "greedy, pompous men". Unlikable heroines do not make for popular television, and the danger is that we come close to empathising with arch-manipulator Becky Sharp. Nevertheless, there is still acid in this version, which stays close to the letter, if not always the spirit of the original. Add to that a decidedly sarcastic music score by Murray Gold, and if Vanity Fair
isn't the absolute best of BBC drama, it certainly has a nasty bite. --Gary S. Dalkin
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.