Saturday, February 6, 2016

A tribute to Alan Rickman: AKA Colonel Brandon, the unsung hero in Jane Austen's Classic


Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon in 1995 Sense & Sensibility

When I heard that Alan Rickman died a few weeks ago, my response was to watch Sense and Sensibility, the 1995 version where he plays a Regency Hero with finesse.

Sometimes a hero is unsung, unnoticed by the crowd. Sometimes, he slips away at the end of a book, overshadowed by another man with more flash and appeal.

This seems to be the case with Colonel Brandon, the gallant hero in Sense and Sensibility. He's there, in the background, waiting to rescue a lady.  That lady is young, full of silly ideas about love, and about what makes a romantic hero.

I'm talking about Marianne Dashwood, of course. She's fancied herself in love with Mr. Willoughby. But Mr. Willoughby, a young, handsome and dashing man, is a terrible rake. She is obsessed with him, and disdains the noble hero waiting in the wings, our beloved Colonel Brandon.


As you might guess, our noble hero endures. He is taken with Marianne: her youth, her exuberance, her energy, as it reminds the Colonel of a lost love from his past.

As Marianne allows danger to court her, and takes risks based on her emotions, he watches her, and admires her while her older sister, Eleanor chides her for her actions. Eleanor, if you are familiar with the story, is the sensible sister, stoic and realistic, where Marianne is sensitive to her passions and does not apologize for her actions. She sees Eleanor as a prude.

Colonel Brandon first meets Marianne Dashwood at a friend's house. He walks into the room (in the movie) when Marianne is playing the piano and singing, and he is entranced.

Colonel Brandon's noble behavior is contrasted by that of Mr. Willoughby. Willoughby leads Marianne on, giving her the impression that he plans to marry her. Even her family is fooled by his 'devotion'.  Eventually, the need for money overshadows his feelings for poor, penniless Marianne. He becomes engaged to a woman who can support him.

Marianne is crushed. Her heart is broken. My favorite scene in the whole movie is the one where Colonel Brandon goes out searching for her, and brings her in from the storm, bearing her in his arms. He still cares for her, even after she's been rude to him and pushed him off. His love for her endures.  And this wonderful man is portrayed by Alan Rickman in the 1995 movie, with Kate Winslet playing the lovely and impetuous seventeen year old Marianne.

Okay, if your heart doesn't increase at the thought of Colonel Brandon and his quiet devotion, wait, there is more!


After Marianne is snubbed and hurt by Mr. Willoughby, Brandon agrees to take the sisters home from London. They stop at a friend's mansion to spend a day or so before continuing the journey (where the famous scene of his rescue takes place). Marianne learns she can see Willoughby's manor house from the estate she's staying on, and goes for a walk. She doesn't return for hours, and a storm sets in. Brandon goes off to find her and carries her home.  After her despondent wandering in the cold rain, Marianne takes ill. She's in serious danger, and our hero, Colonel Brandon, is beside himself with emotion.  He wants to do something to help. He needs to do something.

So he goes to Eleanor, gripping the doorknob behind him as he begs her in a serious mien
"Give me a vocation (task) or I shall run mad!"  Can you imagine Allen Rickman's deep British voice saying that?  Gives one shivers, it does.
Colonel Brandon begging for a task while Marianne is ill. 

Eleanor sends him to her mother, feeling that Marianne will rest better during her fit of fever if her mother is present. The Colonel speeds to their home on his noble steed, and brings mama to the house by dawn the next day. Fortunately for him, after a hellish night where the doctor is uncertain the girl will live, Marianne pulls through and the fever abates. Her mother comes rushing to her side, and our dear Colonel lurks at the door, peeping in at his beloved Marianne.

Finally...... Finally! Marianne notices him, and the efforts he has made on her behalf. 

And it gets even better. Once she is home but still recovering from the dangerous fever that nearly took her life, Brandon sits by her side and reads to her. Such devotion. And now that Marianne has grown up a little after her misadventures with Willoughby, she appreciates the attentions of an honest and honorable suitor, despite their age difference.

Brandon (Rickman) is an enchantingly noble hero! 
To sum up the rest of the story, he leaves her for a short time to go to London. And buys her a Broadwood piano small enough to fit her mother's small parlor.   Needless to say, this handsome, mature, and noble hero gets his happily ever after in the end.

Yes, I know when the 1995 Sense and Sensibility was released, everyone was swooning over Hugh Grant as Mr. Edward Ferrars and Greg Wiese as Mr. Willoughby.  If you look at the cover of the video or movie poster, you see Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson. Alan Rickman isn't even given a place on the cover, even though his character's noble actions play an important part of the plot of the story. It's a shame!

Granted, Hugh is hot, but, his character for the part is weak, and walks about rather confused by circumstances and is ordered about too much by his mother and elder sister. Hot but sort of a wimp, sorry to say. Edward takes no action to rectify his situation, he lets others do things for him.  Rickman's character, on the other hand, Colonel Brandon, is strong man, a wealthy gentleman and a former officer of the Army. His actions--yes--actions to care for and protect those he loves are those of a true hero.

I salute Colonel Brandon, created by Jane Austen, and the wonderful actor Alan Rickman who first brought him to life for me in a movie.

It's clear that Rickman's most popular and most remembered role is Professor Snape in Harry Potter, and he did an amazing job in those movies. However, in my heart, I will always remember this talented, smooth, handsome British actor as Colonel Brandon, the unsung hero in Jane Austen's novel

1 comment:

Anna Erishkigal said...

I miss Alan Rickman :-( He was so good in every role he ever played, whether evil or neutral or good.

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