Released in 1998, the BBC's third production of Vanity Fair was one of the best adaptations of William Makepeace Thackeray's classic novel. With a script by Andrew Davies and quirky production by Mark Munden, the BBC's Vanity Fair kicked Bend it Like Beckham director Mira Nair's so-so Bollywood style film adaptation into touch.
For those readers not familiar with Vanity Fair, it follows the fortunes of devious social climber Becky Sharp. Determined to reach the top, Becky schemes and seduces those who get in her way. When she unexpectedly encounters true love, her upward progress is seriously threatened.
The delightful Natasha Little played the scheming Becky Sharpe with a perfect combination of beauty and guile. Ironically Little ended up in Mira Nair's movie adaptation, playing second banana to Reese Witherspoon's Becky Sharpe. Although another of Andrew Davies' adaptations, Pride and Predjudice became the BBC's big seller, Vanity Fair is in hindsight the better story and one that has a longer shelf life.
Murray Gold, better known as the composer for Doctor Who, creates a fabulously energetic score for Vanity Fair. Using a dazzling array of brass, strings, percussions and reeds including the saxophone (not around in Thackeray's day), Gold's score, though not historically accurate with its borrowings from Jazz, Spanish folk, New Orleans funerals, Kletzmer and a bit of Kurt Weill makes a delightful din.