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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Dancing with Willoughby

Who’s Your Favorite Darcy is, by now, a classic Janeite pastime, pitting fervent Firthians against zealous MacFadyenites, while small but enthusiastic coteries of Olivierists and Rintoulers heckle from the sidelines.

Who’s Your Favorite Willoughby, by contrast, isn’t even up for debate, since everyone knows that Greg Wise, who played Marianne Dashwood’s faithless lover in the 1995 Emma Thompson-Ang Lee big-screen version of Sense and Sensibility, definitively inhabited the role.

It’s not just that Wise, then in his late twenties, was handsome enough to convincingly embody a teenager’s fantasy boyfriend. (Although he was.) It’s also that he perfectly captured both Willoughby’s careless, bewitching charm and his fundamental weakness of character. If that exquisite film has a flaw, it’s the omission of a key scene, Willoughby’s desperate pre-dawn visit during Marianne’s near-fatal illness. Wish I’d seen Wise play that one.

Which is all to say that, were I living in the UK right now, I would be glued to my TV each weekend to see how well Greg Wise can dance. Because our favorite Willoughby has joined this season’s cast of the venerable British hit “Strictly Come Dancing,” which – like its American franchise, “Dancing with the Stars” – pairs famous or semi-famous people with professional dancers in a reality-TV dance-off. Judging from his first two performances (here and here), Wise is a respectable but not-great dancer, but he survived the first cut, so you never know.

Touchingly, Wise says he’s making the show as a tribute to his older sister, who loved to dance and who died of cancer five years ago. Not a very Willoughby-esque thing to do, but like I said, he is a very good actor.

By the way: Firth, of course. No contest.

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