Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pride and Prejudice - 1940

This is the 1940 movie version of Pride and Prejudice made by MGM and directed by Robert Z. Leonard.  It stars Laurence Olivier as Fitzwilliam Darcy, who is the man I have a serious crush on at the moment.  I became a recent entrant to his fan club after I watched him play the delicious Maxim De Winter in Rebecca.

I saw him years ago in The Prince and the Showgirl, and I am afraid I did not like him much in that movie.  I revised my opinion after I saw Rebecca and am currently hunting for any Laurence Olivier movie I can lay my hands upon.

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet
We know the story of Pride and Prejudice well enough,  If you have not read the book, I expect you have seen the famous 1995 BBC series starring the Mr. Colin Firth.  This 1940 version differs from the novel quite a bit.  It is much higher on comedy and wit.  Not much of a surprise, as it was based on a stage adaptation of the novel by Helen Jerome.

Mr.Collins proposes to Lizzy
This version sparkles and has the viewer smiling constantly at the witty repartee and the uppity manners of Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley and the silly antics of Mrs. Bennet and her younger daughters.  Lady Catherine De Bourgh and her daughter, Anne, Mr. Collins also get a comic makeover.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Laurence Olivier has to look very haughty but manages to smile and exchange light-hearted repartees with  Greer Garson who plays Elizbeth Bennett.

Mr. Darcy being attentive to Elizabeth at Rosings
The first ill-worded proposal by Mr. Darcy

The happy ending in a lovely garden.

A purist may frown at the liberties taken with the script.  The overall effect of the movie is not spoiled, in my opinion.  Some events were completely chopped, like Elizabeth visiting Pemberley which was such a major part of the novel. Lady Catherine is not so villain-ish here.  I learn that the novel was set a little later in time so the characters could wear more ornate dresses.  The clothes that the Bennet girls wear belie their reduced circumstances. 

The movie is well made and completely entertaining. Greer Garson is wonderful as Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Olivier looks very dashing as Mr. Darcy.

The actors are perfect in their role,   I always felt Mrs. Bennet should be a very attractive woman as she is the mother of such lovely girls.  I was glad to see a very attractive Mary Borland excel at playing Mrs. Bennet. Edmund Gwenn delivers the witty lines of Mr. Bennet with aplomb. In fact, it is hard for me to pick one favorite actor here, they are all so good.

Here is a list of the cast of the movie for the reader's reference, picked from the Wikipedia page of the movie.


  1. Ava, this is such a beautiful depiction of the movie based on the novel.I feel nostalgic after reading once again about the tender, yet unusual romance between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

  2. Yes, Ushaji. It is indeed beautiful to see Elizabeth and Darcy go from prejudices against each other to true. deep love.

  3. This is where we differ, Ava. I liked this version of P&P well enough the first time I watched it, but when I rewatched it years later (by which time I'd read the novel), I didn't like it one bit. True, Olivier makes a very good Darcy, but that was it. if I hadn't read the novel (and seen the 1995 BBC version), I would probably still have liked this.

    Oh, and by the way. Regarding the costumes, there's also an interesting story about how - this movie having been made during the war - there was a shortage of funds, so they had to reuse costumes made for an earlier film. Which happened to be Gone With the Wind.

  4. I do like the 1995 BBC version best. I feel this was more farcical. Yet, I found it quite entertaining.

    That is a nice tidbit about the costumes! Imagine that! If I happen to watch Gone with the Wind, I will be looking out for the costumes.

  5. Happened to see this yesterday.

    Last read the book when I was in high school - and I haven't seen the other versions - so I had forgotten the details, or had nothing to compare with.

    I quite liked the movie, if seen as a standalone, without comparing with book/other versions. Easily the best thing about the movie is the dialogues. Just superb. For that alone, it is worth a watch.

    I think I will now watch the other versions also - and judge for myself. :-)

    Oh, I forgot! Best thing about the movie is dialogues AND Greer Garson. First time I saw her on screen - totally smitten with her now. :-)

    Thanks for this review, Ava.

  6. Thank you for reading it, Raja. I also quite liked it as a standalone movie. It was explained somewhere that this was not strictly based on the book, so it can be seen as a derivative. In that spirit, it is fun.

    I liked the color and the energy used in this version. AND Lawrence Olivier.

  7. I agree in general Harvey, that nothing beats the book. You just have to look at the cinematic adaptation as and ADAPTATION and not the book itself.

    With this view in mind, some adaptations become more tolerable.