Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have five unmarried daughters, and Mrs. Bennet is especially eager to find suitable husbands for them. When the rich single gentlemen Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy come to ... See full summary »
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have five unmarried daughters, and Mrs. Bennet is especially eager to find suitable husbands for them. When the rich single gentlemen Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy come to live nearby, the Bennets have high hopes. But pride, prejudice, and misunderstandings all combine to complicate their relationships and to make happiness difficult. Written by
Although some of the wit and commentary of Jane Austen's novel has been left out of this MGM production of Pride and Prejudice, what remains is a nice romantic story of the five Bennett sisters and their efforts to find husbands.
Remember this is 19th century Great Britain with all those class distinctions and a crazy law that the Bennett family estate cannot pass through a female. This puts Edmund Gwenn and Mary Boland in a real pickle. They've got five daughters and they'd better get them all wed to respectable people before the Bennetts take leave of this world.
Their closest male heir is Melville Cooper, a cousin who is one ghastly boor of an individual. In the novel, Cooper is a clergyman, not unlike Reverend Ascoyne D'Ascoyne in Kind Hearts and Coronets. But in the days of the Code you could not show a clergyman in a bad light or make him a figure of fun. Still without his profession noted, Cooper turns in a performance that for him is one of two career roles, the other being the sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Edmund Gwenn has a wonderful part as the patient Mr. Bennett. Eddie Cantor could have identified with him because he was the father of five daughters and learned patience the hard way also. In addition to the daughters he has Mary Boland and her pretensions to deal with. The chemistry they have is very similar to that which she had with Charlie Ruggles when they were paired in bunch of films in the Thirties.
Mary Boland is perfect casting for Mrs. Bennett, she truly imprints her personality on the part. So does Edna May Oliver as the formidable Lady Catherine DeBoerg. She's a patroness of Melville Cooper, why I can't figure out, but he genuflects at the mention of her name. And he uses her name the way Mattie Ross used her lawyer J. Noble Daggett's name in True Grit.
Lady Catherine is a part also just written for Edna May Oliver. When that woman wasn't formidable on the screen I don't remember. She's also the aunt of Laurence Olivier who is trying to overcome his own class snobbery in courting Greer Garson, one of the five Bennett sisters.
Of course Olivier and Garson are the leads, but Pride and Prejudice depends more and succeeds on the strength of its ensemble of great character players perfectly cast. Olivier himself was not happy during the production as he expected to do this film with his wife Vivien Leigh. Still he's fine in the part as is Garson. She's got more sass in her makeup than her crinolined sisters and Olivier also shows more character than when we first meet him as a typical Regency snob.
I like Pride and Prejudice, but I like it for the performances of Cooper, Boland, Gwenn, and Oliver than for either of the leads. They're good, but they're support is fabulous.
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