Pride and Prejudice (1940) Poster

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Austen with a sugar coating and no bite
didi-55 December 2004
Jane Austen's novel 'Pride and Prejudice' was probably ripe for MGM adaptation during WWII, even with the inevitable changes and rewrites from what she intended (for example, there are hints of romance for all the Bennet daughters by the end, even Mary).

What's good about it? Mainly the casting - Greer Garson is a feisty and cheeky Elizabeth (and this was more than 50 years before Jennifer Ehle played her in a similar way for BBC TV); Laurence Olivier never looked more attractive or brooded with greater effect than here as Darcy; Edna May Oliver is a memorable and prickly Catherine de Bourgh; Edmund Gwenn and Mary Boland are the Bennet parents; and the other Bennet girls are eye-catching and fun (Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane, Ann Rutherford as flighty Lydia, Heather Angel as Kitty, and Marsha Hunt as Mary).

Austen's barbs and fangs are removed from this adaptation, making it a romantic sugar gloop like many other films of the period. Still, providing you expect this, enjoy what's on the screen. MGM did this kind of thing better than other studios of the time, after all.
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Slightly Rushed
Stefan Kahrs8 December 1998
This film version of Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice is generally pleasant to watch. The cast is certainly glamorous and a slight change in the period moved the story into one with fancier costumes to look at. At a few places the plot had to be rushed a little to make it fit into two hours and the ending is also a touch happier than in the novel. Some critics lamented the slightly changed ending but this works actually very well for this medium. The rushed plot elements increase the overall pace but compromises somewhat the credibility of the characters, while the increased pace is at odds with the much more tranquil way of life in days gone by.

Therefore, this is really watchable, but the definite version is the 1995 BBC mini series which is much closer to the novel as well.
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Very Enjoyable (Despite Departures From the Novel)
Snow Leopard20 November 2002
Viewed solely as a movie, this version of "Pride and Prejudice" is quite enjoyable, and has plenty of strengths. Since it was adapted from a stage play that was in turn based on the novel, it is perhaps inevitable that there would be a lot of differences from the original, both in the characters and in the events (plus a few anachronisms). Most of the time, these fit in all right with the story, but it is hard not to feel that it would have been an even better film if they had stayed closer to the original in the later parts. In all honesty, though, none of this prevents it from being a very good movie in its own right.

For the most part, the main story is the familiar one, following the hopes and anxieties of the Bennet family as they look for husbands for their five daughters. Greer Garson might be slightly different from the Elizabeth of the novel, but she is very appealing, and her character is quite effective. Laurence Olivier works very well as the prideful Darcy. Most of the supporting cast also is good, especially Edmund Gwenn as the perpetually bemused Mr. Bennet. It does a good job of illustrating the main themes in the relationships amongst the characters, while also providing many light and humorous moments. It's an entertaining and effective mix that makes it a satisfying movie despite the departures from the novel.
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Not True to the Book - But Who Cares?
dana-green-120 May 2005
This film is really just 'based on' the novel and enthusiastically takes liberties with the costumes, characters, time period, etc. But if you can set aside your expectations of accuracy, and imagine this film as a stand-alone piece, you won't be disappointed. After all, if the basic Pyramus and Thisbe romance can be remade and reworked a hundred different ways, why shouldn't Bennet and Darcy? Aldous Huxley's screenplay is razor sharp, the plot gallops along, the characters are wisecracking and witty, and though I have probably watched this film more often than any other film I own, It still feels fresh and surprisingly modern. Only 'His Girl Friday' can best the deliciously quick dialog Huxley penned for his female lead.
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Wonderful for its time
trpdean13 December 2003
Is the 1995 television version superior? Yes - every historical period is better recreated since Stanley Kubrick took up the reins with Barry Lyndon in the mid 1970s. Lighting, dress, authentic settings, more faithful adaptations - though not better acting. In the last thirty years, we've been treated to the re-making of all that Hollywood and television had adapted from much of Thackeray, Austen, Balzac, Dickens, Eliot, Hardy, James, Wharton, Twain, Zola, DeMaupassant, even Leopardi. and in virtually every case, the movies are more faithful to their books, the spirit better represented.

Why? I think because movies and television have been more segmented. In 1940, Hollywood was appealing to everyone attending their weekly movies - from the 8 year old girl to the 60 year old man, from the miner to the mine owner, banker and sewer worker. In America alone, 90 million people attended the movies EACH WEEK in the early 1940s. As a result, Hollywood felt it had to appeal to all - and that some aspects of classics could be made more palatable in making them more mainstream.

"Horrors" say the purists. Well, I don't think so - but yes I do prefer the more recent version (of everything).

And yet this is a delightful, charming, humorous, moving film. Greer Garson and Maureen O'Sullivan, Laurence Olivier, Frieda Inescourt (what a voice!), Edna May Oliver, Gwenn and all the rest of the cast are fun, great fun to watch.

In watching this movie, you're watching Hollywood at its top at the time - the same studio that produced the Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind in the years immediately preceding this. And you get to see the glowing Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier.

So, this is very enjoyable - except to the purists.
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The original is the best
FilmOtaku22 May 2003
Pride and Prejudice is a familiar story - if not read in high school literature class, one can see the theme in dozens of other films: A meddling mother tries to marry off her daughter(s) to "suitable" man, the man and woman fight and all turns out at the end with mayhem ensuing between the first and final acts.

There have been several versions of Pride and Prejudice, two of which I had seen before this film and after viewing the 1940 version starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier it is clear that this is the standard. Is there a better actor than Olivier in these period dramas? And Greer Garson is radiant as Elizabeth. Their performances and the pace of the film is such that while I knew the story I was still sucked into the romance and laughter - not an easy task for a hard-core cynic like me. This movie garnered 4 stars and for good reason - if you are looking for a charming, witty and romantic film, this is a must-see.

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Absolutely Dreadful!
athena3311 March 2013
The atrocious costumes alone are enough to make me want to take a flamethrower to the screen. They are hideous! And they are not Recency era costumes.

More importantly, Lizzy, played by Greer Garson, is a walking disaster. First of all, she is too old for the part. Secondly, she couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. She comes off as having more pride than Darcy, while at the same time, looking like an idiot.

The story is not true to Austen either, and while I am not an Austen purist, I think the liberties they took perverted the whole meaning of the story. Darcy seemed to love Lizzy almost from the start, and the only time we see his "pride" is during his proposal. There are lots of other differences too, which are not so important.

Overall, I think this film was an insult to the wit and intelligence of Jane Austen.
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Have to compare it to the book...
Jen1756 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I am a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice, the book, and I also love the '95 miniseries, mainly because it stays so close to the book. Being what you might call a purist, I do not like when movies stray TOO far from the original story, and I had been warned by reviews about this one, but I was still curious to watch and and willing to not be too judgmental- taking into consideration when it was made etc. (and I do love old movies)

Having said that, I really enjoyed the first three quarters of this movie. Sure, the costumes were laughable and a few things not quite right, but surprisingly enough it was all good fun. I didn't much care for the portrayal of Mrs Bennet, but Laurence Olivier's Darcy was excellent, if not entirely accurate.

The story was going along swingingly, I was surprised after reading bad reviews that it was actually relatively accurate- that is, until we return to Longborne from Hunsford. After that EVERYTHING hits the clinker, nothing makes any sense or has any real resemblance to the novel. I squirmed my way through the last half hour, forcing myself to watch on. Instead of being pleasantly surprised by the movie, as I anticipated whilst watching the first half, I was left with a definite feeling of distaste and dissatisfaction.

I don't think I could even enjoy this movie with the ending as it is, if I had never read the book. Nothing is explained properly, or dwelled upon, it is a quick succession of events that I feel, if I had no understanding of the book, would not make a lot of sense.

Overall, while I had moments of enjoyment, my impression of this movie is not at all satisfying.
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Calysta20 January 2000
It does not run along the lines of the Jane Austen classic, but the 1940 movie was actually based on the stage adaption, eventually purchased by the MGM studio as what could have become another Norma Shearer expensive spectacle. Like many other projects at the studio, this collected dust after the death of Irving Thalberg, head of MGM.

Thankfully, new casting was decided on. Shearer of course is really too old for the role. The result was what I believe to be one of the most memorable movies of the 1940s. Austen's classic comedy of manners still has all its light touches of romance and humour, with the horrors of English 1800s, loss of estate, inheritance and destined sinking with no worldly stature for a family of five girls with no male heirs.

Amicably backed by a competent supporting cast including Edmund Gwenn and Mary Boland, the star of the show is really Greer Garson. Fresh from her successful debut as Robert Donat's wife in "Goodbye Mr Chips", Garson is really like Lizzy Bennett herself, charming, high spirited and strong willed. It is one of her best roles, just before she became the 'first lady' of MGM. Olivier, brooding and snobbish as the high classed Darcy, also performs well, but is still outshone by Garson.

Tasteful sets, costumes, music and art decoration helped to make this such a huge success in its day. All the right elements of acting, script and direction have made this a production that should be better remembered. We don't relate to the dilemnas of costume period drama days, but "Pride and Prejudice" is great cinematically to have lost little of its charm or its timeless appeal.

Rating: 9/10
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A thoroughly enjoyable movie
richard-178713 January 2015
I haven't read Austin's novel of this name since high school, over four decades ago, so I really have no way of knowing how faithful an adaptation this is.

Nor, frankly, do I particularly care.

If you can divorce the two works and not expect the movie to reproduce the novel, you are left with one really remarkable film.

First and foremost, the script, by Aldous Huxley, no mean novelist himself, is brilliant. I don't know how much of it is borrowed or adapted from Austin and how much is Huxley's clever creation, but it's just plain wonderful. Witty without being nasty or supercilious, it's a joy from beginning to end.

Second, the script's wonderful dialogue is delivered with zest and nuance by great actors, chief among them Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier. They seem to the manner born - which evidently they were.

Then there is Edna May Oliver. She did so many different things so well, such as Pross in *A Tale of Two Cities.* She steals every scene in which she appears here, sending even Olivier into the shade. She's just a joy to watch.

As, frankly, is this whole movie.
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