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Where to start? This film is terrible in so many ways. There's the stupid 'Gone with the wind' costumes, the fact that Darcy is obviously nice from the beginning, the culling of some of the most important scenes in the book,and the worst ending to a film ever. Also this is revoltingly 'olde England', only Americans would have made this. This bears no comparison to the wonderful TV adaptation. Not only one of the worst literary adaptations ever but one of the worst films ever.
This is a fun comedy and drama about the Bennets and how they have to
marry off their daughters to suitable males from wealthy society that
may bring them happiness. From the get go Mrs Bennet is hunting
suitable admirers from the landed gentry.
The film is an adaptation of the stage play and condenses the Jane Austen novel as well as moving it forward to the Victorian era.
Mr Bennet is played by Edmund Gwenn who is more knowing and wants his daughters to marry for love rather than status.
The central plot is that of Elizabeth Bennet (Greer Garson) and Mr Darcy (Laurence Oliver.) Darcy is haughty, wealthy and proud. Elizabeth is a proto feminist, more intelligent and prejudiced in her views of Darcy but develops feelings for him.
Even though the plot is shortened the machinations of the various love tangles does begin to drag before the film neatly concludes. Good performances from Olivier and Garson as the main suitors who fall each other.
I recently watched again this film version of Jane Austin's classic
novel. Of course, by now, I have had the opportunity to watch all the
later versions as well. This 1940 film and the 2005 film might best be
viewed as adaptations of the Austen story, based more on the modern
mores and culture of the time each film was made. That excuses the
departure from the settings, clothing, manners, and mores of the early
1800s and the landed gentry of England. Those were the substance of
Austen's great book, and she beautifully put them under a huge
microscope for all to see in her novel. I am most grateful to the BBC
for its 1980 and 1995 mini-series that so faithfully and painstakingly
transposed the printed pages onto film.
Hollywood often alters, revises, rewrites and sometimes completely changes stories or their outcomes. Sometimes it makes for better movies. Sometimes, great reductions are needed just to get a story on film. So, I understand that. And, we movie buffs can take or leave the results. As some of the IMDb reviews indicate on the 2005 movie, there is an audience out there that likes the modern-day adaptation. I too enjoyed the 2005 film. It is truer to the times and culture than this 1940 film. But it omits or drastically condenses significant parts of Austen's storyof necessity, no doubt, to fit the movie length. For the much better and complete telling of the story, viewers should watch either or both of BBC TV minis-series.
I'm in the camp of people who really enjoy the wit and humor of clever dialog, accompanied by wonderful expressions to match, and the poking and jabbing at the foibles and follies of cultures. Those things are the essence and value of this story. Through it, Austin explores and exploits those very time-specific mores of English society. She does it with wonderful irony, satire and spoofing. So, when those things are altered significantly, as they are in this cramped version, we are left with something else. A soap opera of sorts, perhaps? Or maybe even a romantic comedy? But it certainly is not the wit, clever story-telling and wisdom of Jane Austen.
This 1940 film has a cast of great actors. But many are too old for the roles they play. The costumes are only the start of the failings of this film from the opening scene. But the script and direction are its biggest failings. One reviewer (vincentlynch-moonoi from the U.S.), on 3 July 2012, wrote: "I confess I don't get it." I think that honestly reflects the script. For anyone who doesn't know the story, too many things in the movie are left dangling or have just piecemeal references. The plot is too disconnected at times. I won't go into more detail on the many miscues in this adaptation. Two other reviewers nail these very well Ivan-166 from Australia, 16 August 2006; and Keith-moyes from the U.S., 21 November 2006.
So, while some people today may enjoy this 1940 film as a light comedy- romance of sorts, we don't know if they also would be interested in reading Austen's novel or watching the longer accurate depictions on film. What would be interesting to me would be to see how people rated this film in 1940. How would reviewers have posted comments on IMDb if it were around back then? And what would they have to say?
My five stars for this film are for Jane Austen, just for the parts of her great novel that are in this film. And for the cast of wonderful actors of the time who gave it a try with a very poor script and far sub-par direction.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice is what I think of as a typical
MGM movie of the Golden Age. Of course, MGM made many other types of
picture, but they were particularly associated with this kind of
'prestige' movie. It is a big, expensive production, based on a world
famous book, written by an eminent literary figure (Aldous Huxley),
with lavish sets and sumptuous costumes, starring their most
prestigious English actors. In other words: portentous, showy and
This movie is all packaging and no content.
It goes without saying that it is a travesty of the book, but it is hopeless even as a simple exercise in story-telling. It would be easy to deplore it for its technical incompetence, its wild historical inaccuracy and its somewhat trashy notion of elegance and sophistication, but I suspect that would be missing the point.
In 1939, when this movie was being planned, America was still mired in the Great Depression and there were millions of women who had been struggling to make ends meet for the best part of a decade. What they wanted from MGM was to be transported out of the grim reality of their own lives into a fantasy world of opulence and ease; of glamour, luxury and elegance. That is what movies like Pride and Prejudice were designed to do. I can complain that the plot is, at best, perfunctory, but who cared? The story was almost incidental to its core audience. It was the over-the-top costumes, the soaring sets, the glittering chandeliers and the gleaming carriages that the audience really wanted to see.
The packaging was the point!
For example, the costumes are absurd they are not only wrong for that period, they are probably wrong for any period. However, I am sure the MGM costume department could have designed gowns that were authentic down to the last button, if that was what MGM had wanted but they didn't. And who am I to say that they were wrong? MGM was the only Hollywood studio that went right through the Great Depression without ever making a loss. They must have been doing something right.
When I view this movie today, I know I must try to understand why it was made the way it was. This vision of Regency England may have been very naïve and very fanciful, but there is no reason to suppose that the people that made the movie were naïve: or even that the people in the audience were. I know I have to put myself into the position of that audience if I am to enjoy it in the way that was originally intended, but I cannot do that. I have to judge the movie on the basis of how it looks today, in the context of other movies of the era, not how it might have looked then.
From that perspective, it has not lasted well. Nor, I suspect, have MGM movies as a whole. From the very beginning of the Thirties, Hollywood churned out scores and scores and scores of movies that are still highly watchable today. You don't have to be a movie buff or film historian to enjoy Universal horror films, Warner Brothers gangster movies, RKO musicals, Disney animations or the Westerns, 'screwball' comedies, romances, melodramas, thrillers, historical pictures and other movies that flooded out of Hollywood at that time. Until the last twenty years or so they were part of everyone's film education.
MGM was the biggest and most successful studio of the Thirties, but my gut feel is that fewer of their movies have stood the test of time than those of most of their competitors. Too many look like Pride and Prejudice: frothy, over-stuffed, over-egged but ultimately unsatisfying: timely but not timeless.
This movie is of undoubted historical interest as a representative artifact of Hollywood at a particular time in its history, but from any other perspective it is utterly negligible.
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is an enduring drama romance. The story line is lighthearted and comical: a scheming mother whose only goal is getting her daughters married off, a self important cousin who parades about peering through his eyeglass and praising the "gracious" Lady Catherine DeBourgh (Oliver), silly sisters who get drunk at parties, and lively balls. The deeper more classic theme,however, lies in the story of Elizabeth Bennet (Garson) and her struggle with her prejudices against the English upper class snobs and the misconceptions she forms about handsome, eligible Mr. Darcy (Olivier), a wealthy and proud English gentleman. Despite being one of five girls in a middle class family with low class relations, no inheritance, and no hope for a high marriage, Elizabeth is delighting with her fresh sense of humor and sarcastic wit, her candid opinions, and her vivacity. In the end not only does she enchant a more humble Mr. Darcy but she also casts a spell over her viewers. Pride and Prejudice is a charming film and I have fallen in love with it as will anyone who sees it.
My wife and I read Pride and Prejudice together about thirty years ago. I
have since read it several more times as has she. There are very few books
that I have read more than once, so my love for the book is evidenced.
are many radical departures of this movie from the book, the most
regrettable being the omission of the Pemberley Estate scenes. But I still
must give it a 10/10. Some of the changes seem to be actually preferable
from an entertainment point of view. But as I reread the novel (as I have
two or three times since first seeing the movie) I appreciate both
This is a movie that sits in its case on our entertainment center in our bedroom. Once or twice a year, when the offerings on the tube become unbearable, it's popped into the VCR and never fails to entertain.
This book and the movie have been a launching pad for us on the road of entertainment. We have both since read most of the Austen novels. The only other one we have enjoyed on the screen is Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow), though we have tried several other screen versions including the 5 hour version of P&P. It also was a starting point for searching out more Greer Garson & Lawrence Olivier movies. It was the first movie we saw with either of these great stars in it. Then of course, you can't be a Greer Garson fan without becoming a Walter Pidgeon fan - and it goes on and on. And this was the beautiful starting point for all of this fun.
In my situation, I finished the book immediately before viewing the
movie. I was fearful of disappointment, but I have watched the movie
twice since first viewing it, as I simply adored it. The arrangement of
the script coincides very well with the original writing of the book.
(One can even spot some direct quotes if he or she is that perceptive.)
Although there are differences in plot (I would suppose for
movie/play-length purposes), they all make sense and allow the story to
successfully fit together without any holes. In my opinion, the changes
were necessary to get the points of the story across. My only doubt is
that someone who has not read the book may find the plot confusing as
it all comes together so rapidly.
Although the movie is not completely true to the story, I still find it to be enchanting and entertaining.. of course, not nearly as much as the book (as is always the situation with books --> movies), but I really do enjoy it and think the acting entirely believable and the choice of actors to be extraordinarily close to how I imagined them to look and act.. namely Mr. Darcy, Mr. Collins, Jane Bennet, and Miss Bingley. In addition, Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier embrace the very essence(s) of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Overall, it was delightful for me.
This movie left me in love. It truly keeps to the novel and does not disappoint. It is a definite watch for the romantic!
I am a fan of older films. I simply adore them. That being said, I am
still able to put my love for classic film aside when something is so
The words of Jane Austen need not be reworked here, even if by a writer
esteemed by Huxley. There was no reason to chop up the storyline and add
such nonsense. It no longer stayed true to the original story, which I
again say, needed no alterations. Everything lined up and read quite
linear. But, in the film, the silly background music and awkward
deliverance made the final outcome poor, at best.
The main sticking point for me, beyond the unbelievably bad costumes
the Regency period that hard for the costume department to research?) was
the inability to even follow in the true spirit of the characters. In
Thompson's "Sense & Sensibility," although she had to cut and chop and
rework to get the film into the standard length for the theater, she
remained true to the spirit of the work and the characters. Here, the
characters were one-dimensional cut-outs that carried with them no
particular depth that was so evident in the novel.
I hate to say this, but through out the film, my husband and I laughed
hard at the insanity we were watching. No true Jane Austen fan, someone
devours the books, loves reading about the Regency (NOT Victorian) era and
reading other Regency authors, can possibly enjoy this for it's merit as
Austen adaptation. However, due to it's rather modern language (not true
Regency,) someone new to the time period may find this an easy way to
in, understanding the customs, such as entailment, marriage and
But this is not for the advanced Regency scholar.
At best, for a beginner, 6/10, for the true Regency/Austen fans,
As a stand-alone film, the 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice is
There's other romantic films made around the same time that are infinitely
As an adaptation of a classic novel, this film really really sucks. While the film and the novel share the same basic plot and all the same characters, the similarities end there. Mrs. Bennett trying to race Lady Lucas in a stagecoach? Lady Catherine's ridiculous turn of character at the end of the film? What's the deal here? As far as the performances go, Laurence Olivier and Edmund Gwenn turn in good ones as Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bennett, and Greer Garson makes for a tolerable Elizabeth. Otherwise, the cast is nothing to write home about.
If you want to disengage your brain and watch some romantic fluff, this is the movie for you. If you want to watch an adaptation of Jane Austen's novel that both preserves the plot, the characters, and the dialogue and brings them to life, go rent or buy a copy of the 1995 BBC/A&E version starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Yeah, it runs just over 5 hours, but it's well worth it.
The Garson/Olivier version of Austen's Pride and Prejudice takes great liberties with every aspect of the text, not the least of which is the smiling demeanor bestowed upon Edna May Oliver's Lady Catherine. None of this matters: the brilliance of the casting, the gravity-less quality of the acting, the pretty musical score, the lovely anachronistic costumes, and the velocity of the story-telling coalesce to make cinematic caviar. Every scene is memorable, and almost every line is quotable, delivered with immense punch. Freda Inescort in the library describing the accomplished woman, Edna May Oliver quizzing Garson's Elizabeth Bennett, or Ann Rutherford's irresistible and brainless Lydia return once married to Netherfield Park are indelible scenes. Olivier is at the height of his beauty and Garson conveys every drop of brains and beauty that Austen must have intended. If one wants a strict reading of the text, this will disappoint compared to the 1995 A&E version; if one wants all the joy and camp implicit in Austen, this is as good as it gets. If I could take one film to a desert island with me, this would probably be it.
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