According to Ann Rutherford, although the filmmakers were committed to begin shooting on a particular date, they discovered that David O. Selznick had used every available reel of Technicolor film in existence to make Gone With The Wind. Therefore, despite the lavish sets and opulent costumes, Pride And Prejudice had to be shot in black and white.
Phil Silvers was asked to screen test for a role as a vicar despite having a strong New York accent. It turned out to be a cruel prank by studio executives who passed the screen test around Hollywood. In his autobiography, Silvers says "These three minutes were perhaps the funniest I've ever done."
Initially scheduled to start pre-production in 1936, under the supervision of Irving Thalberg with his wife, Norma Shearer as Elizabeth Bennett, but pre-production was put to a halt after Thalberg's death.
During production, Laurence Olivier was distracted by plans for a stage production of Romeo and Juliet. He occupied his thoughts off camera with every detail of the production: blocking, lighting, set design and the total look of the play. He also took lessons in music composition and began composing motifs and flourishes for the stage production. It delighted him that he and Vivien Leigh would finally be acting together and capitalizing on their off-screen romance, after their efforts to co-star in Hollywood films had been repeatedly thwarted.
Although Jane Austen's novel was set in Regency England (late 18th-early 19th century), the period was set at a later time. This anachronism has been explained in a couple of ways. Those more favourably disposed to the studio system claim the styles of the Regency Period (when women's dresses resembled nightgowns) were thought too plain for public taste, so new gowns were created in the voluminous Victorian style of the 1830s to give it a more romantic flair. Others have pointed out that because MGM wasn't willing to put a huge budget behind the risky venture, costumes left over from Gone with the Wind (1939) were altered slightly and placed on background players to save money. New gowns in the same flouncy style were designed for the female leads.
'Laurence Olivier' (qV) was less than thrilled with the film after production began, certain it would be a flop and complaining that key scenes were missing and that more attention was lavished on the costumes than the actors.
Laurence Olivier said of the film, "I was very unhappy with the picture. It was difficult to make Darcy into anything more than an unattractive-looking prig, and darling Greer seemed to me all wrong as Elizabeth."
Production was initially scheduled to begin in October 1936 under Irving Thalberg's supervision, with Clark Gable and Norma Shearer in the leading roles. Following the death of Thalberg on September 13, 1936, pre-production activity on the film appears to have been halted.
Key characters from the novel underwent changes during scripting, filming and editing. To avoid the Production Code taboo against portraying the clergy in a negative light, the theological occupation of the Bennets' hypocritical, toadying cousin Mr. Collins was considerably downplayed. Either to provide a more upbeat tone to the ending or to accommodate the sort of character most often associated with the actress Edna May Oliver, the haughty and forbidding Lady Catherine de Bourgh was portrayed as a comic figure; her final visit to Elizabeth is presented as merely a ruse to test the girl's feelings for Darcy. Finally, the last scene, contrary to the novel, shows all the Bennet girls on the verge of marriage.
In August 1939, Hollywood Reporter announced that George Cukor would direct Robert Donat opposite Norma Shearer, and that M-G-M was considering making the film in England. The start of the war in Europe in September 1939 soon caused the closure of M-G-M's operations in England, however. Cukor, according to Hollywood Reporter, was replaced by Robert Z. Leonard because of a scheduling conflict with his assignment on Susan and God (1940).