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Pride and Prejudice (1940) Poster

Trivia

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.
Vivien Leigh was passed over for the role of Elizabeth Bennett in favor of Greer Garson.
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."
According to Edward Maeder, Adrian, the costume designer, asked director Robert Z. Leonard to place the film in a later time period than that of the novel so that the costumes might be more opulent than those of Jane Austen's time.
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.
The studio's first choice for Darcy was Clark Gable.
In keeping with the style of screwball comedies, the ad campaign for the film warned, "Bachelors beware! Five gorgeous beauties are on a madcap manhunt!"
MGM considered Robert Donat and Robert Taylor to play Mr. Darcy, and Norma Shearer supposedly wanted MGM to borrow Errol Flynn from Warner Bros. for the role.
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.
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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.
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Laurence Olivier 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.
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Because so many English people worked on the picture, 4:00 p.m. tea breaks were a daily ritual.
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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."
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Halliwell Hobbes and Jane Drummond are listed in the Hollywood Reporter production charts for this movie, but they did not appear in the released print.
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The £5,000 per year Mr. Bingly is said to receive as income would equate to $23,800 in 1830 or about about $5,600,000 in 2014 currency.
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Marsha Hunt noted that the gowns were difficult to maneuver in the narrow restroom stalls of the studio soundstage during brief bathroom breaks.
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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.
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MGM imagined the film as a romantic comedy, in contrast to Jane Austen's novel which was a sharp social satire. As a result, dance scenes were added, a pivotal plot point set at Pemberly was removed, and some of Elizabeth's witty and biting dialogue was softened.
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At the age of 36 at the time of production, Greer Garson was nearly twice as old as Elizabeth in Jane Austen's novel. The literary Elizabeth was 20.
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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.
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The play by Helen Jerome, also called "Pride and Prejudice," opened in New York on 5 November 1935 at the Plymouth Theater, New York City, and closed in May 1936 after 219 performances. The opening night cast included Adrianne Allen as Elizabeth Bennet, Colin Keith-Johnston as Mr. Darcy, Lucile Watson as Mrs. Bennet, Alma Kruger as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Helen Chandler as Jane Bennet and Joan Tompkins as Lydia Bennet. There were 2 Broadway revivals: "All the Comforts of Home" with Celeste Holm in May 1942 which closed after 8 performances, and "First Impressions" in 1959, which lasted 92 performances and starred Polly Bergen, Hermione Gingold and Farley Granger.
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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).
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Although production charts list actors Halliwell Hobbes and Jane Drummond in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been determined.
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This marked the first time that Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice, was adapted to a theatrically-released film. Two years prior, Pride and Prejudice (1938) was released directly to British television. Television was in its fledgling stages in the United Kingdom in 1938, and the made-for-television film reached a remarkably small audience. In addition to being the first theatrically-released adaptation, this 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice was the first to achieve a wide release.
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This film sparked a large interest in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. At least five editions of the novel were printed to coincide with the film's release. In less than a decade after the film's release, the novel had grown so popular that it had gone through twenty-one printings.
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In 1947, MGM considered making a musical adaptation of this film. The studio hired Sidney Sheldon and Sally Benson to work on converting the script from this film into a musical production. Ultimately the project was scrapped and MGM abandoned attempts to convert the film to a musical.
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Acting on behalf of MGM, Irving Thalberg purchased the rights to Helen Jerome's stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in 1936. Jane Austen's original novel had gone into public domain by that time, so Jerome's work was the only version of the story that held a copyright. Thalberg's friend, Harpo Marx, suggested the purchase after attending Jerome's play. The studio paid Jerome $50,000 for the rights to the play.
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Following an incredibly successful two years in the United States (both critically and commercially), Laurence Olivier took a twelve-year hiatus from making films in Hollywood. Olivier returned to England to work in the film and stage industries there, and spend time with his new bride, Vivien Leigh.
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Melvyn Douglas was considered for the role of Darcy.
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Nine writers worked on the script before the project ultimately fell to Jane Murfin and Aldous Huxley.
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This marked the first of three films for which Cedric Gibbons and Paul Groesse won an Academy Award for Art Direction.
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According to Madeleine Stowe in her introduction to the film on Turner Classic Movies, MGM ignored Laurence Olivier's pleas to cast Vivien Leigh as Elizabeth. Olivier and Leigh were both married to other people but carrying on a semi-public affair in the period when this film was being made. Studio executives felt that casting the couple as lovers in the film had the potential for negative publicity, so Louis B. Mayer personally nixed Leigh's inclusion in the film.
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