Pride and Prejudice (1940) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
122 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
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.
56 out of 66 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Slightly Rushed
SMK-48 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.
44 out of 56 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
36 out of 46 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
36 out of 48 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
36 out of 53 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.


I just watched this movie again, and once again I marveled at the brilliance of the script and the acting. Garson and Olivier deliver their biting lines with perfect timing and understatement. But they also know how to suggest, with just the slightest movements, very deep feelings. They are both so afraid of losing the other, yet too proud to show it. Edmund Gwenn and Mary Boland make a wonderful study in contrasts, one all understatement and the other all uncontrolled exaggeration.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.

49 out of 79 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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.
19 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Anachronistic Costumes, rude Lizzy
sharah_thomas7 February 2004
The women's costumes are era indeterminate. I suppose the simple elegance of Regency dress couldn't compete with the splendor of Gone with the Wind, so they went with a Hollywood hodgepodge of Georgian and Victorian.

The altered dialog might have been considered witty in an adaptation of a lesser book. Jane Austen doesn't need any help with humor. Lizzy is too old, and Darcy is too flamboyant. Bless Larry Olivier's heart, but he never impressed me much on screen--his overacting might have been wonderful on stage, however. Only Mr. Collins is well played.

Greer Garson sneers like Darcy is supposed to, and Olivier smiles too much. The only proper bit of casting is Jane who, unlike in other movie versions, is truly prettier than Lizzy.

Both the 1979 or 1995 versions are far superior--albeit longer.
23 out of 35 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
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
19 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Good for Hollywood
suessis25 January 2000
Like most early Hollywood films based on classic novels, the script alters the novel considerably, but not as much as much as they usually were. As it happens, even with the changes this is a charming and endearing film.

Mary Boland as Mrs. Bennet, Edna May Oliver as Lady Catherine De Burgh, and Melville Cooper as Mr. Collins eat the scenery in their respective roles. They give some of the best supporting player performances that I ever remember seeing in early films. They manage to steal scenes from the greatest actor of the 20th century and making him look good at the same time!

Maureen O'Sullivan is charming as Jane, but of course Greer Garson is fabulous as Elizabeth even if she doesn't fit my idea of Elizabeth.

I recommend this movie highly as a nice addition to any classical movie collection.
11 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Exquisitely beautiful!
angel_de_tourvel25 June 2004
Despite the fact that so much has been skipped from the book (I'm reading P&P at the mo and have to admit it is some disappointment) This is no doubt a breathtakingly lovely and beautifully casted version. I am utterly in love with Laurence Olivier, whatever role he plays, and was more attracted to his Mr Darcy than disgusted (of which might not be to his credit!!) yet I felt he was born to play the role of distinguished, upperclass, and perfectly handsome gentlemen. Greer Garson was particularly charming and sophisticated as Elizabeth, (What the hell do other critics mean when they say she's OLD?) Her and olivier make a fantastic stage couple, and although I don't think she is quite as "pretty" as her sister Jane, she has a unique icyness about her which is captivating.

Fantasticly portrayed characters, and wonderfully romantic; I highly recommend this film.
12 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A travesty!
qleaper21 May 2000
Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels, and the 1995 mini is by far my favorite adaptation. However, I always wanted to see the other ones. Last night I finally saw the oldest of the 3, and was aghast. I could not believe all the liberties taken with Jane Austen's masterpiece. New characters were added, scenes changed -- which so far is not that bad, considering the time constraints. What really horrified me was the complete change in personalities of the main characters. Darcy is not supposed to openly admire Lizzy until after her rejection -- until then he is supposed to be struggling with himself, trying to control his feelings until he cannot hold them any longer. Laurence Olivier was definitely not indifferent to Greer Garson's Elizabeth -- his performance was much more subtle and nuanced (definitely superior in every aspect) playing Max de Winter in Rebecca (a wonderful movie), which oddly enough was released in the same year as this production of P&P. It just confirmed my long-standing belief that no one can play Mr. Darcy better than Colin Firth. Greer Garson looked too old to play Lizzy -- but that's beside the point. She lacked the playfulness that Jennifer Ehle was able to bring to the character. Garson by comparison was very stiff. But what really shocked me was Lady Catherine. According to the book, until the end she is supposed to oppose Darcy's marriage to Lizzy, and here she not only admires Elizabeth, but helped Darcy in obtaining Lizzy's acceptance of his proposal! These are absolutely NOT minor details. These changes touch the core of the book, and that, in my opinion, is inadmissible.

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is not an openly funny book -- it makes you laugh by being witty (two very different things). This production of P&P somehow found the need to add comedy relief, such as the parrot and music box scene when Lady Catherine goes to Longbourn. Another reason why I love Jane Austen so much is that all her novels have a happy ending. But for this movie that was not enough. They had to end it with introducing a love interest for Mary (who is supposed to end up alone with her parents) and match Denny with Kitty. Adding all this up, it was actually painful to watch. But I finally gave up when Lydia called Whickham "Whicky"... Puh-lease! This is definitely a travesty of a movie, unworthy of such a wonderful novel. I was just glad I saw it on public television -- otherwise I would have asked for my money back!!!
22 out of 40 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Jane Austen meets the Carry-On team
nick suess4 July 2003
Poor old Larry must have struggled with keeping his face straight in this, Hollywood's very own version of P&P. He put in a very passable performance as Darcy, and Mr Bennet was well portrayed by Edmund Gwenn. But against a backdrop of overacting female clowns done up in a horrible variety of old southern antebellum costumes, they really had to struggle. I suppose as the years have passed we have become used to filmmakers putting ever more endeavour to be accurate to the period and location, but here no attempt whatever was made. That high Californian sun no more resembled the British early spring than did the mish-mash of accents that never got more than half way across the Atlantic to Austen's own side (except of course for Larry), and the plot never got all that close to P&P apart from the names Darcy, Bennet and Collins being somehow jumbled around in there. Yes, there's such a thing as dramatic licence, and with half decent screenplay and a bit of dramatic tension (best achieved simply by getting closer to the novel) that might have worked.

Don't just say "but this was in 1940". They knew how to make good movies back then. "Rebecca" won best Picture, and "Philadelphia Story" and "Grapes of Wrath" were nominated. Larry himself got a Best Actor nomination for "Rebecca", and must have wondered what on earth he was doing in this sad shambles. And this somehow won a Best Art Direction Oscar. I guess there was a war on elsewhere in the world.

5/10, and that's being generous because Larry was in it.
13 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me Five Matches
bkoganbing5 July 2007
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.
12 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"Gone with the Wind" terrorizes P&P
wisewebwoman7 December 2004
This film is a travesty but does a terrific service for the movie going public and fans of Jane. It makes the subsequent TV adaptation all the more wonderful and easier on the eyes. I could start with a list - for one, Greer is far from nineteen in her role as Elizabeth, the eldest teenager. She is twice that and it shows. One winces every time she does something girlish, like flash those eyes flirtatiously. Elizabeth did not flirt. And oh please, the bow and arrow scene. Then there is the rather hollow Laurence Oliver doing his brittle best as Darcy. Was there ever a more irritating voice on screen and off? Somewhere between a burp and staccato gunfire. The hoops and the gowns and the hats all circa Civil War America. And why oh why did they soften up Catherine De Burgh.

Unforgivable. I could go on and on... but I will spare you and me. 5 out of 10. For what? For suspending disbelief and pretending it was something entirely unrelated to Jane Austen. Read Jane, watch 10 minutes of this. You will turn it off. You will rent the gorgeous 1995 TV version.
15 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Austen it's not
johnginn28 December 2005
I just caught this on Turner Classic Movies and while it does have a small breezy charm at times, it is a terrible adaptation of Austen's novel. Terrible.

Austen's novel and prose exhibited a great deal of wit, which this version mistakes for a kind of breezy humor, but beneath her wit, Austen was also writing about a time and societal structure in which social standing and the appearance of certain respectability was everything. For the characters involved, even Elizabeth, who tried to appear not to not care at times, the unfolding of the story's events all come with serious consequences attached.

My impression of this version is that it seemed largely unaware of the story's more dire concerns. Mrs. Bennet's desire to see her daughters married is treated here as kind of amusing, but in the book, and in the reality of the time, her fears that her daughters will lose their standing are not without merit. The society they live in really doesn't offer many opportunities for her daughters.

This version seems to be all about love; Austen's novel is really a story of survival. That Jane and Elizabeth both also happen to find their heart's true love while marrying well is really something of a miracle. In Austen's world love and marriage did not always run hand in hand.

Having just seen the 2005 version, the lack of Austen's bite was all the more evident. This version just gets so many things wrong. The actresses playing the Bennet sisters are all way too old for their roles. In the book, Elizabeth is "not yet one and twenty" and Lydia is a young twerp of 15 or 16 when she runs away with Wickham. Lady De Bourgh's actions in the end of this version are just plain ridiculous, the resolution is neat and tidy wrapped up far too quickly and throughly wrong. Other changes in the story are just baffling.

Enjoy this version if you must, but for me it was like watching a Cliff Notes version that was written by someone who hadn't actually read the story himself but had only heard about from a friend.
11 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Whether to laugh or cry? That's an easy one!
JohnSol1 November 2003
Even ignoring my new-found passion for Austen (yes, I'm one of those) and the fact that I had just finished reading P&P literally days before viewing this version of it, I find it hard to believe that so many reviewers find anything of value in this unfortunate production - clearly stamped out on the MGM studio factory line, with little care or thought, like so many of the films of the period. Fortunately, my love of the novel, and of the superior Ehle/Firth version, allowed me to dismiss this with very little pain.

With that said, though, I still must comment on one thing that really seemed to miss the mark, and that I don't see mentioned elsewhere, and that was the way the Bennet sisters were presented. They ALL seemed like silly little girls and, although Garson's Elizabeth had an opportunity to demonstrate how "modern" her thinking was, she still came off as comical, not to be taken seriously. Austen made a very clear distinction in her work, between Lizzy and Jane on the one hand (intelligent, reflective, serious and sensitive) and their 3 younger sisters (flighty, man-hungry, vacuous), and that difference provided a potent (frequently humourous) backdrop to the character development and plot in her work. This version didn't even come close to presenting such a distinction.

Others' comments take care of the rest of my objections to this drivel, so I won't repeat them here. But I will add that even Olivier couldn't save it for me. He seemed the same person throughout the entire movie. Charming, yes, but did he show any sign of having accomplished the transformation that Elizabeth helps bring about in him in the real story? Did he learn anything about himself in the course of his relationship with her - other than her superior skill at archery (which, in its attempt to show her to be full of surprises and quite capable of upsetting Darcy's composure, only added to all the silliness).

The novel helps us understand how bright, intelligent and introspective individuals can accept their limitations, change their way of thinking about others and themselves and grow tremendously in the process. This MGM outing was more like an Andy Hardy movie with pretty costumes and a faux British setting.
8 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This One Gets Austin
pwest-651-99945216 March 2016
Look, I won't waste time arguing about acting and costumes. What I will state is that no other P&P film has captured the essences of what Austin accomplished in her novel. Folks, P&P is a satire, pure and simple. Huxley, who wrote the screenplay and the actors who played the parts, especially the British actors, understood this. You don't start a Romance novel like this:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters."

This is satire gold. It is a hard, hitting punch at middle class moms trying to marry up their daughters, so the she (the mom) will be taken care of in her old age. The novel also rips the upper class for claiming to put substance, character and breeding above all, while at the same time poor Mary Bennett the most accomplished of all the Bennett girls goes it alone because she is an ugly duckling.

This movie gets it; the newer ones have reinterpreted the essence of what Austin was doing in her great novel. So forget about the bad costumes and how it doesn't follow the book scene for scene. This film stands the test of time because it is the only film version which understands Austin's vision and biting humor.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
vegemite-toast14 February 2006
In his 1940 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Robert Z. Leonard provides the perfect blueprints for how NOT to make a Jane Austen movie.

Even the greatest actors of the time, Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, were not able to salvage the atrocious script which butchers Austen's delightful prose, leaving only the barest bones of plot and characterisation beneath a shock of silly frills and lace. As a result, this witty, intelligent and deeply romantic novel is turned into a shallow, soppy love story that no lover of good writing can possibly appreciate.

The historically inaccurate costuming is enough to make one wince. Women flit around in ridiculous hooped skirts and frilly bonnets taken straight out of Gone With the Wind, as opposed to the simpler and more elegant Regency gowns that would have been worn at the time in which Pride and Prejudice is set.

The film's only comedic value is provided by the complete incompetence of its creators. If, like me, you enjoyed reading the novel, you'll be left in fits of laughter by an interpretation of Austen's classic that completely misses the mark.

If, on the other hand, you're looking for a more faithful and worthwhile adaptation, your time would be much better spent watching the 1995 BBC miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.
11 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Loved the book, Loved the movie
alphaleonis16 January 2004
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. There 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 versions.

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.
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One of the worst films ever.
pma97dr-23 November 2000
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.
14 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Passion in a Starched Shirt
JamesHitchcock21 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Jane Austen's novel "Pride and Prejudice" was originally written in 1796/7 but not published until 1813. Most producers of television adaptations have been guided by the latter date and have set the story during the Regency period, although the 2005 film version was set in the 1790s. This film, however, shifts the action to the 1830s or 1840s, that is to say 20 or 30 years after Austen's death. Two explanations have been given for this change. The official one is that the studio, MGM, wished to use more flamboyant costumes than the relatively restrained and simple ones of the Regency era. The other is that MGM had recently made another film set during the early Victorian period and wanted to re-use the sets and costumes. The film was originally intended to be in colour, to which it would have been well suited, but ended up being made in black-and-white because "Gone with the Wind" had used up all MGM's stocks of colour film.

I will not say much about the plot because it is so well-known. The film does, however, differ from the novel in a number of ways. Most of these are fairly minor; whenever a novel is adapted for the screen some scenes will inevitably need to be shortened or omitted altogether if the film is not to become intolerably long-winded. In the novel the insufferable Mr. Collins was a clergyman, here he becomes a librarian, a change driven by the Production Code which forbade unsympathetic portrayals of the clergy. (This piece of censorship would have disappointed the devoutly Christian Austen, who was using Collins to satirise those who entered the priesthood out of mercenary, self-seeking motives rather than genuine religious feelings). The film ends with all five Bennet sisters married or about to be married, unlike the book which ends with only Jane, Elizabeth and Lydia married or engaged.

Perhaps the most significant change is that made to the character of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, in the novel a monstrous old snob and hypocrite but whose personality is here considerably softened, again blunting Austen's satire. She is still a formidable old lady, but is actually sympathetic towards Elizabeth's proposed marriage to Darcy, something which in the book she does her damnedest to prevent.

The film was made in the United States by an American studio, but in the thirties Hollywood was generally respectful towards the British classics so Austen's English setting is kept. (This would not be something we could take for granted today; when Alfonso Cuaron made a film of Dickens's "Great Expectations" he not only switched the action to America but also gave it a contemporary setting). This meant that the cast, most of whom were American themselves, had to put on their best English accents, and most cope well with the challenge, although one or two occasionally slip.

Laurence Olivier, who here plays the proud Mr. Darcy, had the previous year acted in another adaptation of a nineteenth-century classic, "Wuthering Heights". Superficially Heathcliff and Darcy are quite different characters, but both are passionate men, the difference being that in Darcy's case his passion is constrained beneath a formal exterior of manners and breeding. With Olivier's performance one always senses the strong emotions hidden beneath his immaculately starched shirt. With all due respect to admirers of Colin Firth's interpretation, and of Matthew MacFadyen's (if he has any), Sir Laurence is still for me the greatest Mr. Darcy.

As for Greer Garson as the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet, she is fine if one can overlook the fact that at 36 she is considerably older than the character imagined by Jane Austen (21 in the book). In the early nineteenth century young women were regarded as being well on the way to becoming an old maid if they were still unmarried in their late twenties, like Charlotte Lucas here or Anne Elliott in "Persuasion". Austen would have been very surprised had she known that in the twentieth century her heroines would be played by actresses in their late thirties. The original choice for Elizabeth was Norma Shearer, two years older even than Garson. Emma Thomson was a similar age when she played Elinor in "Sense and Sensibility", but that seems to matter less as the ultra-sensible Elinor is very much an old head on young shoulders. Nevertheless, Garson brings out well Elizabeth's determination and sense of self-respect; we sense that she and Darcy are a fine match for one another.

Maureen O'Sullivan makes a sweet and lovable Jane, even if she is one of those who occasionally let their accents slip. (O'Sullivan is best remembered today for playing another Jane, in the "Tarzan" films). I also liked Edmund Gwenn as Mr. Bennet; the contribution I liked least came from Edna May Oliver as Lady Catherine, although the fault may lie less with the actress than with the changes made by the scriptwriter.

Now that Jane Austen is so firmly established as good box office, it is strange to think that this "Pride and Prejudice" was the first feature film to be based on her work. Stranger still that it remained the only one until the nineties. It is very different from a modern "heritage cinema" adaptation, but as an example of a 1940s romantic comedy it is an excellent one, keeping a lot of Austen's wit and powers of characterisation. 9/10

A goof. We see carriages driving on the right-hand side of the road, but we Brits drive on the left, and did so even in the horse-and-carriage days of the nineteenth century.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This movie did not remain true to a perfect book!
ginafly15 January 2002
Warning: Spoilers
This is somewhat of a *spoiler,* be slightly warned, but I believe it too vague to really spoil anything... And REALLY, if you have not read the book, you should not be watching the movie, anyway! Get thee to a library!

My main reason for being disgusted with this version of Pride and Prejudice is that it changes the ending for no apparent reason. This is inexcusable! It unnecessarily softens (in fact, reverses) Lady Catherine's reaction to the ultimate outcome of the story. This cheapens said outcome by lessening the general disapproval which would have been present over the social and economic implications of the final outcome. This sappy-sweet false ending essentially contradicts the grave tones of Darcy's reservations throughout the book. It lessens the proven desperation and severity of his love by removing the disapproval of his only elder family member to appear in the book. The ending of the book is honestly happy and wonderful enough without a silly sugar-coating! Appalling! It's almost as bad as Romeo and Juliet openly dating while their parents take tea together! What is romantic about that?

Please, for your sake and Jane's, stick to the BBC/A&E 1995 version. It is long, but perfectly executed.
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Sparkling verbal wit in a well-made and mannered masterpiece
silverscreen88811 June 2005
Robert Z. Leonard, director of The Great Ziegfield", performed a minor miracle in this film. He made a novel written by Jane Austen who is a fine social observer but a tedious novelist seem visually "modern". In fact, the film's script makes the story's two protagonists, Elizabeth and Lord Darcy, reverse roles; she is prejudiced against him because he is wealthy and he is proud/haughty which causes him to miss out on lots of fun and simplicity. When he and his equally lordly young friend come into the lives of a family with many daughters, a rapacious mother and a long-suffering father, the fun begins. The daughters are beautifully played, particularly by Greer Garson, Marsha Hunt and Maureen O'Sullivan; Laurence Olivier gives a good young performance, as do such stalwart character actors as Hugh Herbert, Edmund Gwenn, Mary Boland, Edna May Oliver and others. The story plays out over lawn parties, local balls, visits to friends' houses, walks in the town and visits to the city. The film is in B/W, and is played on the verge of satire and comedy or even parody; and thankfully, it adapts the tedious but well-labored original narrative and confines it into the limits of a single frequently-enchanting film. The costumes, music, settings, dance choreography and dialogue are uniformly well-above average; if you have not seen this 1940 masterwork of film-making recently, do yourself the favor of watching it when you have time to listen and enjoy it as it deserves. No aspect of this delightful satire or manners has received anything by MGM's best attentions. The situation of having unmarried daughters, inadequate funds, an entailed estate and dealings with arrogant noble sorts may not be precisely those US victims of public-interest lawmakings corporate and executive tsardoms are used to; but the way in which these problems are handled seems even timely now than it did in 1940, in my opinion. Greer Garson and directed Leonard dominate a beautifully-realized adaptation of this often-attempted classic study of a bygone imperial era.
8 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed