Pride and Prejudice (1940) DVD
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Directed by Robert Z Leonard
Produced in 1940
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - American film
Garson (Elizabeth Bennet) and Olivier (Mr Darcy) are the perfect embodiments of prejudice and pride in this production from Hollywood's golden age. It's enormous fun, writes Alex Davidson.
Purists may quibble with the alterations made to the plot of Jane Austen’s most famous novel in its transition to film, but there’s no denying that Robert Z Leonard’s Pride and Prejudice (1940) is enormous fun. The story of Elizabeth Bennet (Greer Garson in this adaptation) and Mr Darcy (Laurence Olivier), told countless times through film and television (most notably in the 1995 adaptation which made Colin Firth a household name), will be familiar to most - in short, a young woman in Regency England, whose mother is desperate to marry her and her four sisters off, eventually falls in love with a haughty man she initially hates.
The sparky script was written by three unlikely collaborators: Helen Jerome, who had written a play version, screenwriter Jane Murfin and, most bizarrely, satirist and Brave New World author Aldous Huxley. Despite Huxley’s presence, much of the social comment about the role of women is brushed over, although Austen’s scathing views on the snobbish upper classes is retained. Instead, the film unfolds like an unusually witty romantic comedy. It has now become a romcom cliché that two people who loathe each other will eventually fall in love, but in Pride and Prejudice the gradual maturation of both characters as they realise each other’s qualities is very touching.
The high production values - the film was made at MGM - add a lushness seldom seen in 1940s period drama. The costumes, which annoyed Austen-ites by being based around lavish 1830s fashions rather than the Regency period in which the novel is set, are gorgeous, as are the Oscar-winning sets which effortlessly recreate the fictional village of Meryton.
Greer Garson was in her mid-30s when she made the film (Elizabeth is 20 in the novel) yet creates a spirited and sympathetic heroine, while Laurence Olivier is reliably perfect as the haughty Darcy. Both stars had just broken into A-list star territory, following Goodbye Mr Chips and Wuthering Heights respectively, and both seize on their roles with gusto. Austen’s rich caricatures are filled with a cast of marvellous character actors, with special mention to Mary Boland and Edmund Gwenn as the Bennet parents and Edna May Oliver’s acerbic Lady Catherine.
Alex Davidson on 18th July 2012
Author of 232 reviews
A classic adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice with Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Olivier as Mr Darcy acting out the perfect embodiments of prejudice and pride. From the golden age of the Hollywood studio era, the production is filled with glamorous sets and was photographed by Karl Freund.
Length: 113 mins
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 25th June 2012
Cat No: 22060016755
- French Region 2 edition, playable in all UK DVD players
- Soundtrack is in English with optional subtitles
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