Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 1940
Directed by
Robert Z. Leonard
118 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Pride And Prejudice (1940)

This MGM rendition of Jane Austen’s classic portrait of English society at the end of the 18th century emphasizes the comedic aspects of the original text well but struggles to accommodate its substance which largely came from Austin’s authorial point of view. The result is a lavishly costumed, chattering film which has fun with the pretensions and foibles of middle and upper-class manners of the time but doesn’t really get to grips with the essence of the novel which is in the evolving Darcy-Elizabeth relationship. Thus we chuckle at Mrs. Bennet (Mary Boland) and her husband (Edmund Gwenn) and Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Edna May Oliver) and her protégé, Mr. Collins (Melville Cooper) but at the expense of engaging with Austen’s two principal characters who only intermittently stand forth from the crowd of minor players to dutifully mark the changes in the relationship. This is particularly so in the case of Darcy, who even in the novel is a figure largely seen through Elizabeth's eyes.

Greer Garson who was 36 at the time is too old to play Austen’s heroine (the role came to her between playing sainted wives in Goodbye, Mr Chips and Mrs Miniver) and thus what should have seemed to be strikingly unusual independence in a young woman in her early 20s comes across as being quite unremarkable. The age issue is not a problem with Olivier (he was 33 at the time) but the actor seems decidedly ill-at-ease with a part that is largely limited to occasional walk-on appearances.

Much of Austen’s prolix dialogue has been used for the Aldous Huxley and Jane Murfin screenplay which bar the Hollywoodized ending stays quite faithful to Austen’s novel. It is, however, largely because of this fidelity to the long-winded text that the film fails to engage dramatically. More attention to Elizabeth and Darcy and less to what went on around them would have helped considerably in this respect.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst