Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pride and Prejudice 1940

It is truly shameful that a blog called The Jane Austen Film Club has not yet had a post on one of the very first Jane Austen adaptations, Pride and Prejudice 1940. Thankfully, Turner Classic Movies had this on last night and I enjoyed it for the umpteenth time. Sir Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson in a Hollywood classic. So here is my post.

Yes, the dresses are wrong. The designers wanted the more photogenic full skirts and mutton leg sleeves of the early Victorian period and so they just changed it. Don't think about it too much, just enjoy the flouncing around.

Also, don't sweat the fact that the story has been truncated and some characters left out entirely as it is only 118 minutes long. There are still 5 sisters, after all. And yes, they rather changed the personality of Lady Catherine at the end but again, just go with it. It was 1940 after all and filmed in Hollywood to boot, during WWII. When you think of it that way, it is a wonderful example of mid 20th Century film.

The odd bit of changed dialogue is actually wonderfully squeal worthy.

Lady Catherine: There's a very fair instrument in the housekeeper's room. You'll disturb no one there.

Elizabeth Bennet: You are really too gracious, Lady Catherine, but I shouldn't care to disturb the housekeeper.

Mrs. Bennet: Mary, Try to sparkle a little.
[Mary grins awkwardly]
Mrs. Bennet: Just a little!

Mrs. Bennet: Three of them married, and the other two just tottering on the brink!

There is much original dialogue in the film however, much more than was in Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility, so you may be surprised. And looking at the photo above, this may be heresy to say, but I think I would rather see a colorized version of the film when I see Greer Garson's gorgeous red hair and green dress. Apparently I am not a purist in any sense of the word.

The acting is superb. How can you complain about Olivier and Garson? And the sets are opulent. They just didn't do filming on location back then in Hollywood, so you can't expect it can you?

Just take it as it is, and you will have a lovely romp through one of the first Austen adaptations ever. I may need to see this again now.

P.S. This is a great one to see right after My Week With Marilyn. Kenneth Brannagh deserved his Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Laurence Olivier. Spot on Ken!


  1. Ah, I have yet to see this one! The quotes you included were hilarious! Especially the one about not disturbing the housekeeper - I actually did squeal with laughter at that one.
    I shall try and get my hands on this as soon as I can and enjoy the flounces ;)
    Greer Garson is absolutely gorgeous, isn't she? A bit too beautiful to be Lizzie in my opinion but I guess they liked their leading ladies to be striking then.

  2. The way this Mrs. Bennett chatters is always the way I "hear" her when I read the book. It a charming version. I particularly like the scene where the sitting room is a disaster.

  3. This was the first adaptation I saw and I love it, even with all the adaptation flaws. Some place I found a copy of the book that has stills from this version in it. I love the barbeque scene in this one.

    I think this one says as much about the period it was filmed in as it does for the novel. 1939-1940, people were needing things where everyone gets happy endings I guess.

  4. I understand most of the comments about this film but I can honestly say I just don't overly like it. I get all the sisters mixed up here. they all look alike to me. And yes the dresses are wrong etc etc etc. It is fun but a distraction at times. My husband actually caught this one in the middle of the night. He doesn't really like the more recent Price and Prejudice movies. The whole genre just isn't his speed. However, he loved this version. What's that say? The American is easier to understand than the English.....etc. As a result I had to watch it to see why it caught his attention. It's great if you look at it just as a nice film from 1940 with 5 sisters in it.....I just can't do it as P&P without wincing. I do love the red hair and green dress.

  5. I saw this movie way before I even knew who Jane Austen was and I loved it simply as a charming movie about 5 sisters with a scatterbrained mama. I watched it again a couple of nights ago on TCM, to get in the mood for a theatrical rendition of Pride and Prejudice at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Friday. Clearly I can't get enough of this wonderful story!

  6. Does anyone know whats going on with Austenland the movie??? I've been waiting and waiting for it to be released.

  7. I do believe the dresses are leftovers from Gone with the Wind, read that somewhere? Sir Laurence Olivier is far too nice for Mr Darcy - my daughters keep going on about his puppy dog eyes!Greer Garson seems a bit sharp at times, but all in all a delightful movie.


    1. It is a very weird Urban Legend that these gowns were "leftover from Gone with the Wind", but all the evidence is entirely against it. Not only do they not actually look anything alike, but they would have been filmed too close to each other for it to happen.

  8. I saw this movie long before I read P&P. Not knowing any better, I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I view it now, I can see that Garson and Olivier delivered their lines as if on stage as they were primarily stage actors. I think it holds up nicely.

    As for the dresses, they were not left over from GWTW. I read a very lengthy post on the subject on one of those discussion boards. (Actually the writer was quite vehement on the subject.) She made her case quite well.

  9. I know the dresses were all wrong and it's not entirely faithful but I just love this film, it's such fun. Greer Garson was so beautiful; I think she was about 15 years older than the part she was playing but she doesn't look it. I love Olivier as Darcy too, reminds me of Colin Firth a bit.

  10. Sounds like most of you enjoyed the 1940 version as much as I did. Great film for when you need a little lift. It is just so much fun. Now I want to see more of Greer Garson (Mrs. Miniver) and Sir Larry (Rebecca? Wuthering Heights?).

  11. For those complaining about Jennifer Ehle being too old, Greer Garson was way too old and no one is complaining about her.




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