Although this post was made three weeks in advance, I just finished watching ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with Greer Garson and Sir Laurence Olivier from 1940. It really is a hoot, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. What I found interesting is that there are some similarities between the 1940 and 2005 films.
Greer Garson and Sir Laurence Olivier
Both movies have some mistakes and anachronisms but are very enjoyable in spite of them. And the essence of Jane Austen’s book still comes through. I love both of these movie versions of her classic but for different reasons.
Greer Garson was one of my favorite actresses. Her role in ‘Random Harvest’ was so poignant and so well done that this was my favorite film until the 2005. Now, I have these two tied for my all-time favorite.
Presuming Elizabeth is not an archer
In the 1940 version, Ms. Garson was the epitome of Elizabeth Bennet with teeth in her wit and beauty as well. Two scenes that I will remember are when she was running away from Mr. Collins, and the one where she triumphed over Mr. Darcy with a bow and arrow and her impertinence.
Bow and arrow you say? Yes, and if you’ve never seen the 1940 version, I heartily recommend it. All of the actors did a marvelous job especially Edmund Gwenn as Mr. Bennet and Edna May Oliver who played Lady Catherine de Bourgh to a T: haughty, arrogant, and demanding. Believe it or not, she was even more tart-tongued than Lizzy. In fact, Ms. Oliver was known for playing characters with that trait.
Edmund Gwenn as Mr. Bennet
Edna May Oliver as Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Again, just as with the 2005 version, the 1940 movie had time constraints. Thus, the plot came forth with some changes of scenes and dialogue in unexpected places. But it still got the job done. Purists, feel free to disagree.
Sir Laurence Olivier did a credible job though he wasn’t given much to say until toward the end. He made a fairly sexy Darcy though I still lean toward Matthew Macfadyen in that department. Colin Firth? Perhaps, I would find him so in another role, but I didn’t with him as Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Elizabeth refusing to dance with Darcy
Oh, I will say I love the men’s’ clothes from that era. And Olivier wore them very well! However, Colonel Fitzwilliam in a kilt was just wrong, wrong, wrong. Don’t know where they came up with that.
I also enjoyed Mary Boland as Mrs. Bennet. Yes, Mrs. Bennet is an irritating, pushy, obnoxious person, and that’s how Ms. Boland portrayed her. She and Brenda Blethyn did the part justice, however, the one in the 1995 version was way too over the top even for Austen’s character. A little bit of her is way too much.
Mary Boland as Mrs. Bennet
In this post, I didn’t try to add the BBC’s 1995 version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as I have not seen all of it. What I’ve seen so far, I thought was okay but not spectacular. That opinion may not hold when I watch the entire series, probably in two sessions. I do want to be fair before I get too critical about it. Who knows? I may end up loving it.
Now, as to the changes made to the 1940 version, these are just my observations. Although the ladies’ costumes were lovely, they were anachronistic as was the waltz that was danced at Netherfield. Also, for poor people, the Bennet’s still lived in a very nice big house with nice clothes and had a stable with a fancy landau carriage which was used to pass Lady Lucas’ carriage on the road while in a race to see who would get home first with the news of Mr. Bingley. That was probably the most outlandish added scene as carriage accidents were often fatal. However, it did get across the competitive nature of Mrs. Bennet and Lady Lucas’ friendship.
Some were critical of the fact that Olivier and Garson were older than Elizabeth and Darcy. To me, that didn’t matter. They made a handsome couple and added to the movie quite well. I did appreciate that Mr. and Mrs. Bennet seemed about the right age, in their 40’s rather than 50’s to 70’s. That’s the only objection I had to Donald Sutherland as his Mr. Bennet would have married around age 40. Otherwise, I thought he did a great job. Since Jane Austen didn’t mention his age, I’m not going to worry about it. 🙂
Kissing her hand before kissing her lips
Another thing that these two versions have in common is an American ending. Now, I know that my British friends might object, but living in Texas I like at least one good kissing scene. And I love the American ending of the 2005 film. I can’t help it if I’m a hopeless romantic. Sigh!
I have also seen several scenes from the 1967 version but the quality of the film is very poor. This, I think, would be a likable one as well if I could find a good copy. Anyone know where one is available?
The 1980 version is also a very interesting one, and I just ordered a copy. Will let you know what I think.
1980 Stigmatized https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKJl6vQQ7r4
1967 version http://tinyurl.com/zy9mzdm