Sunday, August 15, 2021

#2,600. Pride and Prejudice (1940)


Over the years, there have been several big-screen adaptations of Pride and Prejudice (I particularly enjoyed Joe Wright’s 2005 version with Kiera Knightley), yet few matched the star power of director Robert Z. Leonard’s 1940 translation, which featured a cast that would have impressed Jane Austen herself. 

The arrival of two wealthy bachelors, who have taken up residence in a nearby estate, has given hope to Mrs. Bennet (Mary Boland) and her quest to find the perfect husbands for her five daughters: Elizabeth (Greer Garson), Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan), Mary (Marsha Hunt), Lydia (Anne Rutherford), and Kitty (Heather Angel). The gentlemen in question, Mr. Bingley (Bruce Lester) and Mr. Darcy (Laurence Olivier), do eventually meet the Bennet sisters, with Bingley falling head-over-heels in love with Jane. As for Darcy, he undertakes a tempestuous relationship with Elizabeth Bennet, who rejects him at first because she thinks he’s a snob. 

Anyone familiar with Jane Austen’s 1813 novel knows this synopsis only scratches the surface; there are many additional characters , all of which were perfectly cast in this film, including the patriarch of the Bennet clan (Edmund Gwenn, aka Santa in the original Miracle on 34th Street) Bingley’s prudish sister Caroline (Frieda Inescort); the Bennet’s boorish cousin Mr. Collins (Melville Cooper); and Darcy’s headstrong Aunt, Lady Catherine De Bourgh (superbly portrayed by Edna May Oliver). 

Yet despite its outstanding supporting players, Pride and Prejudice belongs to stars Garson and Olivier, whose scenes together are, without a doubt, the film’s most memorable (Garson is especially splendid as the bright, stubborn Elizabeth). 

The sets and costumes are also top-notch, but it’s the performances that made this version of Pride and Prejudice the classic that it is. 
Rating: 9 out of 10

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