Shortly after I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time, I saw that the movie was on TV and was really excited to watch it. Unfortunately, I was only able to see the ending. I saw only after Lady Catherine’s talk with Elizabeth- a shocking scene! (I’ll get into it) Then the ending of Darcy and Elizabeth talking on a bench and kissing and then Mary and Kitty finding their own beaux. My first thought was, huh?
Until I got the DVD this year, I had seen several scenes on the internet but never the whole thing straight through. I had read a lot about how bad and wrong it was- using costumes from Gone with the Wind to save money, Elizabeth way too old, screwball comedy, etc. Are all these claims true? Well, yes and no. It is NOT true that the production reused Gone with the Wind costumes. It was a conscious choice to set the film in the 1830s because they wanted fancier costumes than the simpler Empire styles of the Regency, not because they couldn’t afford it. Unfortunately, that is one of my least favorite periods in fashion history- huge poofy sleeves, hoop skirts, and BIG bonnets. Yuck. But yes, Greer Garson at 36 was too old for Elizabeth (no matter how well she played the part), and yes it is very much a screwball comedy. There’s even a hilarious carriage race between Mrs. Bennet and Lady Lucas towards the beginning!
The Carriage Race!
The movie does keep a decent amount of dialogue from the book, but changes a lot too. It focuses a lot on the rivalry between Mrs. Bennet and Lady Lucas (see carriage race above). The birth order of the Bennet girls is changed to Elizabeth, Jane, Lydia, and then the other two. Mary is not that bad of a singer, just has trouble hitting a certain high note. Mr. Collins is Lady Catherine’s librarian (not wanting to offend the clergy?), scenes are moved and changed around (the Netherfield Ball is changed to a garden party, the Bennets are actually going to move because of the shame of Lydia’s elopement, there is no visit to Pemberley (Georgiana is only mentioned, not seen) etc. But the most perplexing change of all is the total 180 in Lady Catherine’s character, which I’ll get into.
Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet
I thought she achieved the perfect balance between sweetness and archness that is Lizzy. Unfortunately, she was 36 years old and way too old for the part. But if she had been the right age, she would have been perfect!
Laurence Olivier as Fitzwilliam Darcy
Way too flirty throughout the whole movie- it’s pretty obvious he has the hots for Elizabeth and she really must be blind to not see it. He doesn’t even slight her really, at the Meryton Assembly, more the society in general, and won’t dance with her because he is “in no humor to give consequence to the middle classes. ” Then a minute later, he asks her to dance! He sure got over that quick!
Edna May Oliver as Lady Catherine DeBourgh
In the beginning, she was great! Snobby, proud, and controlling…then we find out that she was only testing Elizabeth and she actually wanted her and Darcy to get together? WTF????
I thought most of the other acting was fine. Jane was pretty and sweet. Lydia and Kitty were silly. Mrs. Bennet was silly and obnoxious. Wickham had an ugly mustache. Most of them were not really memorable, to be honest.
If you’re looking for a faithful adaptation, stay away from this movie. If you’re open to seeing a hilarious comedy with some resemblance to P&P, watch and enjoy.
My Rating: 7/10