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Monday, 16 March 2015

Classic Film Review: Pride and Prejudice (1940)

An adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice stars Laurence Olivier as Mr Darcy, Greer Garson as Elizabeth, Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane, Ann Rutherford as Lydia, Mary Boland as Mrs Bennet, Edmund Gwenn as Mr Bennet and Edna May Oliver as Lady Catherine. The screenplay was co-written by Aldous Huxley.

If you take this adaptation as a completely different animal to the book then you'll probably enjoy it a lot more. It takes a lot of artistic licence, not least bringing the drama out of the Regency period in order to make the most of costumes. Compressed and with some plot points altered, it nevertheless manages to be an entertaining piece of cinema if you separate it from the book.

Laurence Olivier generally shines and this film is no exception. It's fairly difficult to tell most of the Bennet sisters apart in the early stages of the film and, really, Mary Boland and Edmund Gwenn are much more vibrant in the first portion. Greer Garson grows into the role, but it could be that the necessity for scene-setting stifles her characterisation at points. I enjoy Edna May Oliver in any role and she manages a disagreeable character very well. Most of the cast actually inhabit their roles well; it's just that the characters aren't necessarily what they were in the book.

Overall, this is a very 'Hollywood' adaptation of Jane Austen. It works on one level because of the cast but if you're a serious Austen fan I'd be inclined to stay away.

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