Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not-So-Gentle (Re)Viewer: Pride and Prejudice (1940)

If anyone had asked me, I would have told them that Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World) was one of the last writers I would expect to have been a co-writer for a Pride and Prejudice screenplay.  Imagine my surprise, then, when Huxley turned out to be one of the writers of the 1940 Austen adaptation, directed by Robert Z. Leonard and starring Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy.

One thing that wasn't surprising about a Pride and Prejudice version written by Aldous Huxley: this was one of the least-faithful film adaptations I have ever seen.  Some of the key variations from the original text:
  • A carriage race between the Bennets and the Lucases, with Mrs. Bennet shrieking something along the lines of, "Ha!  I knew they wouldn't beat us!"
  • Multiple references by Mr. Bennet about the lost possibility of having drowned his five daughters at birth.
  • A Darcy who, though he does give Miss Elizabeth Bennet an initial verbal spanking as per the book, ultimately proves to be gregarious and charming.
  • An archery contest between Lizzy and Darcy, with Lizzy handing Darcy his conge.
  • Lady Catherine de Burgh acts as a go-between "emissary" for Darcy and Lizzy and ultimately decides Lizzy is her favorite cheekiest girl in all of England.
  • Jane is revealed to be somewhat vain, and her attempts in one scene to keep her profile to Mr. Bingley at all times is quite amusing.
Some other interesting tidbits about the movie:
  • The original tagline was, "Bachelors beware! Five gorgeous beauties are on a madcap manhunt!"
  • The setting of the movie is a bit of a mystery.  One of the characters makes a reference to the Battle of Waterloo (despite the fact that Pride and Prejudice was originally published in 1813 and Waterloo was not until 1815), but it's apparent from the characters' clothing that they are not living in the Regency. 
  • In fact, all of the female characters are running around in American civil war-era gowns, which was not until the 1860s.  (According to IMDB, the costumes were left over from the Gone with the Wind picture which was produced the year before.)
Despite the abundance of "huh?" moments, however, I quite enjoyed the movie--probably because I was laughing all the way through it.

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