Pride & Prejudice 1940 Movie

Review #14

If you are a fan of the book, the good original unabridged Jane Austen version of Pride and Prejudice; and if you’re a die hard fan of the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley, or even of the 1995 BBC series, then you will be as disappointed as I was in this 1940 version.

What lured me to watch it was really Laurence Olivier in the role of Darcy. The raving critiques of the time were just cream on top. I mean, of course! Of course any interpretation of Pride and Prejudice was bound to win awards.

Well, first of all, I was surprised to see that the director had chosen to dress all the characters in late 19th century clothing. After all, the book had been published in 1813, therefore Empire style dresses were more appropriate. But, let’s assume it was a knowing choice based on whatever reasons. Fine. Then, the sequence of events was altered. Fine. Movies have to do what they have to do for filming reasons. Characters taken out, or beautified, fine. But when I started rebelling was when the most important sentence, the one that triggered into motion the entire plot of pride versus prejudice was changed. I could not, no I could not take it anymore.

This sentence is the one spoken by Darcy at the Assembly Ball when he first meets Elizabeth Bennet. When his friend Bingley pressures him to dance with some of the lovely girls around, he refuses. When Bingley suggests Elizabeth in particular, he responds with, “… not handsome enough to tempt me.” That was the original. It showed that Darcy was proud, yes, but it also showed he was not interested in dancing in general, and was rather circumspect in his choice of dance partner. However, in the movie, this was changed to: “… I’m in no humor tonight to give consequence to middle classes at play.” Wait… what? This new sentence indicates a very snobbish attitude towards anyone below his socio-economic status. Ugh.

The characters have all been smoothed out so that their characteristics are not too obvious. Bingley is handsome and actually intelligent, unlike the slightly bumbling fool in the 2005 version. Even Mr. Collins has been ironed out into an acceptable gentleman, making us wonder why Elizabeth felt she couldn’t possibly marry him. The most irrational character change, however, is that of Lady Catherine. Instead of the arrogant, selfish, manipulative, and rude old woman that she was, she had now metamorphosed into a loving aunt who only acts rude on the outside and master-planned Elizabeth and Darcy’s reconciliation and marriage at the end. I don’t know what to say.

Of course, any screenplay writer can modify little things here and there, but not what constitutes the core of the story. Lady Catherine’s intransigent attitude was vital in showing that Darcy had now overcome the prejudice of his class and was willing to cross over to slightly lower classes and marrying into it. But now, he is just a big boy who cannot speak up for himself till his aunt does so for him!

And now, apparently, Netflix is about to release yet another version of Pride and Prejudice set in modern times, entitled The Netherfield Girls, with a diverse cast. I don’t mind the diverse cast, it being the new fashion, but I dread yet another reworking of the characters in such a way that they lose their, well, their character.

Published by phxwriter77

BIPOC writer of #livedexperience and #ownvoices

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