Part II: Pride and Prejudice, cont’d

Tonight I watched P&P40, starring Greer Garson as Elizabeth and Laurence Olivier as Darcy.  I love this movie.  Even if I didn’t love it, I might still have a soft spot in my heart for it because it was the first Austen adaptation I ever saw.

There are more lines taken directly from the book than one might think but, unfortunately, there are not enough.  I don’t mind some of the changes made to the story (for example, seeing the Netherfield Ball turned into a garden party), but some just make one scratch one’s head.

Mr. Collins is a librarian here, not a priest, and I do understand that, in 1940, they didn’t want to offend priests. OK, fine.  Whatever. Change the setting from Regency to early Victorian?  No biggie.  I’ll live.  Get rid of the visit to Pemberley?  Not so fine, but still not necessarily a deal-breaker.  But I will never understand why they needed to give Lady Catherine a personality transplant and have her be in favor of Elizabeth’s marriage to Darcy.  This is not to say that Edna May Oliver did not do a great job as Lady Catherine — she most certainly did — but I just don’t understand why they changed her character so much.

Oliver steals almost every scene she’s in, except those with Greer Garson.  In my not-so-humble opinion, Greer Garson steals the show. Elizabeth Bennet is supposed to be 20, so Garson is far too old for the role, but she really gets the character and what makes her tick.  As Austen tell us,

Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody, and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed that, were it not for the inferiority of her connexions, he should be in some danger.

The dictionary tells us that “arch” means “roguish,” “mischievous” or “saucy,” and Garson understands this.  She’s never smug or nasty and it’s very easy to see why Darcy falls for her so quickly.  The whole cast does a terrific job with what they’re given, but Garson is just outstanding in this role.

Despite the weirdness that is P&P40, I still love this film dearly.  It’s not a great adaptation of P&P, but it’s still a fun movie and I have lost track of how many times I’ve seen it. Not everyone loves it, and that’s fine.  The world would be a very dull place if we all agreed on everything.

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