Pride and Prejudice


1h 57m 1940
Pride and Prejudice

Brief Synopsis

Jane Austen's comic classic about five sisters out to nab husbands in 19th-century England.

Photos & Videos

Pride and Prejudice - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Pride and Prejudice - Publicity Stills
Pride and Prejudice - Scene Stills

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Period
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jul 26, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (London, 1813), and the play of the same name by Helen Jerome (New York, 5 Nov 1935).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 57m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Synopsis

In the rural village of Meryton in early eighteenth century England, the arrival of Mr. Charles Bingley, his sister Caroline and Mr. Darcy causes quite a stir among the mothers of unmarried daughters because both gentlemen are wealthy bachelors. Among the most enthusiastic is Mrs. Bennet, who has five eligible daughters and stands to lose Longburn, the family farm, to her husband's cousin Collins unless a male heir is produced. However, Mrs. Bennet's eldest daughter Elizabeth, a witty and independent young woman, is somewhat less impressed upon meeting Mr. Darcy, whom she finds arrogant and supercilious as he voices his prejudice against the middle class. On the other hand, Elizabeth's sister Jane is enchanted by Charles, who begins to court her, much to the disapproval of Caroline and Mr. Darcy.

Elizabeth's dislike of Darcy is intensified when George Wickham, a boyhood friend of Darcy's, confides that his old friend has betrayed him. Elizabeth's opinion of the Bingleys and Darcy seems justified when Charles breaks Jane's heart by leaving for London without an explanation. Elizabeth meets Darcy again when she goes to visit her friend Charlotte, who has just married Mr. Collins, an employee of Darcy's aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. At dinner that night, Darcy confides to Elizabeth that he has fallen in love with her and wants to marry her, but couches the proposal in condescending terms towards her family, and so Elizabeth refuses him. She returns home to find that her sister Lydia has run off with Wickham and the family is in disgrace. Hearing of the incident, Darcy offers to help, and confides in Elizabeth that Wickham betrayed his sister years earlier. Darcy's vulnerability forces Elizabeth to realize that she has fallen in love with him, but her pride prevents her from telling him.

Just as the Bennets are about to leave town, Lydia returns with news that she and Wickham are married, thus restoring the family honor. As the family rejoices, Lady Catherine appears and, after ordering Elizabeth never to see Darcy again, informs her that Darcy has paid Wickham to marry Lydia. Catherine's interrogation clarifies Elizabeth's love for Darcy, and he returns to her just as Charles returns to Jane, and all ends happily.

Photo Collections

Pride and Prejudice - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos of Laurence Olivier, taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM' Pride and Prejudice (1940).
Pride and Prejudice - Publicity Stills
Here are a few photos taken to help publicize MGM's Pride and Prejudice (1940), starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Pride and Prejudice - Scene Stills
Here are several scene stills from MGM's Pride and Prejudice (1940), starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier.
Pride and Prejudice - Movie Poster
Here is an American re-issue one-sheet movie poster for MGM's Pride and Prejudice (1940), starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Period
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jul 26, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (London, 1813), and the play of the same name by Helen Jerome (New York, 5 Nov 1935).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 57m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Award Wins

Best Art Direction

1940

Articles

Pride and Prejudice - The Essentials


SYNOPSIS:

The Bennets are a rural family in early 19th century England with five unmarried daughters, a source of constant worry for the chattering, high-strung Mrs. Bennet. Her concern is that her husband's estate will fall into the hands of his supercilious cousin, Mr. Collins, since the legal entanglements of his will require it to be passed only to male heirs. When some eligible and wealthy young bachelors move into the area, Mrs. Bennet schemes to introduce her daughters, particularly the two oldest, delicately beautiful Jane and the headstrong and witty Elizabeth, to the potential suitors. Jane falls for the charming Mr. Wickham, but Elizabeth is put off by Mr. Darcy, whom she considers cruel and arrogant, despite his growing interest in her. Complications ensue, misunderstandings arise, and the two potential couples must learn to abandon pride and prejudice before they can come together in harmony and trust.

Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Producer: Hunt Stromberg
Screenplay: Jane Murfin, Aldous Huxley, based on the play by Helen Jerome and the novel by Jane Austen
Cinematography: Karl Freund
Editing: Robert Kern
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Original Music: Herbert Stothart
Cast: Greer Garson (Elizabeth Bennet), Laurence Olivier (Mr. Darcy), Mary Boland (Mrs. Bennet), Edmund Gwenn (Mr. Bennet), Edna May Oliver (Lady Catherine), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane Bennet).
BW-118m. Closed captioning.

Why PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is Essential

Hollywood has often shown a lack of respect and reverence for the classic literary materials it plunders from time to time for source material. Characters are altered, sometimes beyond recognition, important storylines truncated or eliminated altogether, complex themes abandoned in favor of surface glamour and mass appeal. And no company of the Studio Era epitomized surface gloss more than MGM. When it announced it would film Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice, devotees of the author's work must have cringed in anticipation of the final product.

Certainly there are things to carp about in the film adaptation of Austen's novel. A movie, any> movie, of a novel must take certain liberties to distill a sprawling story of several hundred pages into two hours or less of screen time, while maintaining a balance between the structural realities of cinematic narrative and the expectations of those familiar with the source material. In this case, liberties were definitely taken. Austen's sharp social satire was softened somewhat in favor of romantic comedy, memorable scenes (such as the key episode at Pemberly) disappeared completely, the period of the story's setting - the late 18th/early 19th century - was pushed forward a few decades to accommodate certain design considerations. Its central character, Elizabeth Bennet, was integrated more smoothly into her period and family life, rather than being depicted, as she was in the book, as a forceful and determined young woman at odds with her society and background. To top it all off, MGM cast in the role an actress whose age, 36, made her more suitable to play Elizabeth's mother than the late adolescent of Austen's imaginings. It shouldn't have worked, but somehow it did.

Reviews at the time of Pride and Prejudice's release seemed almost surprised to note how much of Austen actually made it to the screen, and in a form that was sure to delight even the most casual acquaintance of Austen's work. The fact alone that the script was entrusted to noted screenwriter-playwright Jane Murfin and renowned British writer Aldous Huxley was evidence the studio had higher intentions, and the writers obliged by keeping much of Austen's biting, witty dialogue and convoluted plot intact. Yet the project was lavished with enough of MGM's trademark style to please moviegoers with little or no interest in the original novel. The film's rich, elegant look was created by the studio's roster of A-list designers and technicians under the direction of Robert Z. Leonard. The latter was a MGM contractee who could always be counted on to deliver box office successes with efficiency but without a strong personal style that might obscure the studio's trademark glamour and gloss.

The result may not have been high art, but the success of Pride and Prejudice was enough to cement the American stardom and heartthrob appeal of British actor Laurence Olivier and establish Greer Garson as one of the studio's top leading ladies. The favorable critical reception added to the notion that classics could be adapted with taste without losing their basic appeal and that Jane Austen's work still spoke to modern audiences. Thanks in no small part to MGM's production of Pride and Prejudice - the first feature film version of her book - her writings would become not only more widely read but an important staple of big-budget period films. And more than forty ears later, numerous adaptations of her stories would constitute something of an Austen renaissance.

by Rob Nixon
Pride And Prejudice - The Essentials

Pride and Prejudice - The Essentials

SYNOPSIS: The Bennets are a rural family in early 19th century England with five unmarried daughters, a source of constant worry for the chattering, high-strung Mrs. Bennet. Her concern is that her husband's estate will fall into the hands of his supercilious cousin, Mr. Collins, since the legal entanglements of his will require it to be passed only to male heirs. When some eligible and wealthy young bachelors move into the area, Mrs. Bennet schemes to introduce her daughters, particularly the two oldest, delicately beautiful Jane and the headstrong and witty Elizabeth, to the potential suitors. Jane falls for the charming Mr. Wickham, but Elizabeth is put off by Mr. Darcy, whom she considers cruel and arrogant, despite his growing interest in her. Complications ensue, misunderstandings arise, and the two potential couples must learn to abandon pride and prejudice before they can come together in harmony and trust. Director: Robert Z. Leonard Producer: Hunt Stromberg Screenplay: Jane Murfin, Aldous Huxley, based on the play by Helen Jerome and the novel by Jane Austen Cinematography: Karl Freund Editing: Robert Kern Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Original Music: Herbert Stothart Cast: Greer Garson (Elizabeth Bennet), Laurence Olivier (Mr. Darcy), Mary Boland (Mrs. Bennet), Edmund Gwenn (Mr. Bennet), Edna May Oliver (Lady Catherine), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane Bennet). BW-118m. Closed captioning. Why PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is Essential Hollywood has often shown a lack of respect and reverence for the classic literary materials it plunders from time to time for source material. Characters are altered, sometimes beyond recognition, important storylines truncated or eliminated altogether, complex themes abandoned in favor of surface glamour and mass appeal. And no company of the Studio Era epitomized surface gloss more than MGM. When it announced it would film Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice, devotees of the author's work must have cringed in anticipation of the final product. Certainly there are things to carp about in the film adaptation of Austen's novel. A movie, any> movie, of a novel must take certain liberties to distill a sprawling story of several hundred pages into two hours or less of screen time, while maintaining a balance between the structural realities of cinematic narrative and the expectations of those familiar with the source material. In this case, liberties were definitely taken. Austen's sharp social satire was softened somewhat in favor of romantic comedy, memorable scenes (such as the key episode at Pemberly) disappeared completely, the period of the story's setting - the late 18th/early 19th century - was pushed forward a few decades to accommodate certain design considerations. Its central character, Elizabeth Bennet, was integrated more smoothly into her period and family life, rather than being depicted, as she was in the book, as a forceful and determined young woman at odds with her society and background. To top it all off, MGM cast in the role an actress whose age, 36, made her more suitable to play Elizabeth's mother than the late adolescent of Austen's imaginings. It shouldn't have worked, but somehow it did. Reviews at the time of Pride and Prejudice's release seemed almost surprised to note how much of Austen actually made it to the screen, and in a form that was sure to delight even the most casual acquaintance of Austen's work. The fact alone that the script was entrusted to noted screenwriter-playwright Jane Murfin and renowned British writer Aldous Huxley was evidence the studio had higher intentions, and the writers obliged by keeping much of Austen's biting, witty dialogue and convoluted plot intact. Yet the project was lavished with enough of MGM's trademark style to please moviegoers with little or no interest in the original novel. The film's rich, elegant look was created by the studio's roster of A-list designers and technicians under the direction of Robert Z. Leonard. The latter was a MGM contractee who could always be counted on to deliver box office successes with efficiency but without a strong personal style that might obscure the studio's trademark glamour and gloss. The result may not have been high art, but the success of Pride and Prejudice was enough to cement the American stardom and heartthrob appeal of British actor Laurence Olivier and establish Greer Garson as one of the studio's top leading ladies. The favorable critical reception added to the notion that classics could be adapted with taste without losing their basic appeal and that Jane Austen's work still spoke to modern audiences. Thanks in no small part to MGM's production of Pride and Prejudice - the first feature film version of her book - her writings would become not only more widely read but an important staple of big-budget period films. And more than forty ears later, numerous adaptations of her stories would constitute something of an Austen renaissance. by Rob Nixon

Pop Culture 101: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE


Pride and Prejudice sparked a wider interest in the works of Jane Austen. To tie in to its release, at least five popular-priced editions of the book were printed, including a 25 cent paperback from Pocket Books. By 1948, the novel was so popular, it had gone into 21 printings.

This was not the first filming of Pride and Prejudice. In 1938 it was adapted for the fledgling television medium in England, but considering how few people had access to TV at the time, it was not likely that many people saw it.

The story has been filmed numerous times: a truncated version for American TV in 1949; numerous British television versions, either as single shows or a mini-series, that includes one in 1952 (with Peter Cushing as Mr. Darcy), 1958, 1967, 1980 and the most acclaimed version, with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the leads, in 1995; on Italian TV in 1957 (with the young Virna Lisi as Elizabeth) and Spanish TV in 1966. It also inspired a modern-day U.S. independent film interpretation in 2003, a "Bollywood" version of the story in 2004 (called Bride and Prejudice), and a big budget feature film in 2005 with Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, and Dame Judi Dench as Lady Catherine.

Ever since the MGM version of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's other novels have been popular subjects for film and television, including numerous adaptations of Emma, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Sense and Sensibility. A 1995 film of the latter, directed by Ang Lee, won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar® for Emma Thompson, who also starred in the film.

Several years later, MGM considered doing a musical version, and Sally Benson and Sidney Sheldon took stabs at putting together a script, but no film came about from these efforts. A stage musical entitled First Impressions (Austen's original pre-publication title for her novel) was produced unsuccessfully on Broadway in 1959 with Polly Bergen as Elizabeth, Farley Granger as Darcy and Hermione Gingold as Mrs. Bennet, a role that was expanded from its secondary status in the book to accommodate Gingold, then a major Broadway star. It was based on the same dramatization by Helen Jerome that was used to develop the script for the 1940 film.

The film Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), and the 1996 novel by Helen Fielding on which it is based, deliberately reference elements of Pride and Prejudice. Fielding has stated in interviews that her book was based on Austen's story and the 1995 BBC adaptation. In fact, Colin Firth, who played Darcy in that series, plays a character named Mark Darcy in the Bridget Jones movie, a man whose attitudes and intentions are misunderstood by Bridget until she lets go of her preconceptions, learns his true nature, and recognizes him as the man she really loves. Furthermore, the film's screenplay was co-written by Andrew Davies, who wrote the BBC adaptation of Austen's novel.

by Rob Nixon

Pop Culture 101: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

Pride and Prejudice sparked a wider interest in the works of Jane Austen. To tie in to its release, at least five popular-priced editions of the book were printed, including a 25 cent paperback from Pocket Books. By 1948, the novel was so popular, it had gone into 21 printings. This was not the first filming of Pride and Prejudice. In 1938 it was adapted for the fledgling television medium in England, but considering how few people had access to TV at the time, it was not likely that many people saw it. The story has been filmed numerous times: a truncated version for American TV in 1949; numerous British television versions, either as single shows or a mini-series, that includes one in 1952 (with Peter Cushing as Mr. Darcy), 1958, 1967, 1980 and the most acclaimed version, with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the leads, in 1995; on Italian TV in 1957 (with the young Virna Lisi as Elizabeth) and Spanish TV in 1966. It also inspired a modern-day U.S. independent film interpretation in 2003, a "Bollywood" version of the story in 2004 (called Bride and Prejudice), and a big budget feature film in 2005 with Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, and Dame Judi Dench as Lady Catherine. Ever since the MGM version of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's other novels have been popular subjects for film and television, including numerous adaptations of Emma, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Sense and Sensibility. A 1995 film of the latter, directed by Ang Lee, won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar® for Emma Thompson, who also starred in the film. Several years later, MGM considered doing a musical version, and Sally Benson and Sidney Sheldon took stabs at putting together a script, but no film came about from these efforts. A stage musical entitled First Impressions (Austen's original pre-publication title for her novel) was produced unsuccessfully on Broadway in 1959 with Polly Bergen as Elizabeth, Farley Granger as Darcy and Hermione Gingold as Mrs. Bennet, a role that was expanded from its secondary status in the book to accommodate Gingold, then a major Broadway star. It was based on the same dramatization by Helen Jerome that was used to develop the script for the 1940 film. The film Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), and the 1996 novel by Helen Fielding on which it is based, deliberately reference elements of Pride and Prejudice. Fielding has stated in interviews that her book was based on Austen's story and the 1995 BBC adaptation. In fact, Colin Firth, who played Darcy in that series, plays a character named Mark Darcy in the Bridget Jones movie, a man whose attitudes and intentions are misunderstood by Bridget until she lets go of her preconceptions, learns his true nature, and recognizes him as the man she really loves. Furthermore, the film's screenplay was co-written by Andrew Davies, who wrote the BBC adaptation of Austen's novel. by Rob Nixon

Trivia & Fun Facts About PRIDE AND PREJUDICE


Promoted with the anachronistic tagline "Bachelors Beware! Five Gorgeous Beauties are on a Madcap Manhunt!", Pride and Prejudice drew the largest weekly attendance for August at New York's Radio City Music Hall in 1940.

Discovered by Louis B. Mayer when she was working on the London stage, Greer Garson was signed to an MGM contract and made her Hollywood debut in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). She quickly rose to major stardom at the studio, and became the epitome of noble British womanhood in the face of war in her Oscar®-winning role in Mrs. Miniver (1942). Her top film stardom did not last into the next decade, but she remained a respected actress on stage, television and the occasional film role into the 1980s. She died in 1996 at the age of 91.

Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier had worked together twice prior to Pride and Prejudice. She played Juliet to his Romeo in one of the earliest BBC television transmissions. And in 1935, he produced and directed a play called Golden Arrow, casting Garson and predicting stardom for her in an opening night speech.

Pride and Prejudice was the last in a string of highly successful American film appearances for Olivier during the roughly two-year period that he and Vivien Leigh spent in the U.S. They returned to England in 1941, and he did not make another Hollywood picture until Carrie (1952), although in the interim he won Academy Awards for his production of Hamlet (1948) and his performance in the lead.

In spite of his determination to have wife Vivien Leigh cast opposite him in Pride and Prejudice and several other pictures he made during their first stay in Hollywood (when she played Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, 1939), Olivier only appeared with her in three British-produced films: Fire Over England (1937), 21 Days (1940), and That Hamilton Woman (1941). Their tempestuous relationship began in the 1930s when they were still married to others and lasted until the dissolution of their marriage in 1960.

Robert Z. Leonard's directing career began in 1914. In the 1930s, he became one of MGM's most dependable directors, churning out productions for many of its biggest stars, including Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Greer Garson, Lana Turner, and several Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy operettas. Never considered a great cinema artist, he nevertheless could be counted on to make hit movies quickly and efficiently in the patented high-gloss MGM style. He also had some success with guiding performers to some of their best work, receiving Oscar® nominations for his direction of two stars in roles that won them Academy Awards: Norma Shearer in The Divorcee (1930) and Luise Rainer in The Great Ziegfeld (1936).

Jane Murfin was a popular playwright in the 1920s (usually in collaboration with Jane Cowl) and a busy and talented screenwriter in the following two decades. Among her better-known scripts were those for Alice Adams (1935) and The Women (1939). She and Adela Rogers St. Johns shared an Academy Award nomination for their work on What Price Hollywood? (1932), a prototype for the much-filmed A Star Is Born story.

Co-scripter Aldous Huxley is far better known for his novels, many of them social satires, and his influence on the mysticism and drug culture of the 1960s. His most famous work is the cautionary futuristic thriller Brave New World, which was filmed twice for television, in 1980 and 1998. In 1937 he left his native England for work in Hollywood, where he contributed to screenplays for Madame Curie (1943, with Greer Garson), Jane Eyre (1944), and the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland (1951) for which he was uncredited. Pride and Prejudice was his first screenwriting credit.

Innovative cinematographer Karl Freund started his career in Germany in 1912, providing the memorable photography to a number of great films by such master directors as F.W. Murnau (The Last Laugh, 1924) and Fritz Lang (Metropolis, 1927). He came to Hollywood in 1929 and soon built an impressive list of credentials: Dracula (1931), The Good Earth (1937), Golden Boy (1939), A Guy Named Joe (1943). He also directed a handful of movies, including The Mummy (1932) and Mad Love (1935). In the 1950s, he developed the three-camera system for shooting television shows, revolutionizing the industry through his work on the landmark sitcom I Love Lucy.

Marsha Hunt, who plays the awkward, bookworm sister Mary, made her film debut in 1935 and played a number of good supporting roles in major films and leads in B movies through the 1940s. Her career was derailed in the 50s by the Hollywood blacklist but she survived due to a great deal of television work over the decades. At nearly 90, she appeared in the independent film Chloe's Prayer (2006). Hunt is also the honorary mayor of Sherman Oaks, California.

Scottish-born actress Frieda Inescourt, who plays the snobbish Caroline Bingley, had a long and busy career between 1935 and 1961, despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis since 1932.

Rumor has it that American comic Phil Silvers "screen-tested" for a minor role in this film, not knowing it was a cruel prank by studio executives.

Memorable Quotes from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE:

MRS. BENNET (Mary Boland): Five thousand pounds [annual income] and unmarried. That's the most heartening piece of news since the Battle of Waterloo.

MR. BENNET (Edmund Gwenn): You mistake me, my dear. I have the highest respect for your nerves. I have heard you mention them with consideration for the past 20 years.

MRS. BENNET: Look at them! Five of them without dowries. What's to become of them?
MR. BENNET: Yes, what is to become of the miserable wretches? Perhaps we should have drowned some of them at birth.

MR. DARCY (Laurence Olivier): I am in no humor tonight to give consequence to the middle classes at play.

MR. DARCY: I have made the mistake of being honest with you.
ELIZABETH (Greer Garson): Honesty is a greatly overrated virtue. Silence in this case would have been more agreeable.

MRS. BENNET: To think we have to feed the man who will snatch the bread from our mouths.

ELIZABETH: If you want to be really refined, you have to be dead. There's no one as dignified as a mummy.

MR. COLLINS (Melville Cooper): What graciousness, what condescension.
ELIZABETH: What snobbery.

MR. BENNET: An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins. And I will never see you again if you do.

LADY CATHERINE (Edna May Oliver): I've never met a painter or an architect who didn't admire me for my taste.

LADY CATHERINE: Insolent, headstrong girl! ... I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. I send no compliments to your mother. You deserve no such attention. I am seriously displeased.

MRS. BENNET: Think of it. Three of them married and the other two just tottering on the brink!

Compiled by Rob Nixon

Trivia & Fun Facts About PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

Promoted with the anachronistic tagline "Bachelors Beware! Five Gorgeous Beauties are on a Madcap Manhunt!", Pride and Prejudice drew the largest weekly attendance for August at New York's Radio City Music Hall in 1940. Discovered by Louis B. Mayer when she was working on the London stage, Greer Garson was signed to an MGM contract and made her Hollywood debut in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). She quickly rose to major stardom at the studio, and became the epitome of noble British womanhood in the face of war in her Oscar®-winning role in Mrs. Miniver (1942). Her top film stardom did not last into the next decade, but she remained a respected actress on stage, television and the occasional film role into the 1980s. She died in 1996 at the age of 91. Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier had worked together twice prior to Pride and Prejudice. She played Juliet to his Romeo in one of the earliest BBC television transmissions. And in 1935, he produced and directed a play called Golden Arrow, casting Garson and predicting stardom for her in an opening night speech. Pride and Prejudice was the last in a string of highly successful American film appearances for Olivier during the roughly two-year period that he and Vivien Leigh spent in the U.S. They returned to England in 1941, and he did not make another Hollywood picture until Carrie (1952), although in the interim he won Academy Awards for his production of Hamlet (1948) and his performance in the lead. In spite of his determination to have wife Vivien Leigh cast opposite him in Pride and Prejudice and several other pictures he made during their first stay in Hollywood (when she played Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, 1939), Olivier only appeared with her in three British-produced films: Fire Over England (1937), 21 Days (1940), and That Hamilton Woman (1941). Their tempestuous relationship began in the 1930s when they were still married to others and lasted until the dissolution of their marriage in 1960. Robert Z. Leonard's directing career began in 1914. In the 1930s, he became one of MGM's most dependable directors, churning out productions for many of its biggest stars, including Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Greer Garson, Lana Turner, and several Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy operettas. Never considered a great cinema artist, he nevertheless could be counted on to make hit movies quickly and efficiently in the patented high-gloss MGM style. He also had some success with guiding performers to some of their best work, receiving Oscar® nominations for his direction of two stars in roles that won them Academy Awards: Norma Shearer in The Divorcee (1930) and Luise Rainer in The Great Ziegfeld (1936). Jane Murfin was a popular playwright in the 1920s (usually in collaboration with Jane Cowl) and a busy and talented screenwriter in the following two decades. Among her better-known scripts were those for Alice Adams (1935) and The Women (1939). She and Adela Rogers St. Johns shared an Academy Award nomination for their work on What Price Hollywood? (1932), a prototype for the much-filmed A Star Is Born story. Co-scripter Aldous Huxley is far better known for his novels, many of them social satires, and his influence on the mysticism and drug culture of the 1960s. His most famous work is the cautionary futuristic thriller Brave New World, which was filmed twice for television, in 1980 and 1998. In 1937 he left his native England for work in Hollywood, where he contributed to screenplays for Madame Curie (1943, with Greer Garson), Jane Eyre (1944), and the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland (1951) for which he was uncredited. Pride and Prejudice was his first screenwriting credit. Innovative cinematographer Karl Freund started his career in Germany in 1912, providing the memorable photography to a number of great films by such master directors as F.W. Murnau (The Last Laugh, 1924) and Fritz Lang (Metropolis, 1927). He came to Hollywood in 1929 and soon built an impressive list of credentials: Dracula (1931), The Good Earth (1937), Golden Boy (1939), A Guy Named Joe (1943). He also directed a handful of movies, including The Mummy (1932) and Mad Love (1935). In the 1950s, he developed the three-camera system for shooting television shows, revolutionizing the industry through his work on the landmark sitcom I Love Lucy. Marsha Hunt, who plays the awkward, bookworm sister Mary, made her film debut in 1935 and played a number of good supporting roles in major films and leads in B movies through the 1940s. Her career was derailed in the 50s by the Hollywood blacklist but she survived due to a great deal of television work over the decades. At nearly 90, she appeared in the independent film Chloe's Prayer (2006). Hunt is also the honorary mayor of Sherman Oaks, California. Scottish-born actress Frieda Inescourt, who plays the snobbish Caroline Bingley, had a long and busy career between 1935 and 1961, despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis since 1932. Rumor has it that American comic Phil Silvers "screen-tested" for a minor role in this film, not knowing it was a cruel prank by studio executives. Memorable Quotes from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: MRS. BENNET (Mary Boland): Five thousand pounds [annual income] and unmarried. That's the most heartening piece of news since the Battle of Waterloo. MR. BENNET (Edmund Gwenn): You mistake me, my dear. I have the highest respect for your nerves. I have heard you mention them with consideration for the past 20 years. MRS. BENNET: Look at them! Five of them without dowries. What's to become of them? MR. BENNET: Yes, what is to become of the miserable wretches? Perhaps we should have drowned some of them at birth. MR. DARCY (Laurence Olivier): I am in no humor tonight to give consequence to the middle classes at play. MR. DARCY: I have made the mistake of being honest with you. ELIZABETH (Greer Garson): Honesty is a greatly overrated virtue. Silence in this case would have been more agreeable. MRS. BENNET: To think we have to feed the man who will snatch the bread from our mouths. ELIZABETH: If you want to be really refined, you have to be dead. There's no one as dignified as a mummy. MR. COLLINS (Melville Cooper): What graciousness, what condescension. ELIZABETH: What snobbery. MR. BENNET: An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins. And I will never see you again if you do. LADY CATHERINE (Edna May Oliver): I've never met a painter or an architect who didn't admire me for my taste. LADY CATHERINE: Insolent, headstrong girl! ... I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. I send no compliments to your mother. You deserve no such attention. I am seriously displeased. MRS. BENNET: Think of it. Three of them married and the other two just tottering on the brink! Compiled by Rob Nixon

The Big Idea


Jane Austen's second sharply drawn comedy of manners, Pride and Prejudice (originally titled First Impressions), was published anonymously (a standard practice for female authors in that period) in 1813; some scholars actually place the date of its authorship nearly 20 years earlier. Although sometimes mistaken for a Romantic writer, Austen, in fact, was a keen observer of the social structures of her time, particularly the predicament of unmarried genteel English women in the face of inheritance laws and customs that dictated the bulk of a family's fortune must go to male heirs. Her work was well received in its day and enjoyed praise from such notable writers as Sir Walter Scott, Thomas Macaulay, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Austen was also a favorite of the Prince Regent and her ranking by critics and scholars as one of England's greatest writers has kept her work constantly in the public and academic eye.

Playwright Helen Jerome specialized in stage adaptations of literary classics. Her version of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre toured in 1936 and 37, with Katharine Hepburn in the lead. A year earlier, her adaptation of Pride and Prejudice ran on Broadway for 219 performances. The theatrical version stayed fairly faithful to Austen's novel, which in its style and structure lent itself readily to dramatization.

MGM production chief Irving Thalberg originally bought the rights to Jerome's play in January 1936 for $50,000. The book was by then in the public domain and could have been filmed for free. Thalberg, however, felt that the general public was no longer familiar with the book, and hoped to cash in on the publicity generated by the play and its purchase as a possible vehicle for his wife, Norma Shearer. After Katharine Cornell had a great stage success with a revival of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Thalberg shifted his attention to that play as Shearer's next project and the Austen project was temporarily put on a back burner.

According to Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan, Harpo Marx was the one who suggested to Thalberg that he buy the rights after seeing the play on Broadway.

While Shearer's name was still attached to the project, MGM announced it would be produced with Clark Gable as Mr. Darcy. With Shearer on a six-month vacation in Europe, the studio handed Jerome's play over to Victor Heerman and Sarah Y. Mason, the husband and wife team that had recently written successful adaptations of Golden Boy (1939) and Stella Dallas (1937). But Thalberg died before the movie went into production, and Shearer was no longer in the running.

At various times Robert Donat, Robert Taylor and Melvyn Douglas were considered for the role of Darcy. By the time the project was approved for filming, Laurence Olivier was the only one considered for the part. The young British actor had recently established himself in Hollywood with impressive work in Wuthering Heights (1939) and Rebecca (1940).

Olivier wanted his soon-to-be wife Vivien Leigh as his co-star, a choice supported by director Robert Z. Leonard. Although Leigh had just made a big splash as Scarlett O'Hara, Mayer decided to cast his discovery Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennett. Mayer first saw Garson on stage in London and put her under contract. Her first MGM role was as the title character's wife in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), and she made a favorable enough impression on audiences to lead MGM into giving her a big star build-up.

As many as nine other writers were brought in to work on the script of Pride and Prejudice before MGM hired veteran writer Jane Murfin and famed British novelist Aldous Huxley, who had recently moved to California.

Huxley was less than hopeful about the outcome, writing to one friend that the task was "an odd, crossword puzzle job. One tries to do one's best for Jane Austen, but actually the very fact of transforming the book into a picture must necessarily alter its whole quality in a profound way."

Scholars analyzing the process of adapting literature to film have noted that Austen's novel, with its absence of metaphorical language in favor of direct clarity of story, its omniscient point of view, and dependency on dialogue to reveal character were all ideally suited to the task of transferring the story to the screen.

by Rob Nixon

The Big Idea

Jane Austen's second sharply drawn comedy of manners, Pride and Prejudice (originally titled First Impressions), was published anonymously (a standard practice for female authors in that period) in 1813; some scholars actually place the date of its authorship nearly 20 years earlier. Although sometimes mistaken for a Romantic writer, Austen, in fact, was a keen observer of the social structures of her time, particularly the predicament of unmarried genteel English women in the face of inheritance laws and customs that dictated the bulk of a family's fortune must go to male heirs. Her work was well received in its day and enjoyed praise from such notable writers as Sir Walter Scott, Thomas Macaulay, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Austen was also a favorite of the Prince Regent and her ranking by critics and scholars as one of England's greatest writers has kept her work constantly in the public and academic eye. Playwright Helen Jerome specialized in stage adaptations of literary classics. Her version of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre toured in 1936 and 37, with Katharine Hepburn in the lead. A year earlier, her adaptation of Pride and Prejudice ran on Broadway for 219 performances. The theatrical version stayed fairly faithful to Austen's novel, which in its style and structure lent itself readily to dramatization. MGM production chief Irving Thalberg originally bought the rights to Jerome's play in January 1936 for $50,000. The book was by then in the public domain and could have been filmed for free. Thalberg, however, felt that the general public was no longer familiar with the book, and hoped to cash in on the publicity generated by the play and its purchase as a possible vehicle for his wife, Norma Shearer. After Katharine Cornell had a great stage success with a revival of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Thalberg shifted his attention to that play as Shearer's next project and the Austen project was temporarily put on a back burner. According to Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan, Harpo Marx was the one who suggested to Thalberg that he buy the rights after seeing the play on Broadway. While Shearer's name was still attached to the project, MGM announced it would be produced with Clark Gable as Mr. Darcy. With Shearer on a six-month vacation in Europe, the studio handed Jerome's play over to Victor Heerman and Sarah Y. Mason, the husband and wife team that had recently written successful adaptations of Golden Boy (1939) and Stella Dallas (1937). But Thalberg died before the movie went into production, and Shearer was no longer in the running. At various times Robert Donat, Robert Taylor and Melvyn Douglas were considered for the role of Darcy. By the time the project was approved for filming, Laurence Olivier was the only one considered for the part. The young British actor had recently established himself in Hollywood with impressive work in Wuthering Heights (1939) and Rebecca (1940). Olivier wanted his soon-to-be wife Vivien Leigh as his co-star, a choice supported by director Robert Z. Leonard. Although Leigh had just made a big splash as Scarlett O'Hara, Mayer decided to cast his discovery Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennett. Mayer first saw Garson on stage in London and put her under contract. Her first MGM role was as the title character's wife in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), and she made a favorable enough impression on audiences to lead MGM into giving her a big star build-up. As many as nine other writers were brought in to work on the script of Pride and Prejudice before MGM hired veteran writer Jane Murfin and famed British novelist Aldous Huxley, who had recently moved to California. Huxley was less than hopeful about the outcome, writing to one friend that the task was "an odd, crossword puzzle job. One tries to do one's best for Jane Austen, but actually the very fact of transforming the book into a picture must necessarily alter its whole quality in a profound way." Scholars analyzing the process of adapting literature to film have noted that Austen's novel, with its absence of metaphorical language in favor of direct clarity of story, its omniscient point of view, and dependency on dialogue to reveal character were all ideally suited to the task of transferring the story to the screen. by Rob Nixon

Behind the Camera


During production, Olivier was distracted by plans for a stage production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. He occupied his thoughts off camera with every detail of the production: blocking, lighting, set design and the total look of the play. He also took lessons in music composition and began composing motifs and flourishes for the stage production. It delighted him that he and Vivien would finally be acting together and capitalizing on their off-screen romance, after their efforts to co-star in Hollywood films had been repeatedly thwarted.

Olivier wanted Leigh to appear opposite him in Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, (1939), and Rebecca (1940); Leigh hoped he could play opposite her in Waterloo Bridge (1940) instead of Robert Taylor. They had to return to England for Alexander Korda's costume epic That Hamilton Woman (1941) before they got the chance. As for Romeo and Juliet, it was an unmitigated critical and commercial disaster and their plans for a film version never materialized.

Olivier was less than thrilled with Pride and Prejudice after production began, certain it would be a flop and complaining that key scenes were missing and that more attention was lavished on the costumes than the actors.

Although Austen's novel was set in Regency England (late 18th-early 19th century), the period was set at a later time. This anachronism has been explained in a couple of ways. Those more favorably disposed to the studio system claim the styles of the Regency Period (when women's dresses resembled nightgowns) were thought too plain for public taste, so new gowns were created in the voluminous Victorian style of the 1830s to give it a more romantic flair. Others have pointed out that because MGM wasn't willing to put a huge budget behind the risky venture, costumes left over from Gone with the Wind (1939) were altered slightly and placed on background players to save money. New gowns in the same flouncy style were designed for the female leads.

Co-star Marsha Hunt, who played one of the Bennet sisters, noted that the gowns were difficult to maneuver in the narrow restroom stalls of the studio soundstage during brief bathroom breaks.

Because so many English people worked on the picture, 4:00 p.m. tea breaks were a daily ritual.

Key characters from Austen's novel underwent changes during scripting, filming and editing. To avoid the Production Code taboo against portraying the clergy in a negative light, the theological occupation of the Bennets' hypocritical, toadying cousin Mr. Collins was considerably downplayed. Either to provide a more upbeat tone to the ending or to accommodate the sort of character most often associated with the actress Edna May Oliver, the haughty and forbidding Lady Catherine de Bourgh was portrayed as a comic figure; her final visit to Elizabeth is presented as merely a ruse to test the girl's feelings for Darcy. Finally, the last scene, contrary to the novel, shows all the Bennet girls on the verge of marriage.

Film scholars have noted that the production also made excellent use of several dance sequences to advance the story and provide an active, visual metaphor for the approach/avoidance dance of Elizabeth's and Darcy's relationship.

by Rob Nixon

Behind the Camera

During production, Olivier was distracted by plans for a stage production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. He occupied his thoughts off camera with every detail of the production: blocking, lighting, set design and the total look of the play. He also took lessons in music composition and began composing motifs and flourishes for the stage production. It delighted him that he and Vivien would finally be acting together and capitalizing on their off-screen romance, after their efforts to co-star in Hollywood films had been repeatedly thwarted. Olivier wanted Leigh to appear opposite him in Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, (1939), and Rebecca (1940); Leigh hoped he could play opposite her in Waterloo Bridge (1940) instead of Robert Taylor. They had to return to England for Alexander Korda's costume epic That Hamilton Woman (1941) before they got the chance. As for Romeo and Juliet, it was an unmitigated critical and commercial disaster and their plans for a film version never materialized. Olivier was less than thrilled with Pride and Prejudice after production began, certain it would be a flop and complaining that key scenes were missing and that more attention was lavished on the costumes than the actors. Although Austen's novel was set in Regency England (late 18th-early 19th century), the period was set at a later time. This anachronism has been explained in a couple of ways. Those more favorably disposed to the studio system claim the styles of the Regency Period (when women's dresses resembled nightgowns) were thought too plain for public taste, so new gowns were created in the voluminous Victorian style of the 1830s to give it a more romantic flair. Others have pointed out that because MGM wasn't willing to put a huge budget behind the risky venture, costumes left over from Gone with the Wind (1939) were altered slightly and placed on background players to save money. New gowns in the same flouncy style were designed for the female leads. Co-star Marsha Hunt, who played one of the Bennet sisters, noted that the gowns were difficult to maneuver in the narrow restroom stalls of the studio soundstage during brief bathroom breaks. Because so many English people worked on the picture, 4:00 p.m. tea breaks were a daily ritual. Key characters from Austen's novel underwent changes during scripting, filming and editing. To avoid the Production Code taboo against portraying the clergy in a negative light, the theological occupation of the Bennets' hypocritical, toadying cousin Mr. Collins was considerably downplayed. Either to provide a more upbeat tone to the ending or to accommodate the sort of character most often associated with the actress Edna May Oliver, the haughty and forbidding Lady Catherine de Bourgh was portrayed as a comic figure; her final visit to Elizabeth is presented as merely a ruse to test the girl's feelings for Darcy. Finally, the last scene, contrary to the novel, shows all the Bennet girls on the verge of marriage. Film scholars have noted that the production also made excellent use of several dance sequences to advance the story and provide an active, visual metaphor for the approach/avoidance dance of Elizabeth's and Darcy's relationship. by Rob Nixon

The Critics Corner: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE


Pride and Prejudice won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction, Black-and-White for Cedric Gibbons and Paul Groesse. The latter is likely more responsible for the film's look, but thanks to a clause in his contract with Metro, art department head Gibbons was credited on every picture, even though the art direction was usually handled by subordinates.

"The whole thing has been accomplished through a steady flow of superlative wit-most of it out of the novel and some of it supplied by Aldous Huxley and Jane Murfin-which puts a snapper on almost every scene; and also through a consistently artful inventiveness of detail and a keen appreciation of the subtleties of Miss Austen's characters. It isn't often that a cast of such uniform perfection is assembled. ... Pictures played in costume often have an artificial air. But for pure charm and romantic diversion, for bubbling and wholesome life, we most heartily recommend this exquisite comedy about the elegant young gentleman who was proud and the beautiful young lady who was prejudiced. Both are as real as any two young people you know today."
– Bosley Crowther, New York Times, August 9, 1940.

"Some of the most literate dialogue ever spoken on a soundtrack. ... From the moment when [Olivier] as Mr. Darcy walks into a ballroom in provincial Meryton with a memorable sneer, the picture is in."
– Time, July 29, 1940.

"Animated and bouncing, the movie is more Dickens than Austen; once one adjusts to this, it's a happy and carefree viewing experience."
– Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies (Henry Holt and Co., 1984).

"May well make Austenites quiver at its infidelities and occasional insensitivities (not to mention the perhaps inevitable blurring of the subtler social ironies), but [it] is surprisingly dry and droll. Aldous Huxley's contribution to the script undoubtedly helped, but it is the cast which carries it: marvellous performances all round, with Garson's cool prejudice perfectly matched against Olivier's chill pride."
– Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide (Penguin Books, 2000).

"As a film it possesses little of general interest, except as a co-starring vehicle for Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. Any novel which survives more than a century possesses unusual qualities, and Pride and Prejudice qualifies chiefly because of the characterization of Elizabeth Bennet...In the screenplay she is trimmed to fit into a yarn about a family, rather than about an unusual and courageous girl. In consequence, the film is something less than satisfactory entertainment, despite lavish settings, costumes, and an acting ensemble of unique talent."
- Variety Movie Guide.

"Typically overstuffed MGM prestige product, but one that came out surprisingly well, with a minimum of Eng. Lit. posturing and some elegance of design." – Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader.

"You may perhaps know that this city has suffered badly from air raids but we still have some cinemas left, and to see a packed audience enjoying Pride and Prejudice so much was most heartening. I do thank you very much as well as all the actors and actresses for your share in what has given so much pleasure to us."
– London resident Betty Howard in a letter to director Robert Z. Leonard, February 10, 1941.

Compiled by Rob Nixon

The Critics Corner: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

Pride and Prejudice won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction, Black-and-White for Cedric Gibbons and Paul Groesse. The latter is likely more responsible for the film's look, but thanks to a clause in his contract with Metro, art department head Gibbons was credited on every picture, even though the art direction was usually handled by subordinates. "The whole thing has been accomplished through a steady flow of superlative wit-most of it out of the novel and some of it supplied by Aldous Huxley and Jane Murfin-which puts a snapper on almost every scene; and also through a consistently artful inventiveness of detail and a keen appreciation of the subtleties of Miss Austen's characters. It isn't often that a cast of such uniform perfection is assembled. ... Pictures played in costume often have an artificial air. But for pure charm and romantic diversion, for bubbling and wholesome life, we most heartily recommend this exquisite comedy about the elegant young gentleman who was proud and the beautiful young lady who was prejudiced. Both are as real as any two young people you know today." – Bosley Crowther, New York Times, August 9, 1940. "Some of the most literate dialogue ever spoken on a soundtrack. ... From the moment when [Olivier] as Mr. Darcy walks into a ballroom in provincial Meryton with a memorable sneer, the picture is in." – Time, July 29, 1940. "Animated and bouncing, the movie is more Dickens than Austen; once one adjusts to this, it's a happy and carefree viewing experience." – Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies (Henry Holt and Co., 1984). "May well make Austenites quiver at its infidelities and occasional insensitivities (not to mention the perhaps inevitable blurring of the subtler social ironies), but [it] is surprisingly dry and droll. Aldous Huxley's contribution to the script undoubtedly helped, but it is the cast which carries it: marvellous performances all round, with Garson's cool prejudice perfectly matched against Olivier's chill pride." – Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide (Penguin Books, 2000). "As a film it possesses little of general interest, except as a co-starring vehicle for Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. Any novel which survives more than a century possesses unusual qualities, and Pride and Prejudice qualifies chiefly because of the characterization of Elizabeth Bennet...In the screenplay she is trimmed to fit into a yarn about a family, rather than about an unusual and courageous girl. In consequence, the film is something less than satisfactory entertainment, despite lavish settings, costumes, and an acting ensemble of unique talent." - Variety Movie Guide. "Typically overstuffed MGM prestige product, but one that came out surprisingly well, with a minimum of Eng. Lit. posturing and some elegance of design." – Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader. "You may perhaps know that this city has suffered badly from air raids but we still have some cinemas left, and to see a packed audience enjoying Pride and Prejudice so much was most heartening. I do thank you very much as well as all the actors and actresses for your share in what has given so much pleasure to us." – London resident Betty Howard in a letter to director Robert Z. Leonard, February 10, 1941. Compiled by Rob Nixon

Pride and Prejudice (1940)


MGM production chief Irving Thalberg had bought the rights to a stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty novel about romance threatened by class differences in 19th-century England, as a vehicle for his wife, Norma Shearer. Thalberg's sudden death in 1936 put the project on hold, although Louis B. Mayer considered following through with Shearer and Clark Gable, Melvyn Douglas or Robert Donat in the leads. Somewhere along the way, it was decided that George Cukor would direct. Then there was a switch in leading ladies, from Shearer to Greer Garson'either because Shearer withdrew or, according to other sources, Mayer decided the plum part should go to his new protegee. As it turned out, the movie set Garson firmly on the path toward becoming Shearer's successor as MGM's reigning "Great Lady."

Laurence Olivier, fresh from his successes in Wuthering Heights (1939) and Rebecca (1940), signed on as Garson's co-star reluctantly, because he was convinced that Vivien Leigh (whom he married in 1940) was the ideal leading lady. Olivier was further dismayed when Cukor, Leigh's favored director from Gone With the Wind (1939), was taken off Pride and Prejudice to direct Joan Crawford in Susan and God (1940). But the new director, Robert Z. Leonard, rose to the occasion and, with the benefit of a script polished by famed British novelist Aldous Huxley, turned Pride and Prejudice into a sparkling success. Huxley later claimed that he had accepted the assignment only for the money, and that his salary not only supported him in the U.S. for a year but allowed him to send funds to needy friends in England during World War II.

Production Designer Cedric Gibbons, winner of 37 Academy Award nominations and a dozen of the awards, including one for Pride and Prejudice (1940), was the man who designed the Oscar' statuette back in 1928. Louis B. Mayer, Gibbons' boss at MGM, had come up with the idea of creating an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As Academy members prepared to present their first awards on May 26, 1929, Mayer assigned Gibbons the task of creating the award itself. During an Academy board meeting, as he listened to members discussing the five branches of their organization, Gibbons sketched his idea for the statuette: a naked man plunging a sword into a reel of film, with the five holes in the reel representing the Academy branches. Gibbons, considered by many the movies' most important and production designer, ruled over the design offices of MGM for decades, with his name appearing on some 1500 films'many of which he served in a supervisory capacity. But his own original designs were many and influential.

Gibbons shared his Oscar® win for Pride and Prejudice's black and white art direction with Paul Groesse, one of his outstanding associates. Groesse also partnered Gibbons in Oscar® wins for The Yearling (1946) and Little Women (1949). Gibbons' other Oscar®-winning production designs include those for The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1929), The Merry Widow (1935), Gaslight (1944) and Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956).

Producer: Hunt Stromberg
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Screenplay: Jane Murfin, Aldous Huxley, from Jane Austen novel
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse
Cinematography: Karl W. Freund
Editing: Robert J. Kern
Costume Design: Adrian, Gile Steele
Original Music: Robert J. Kern
Cast: Greer Garson (Elizabeth Bennet), Laurence Olivier (Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy), Mary Boland (Mrs. Bennet), Edna May Oliver (Lady Catherine de Bourgh), Edmund Gwenn (Mr. Bennet), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane Bennet), Ann Rutherford (Lydia Bennet), Melville Cooper (Mr. Collins).
BW-118m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Roger Fristoe

Pride and Prejudice (1940)

MGM production chief Irving Thalberg had bought the rights to a stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty novel about romance threatened by class differences in 19th-century England, as a vehicle for his wife, Norma Shearer. Thalberg's sudden death in 1936 put the project on hold, although Louis B. Mayer considered following through with Shearer and Clark Gable, Melvyn Douglas or Robert Donat in the leads. Somewhere along the way, it was decided that George Cukor would direct. Then there was a switch in leading ladies, from Shearer to Greer Garson'either because Shearer withdrew or, according to other sources, Mayer decided the plum part should go to his new protegee. As it turned out, the movie set Garson firmly on the path toward becoming Shearer's successor as MGM's reigning "Great Lady." Laurence Olivier, fresh from his successes in Wuthering Heights (1939) and Rebecca (1940), signed on as Garson's co-star reluctantly, because he was convinced that Vivien Leigh (whom he married in 1940) was the ideal leading lady. Olivier was further dismayed when Cukor, Leigh's favored director from Gone With the Wind (1939), was taken off Pride and Prejudice to direct Joan Crawford in Susan and God (1940). But the new director, Robert Z. Leonard, rose to the occasion and, with the benefit of a script polished by famed British novelist Aldous Huxley, turned Pride and Prejudice into a sparkling success. Huxley later claimed that he had accepted the assignment only for the money, and that his salary not only supported him in the U.S. for a year but allowed him to send funds to needy friends in England during World War II. Production Designer Cedric Gibbons, winner of 37 Academy Award nominations and a dozen of the awards, including one for Pride and Prejudice (1940), was the man who designed the Oscar' statuette back in 1928. Louis B. Mayer, Gibbons' boss at MGM, had come up with the idea of creating an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As Academy members prepared to present their first awards on May 26, 1929, Mayer assigned Gibbons the task of creating the award itself. During an Academy board meeting, as he listened to members discussing the five branches of their organization, Gibbons sketched his idea for the statuette: a naked man plunging a sword into a reel of film, with the five holes in the reel representing the Academy branches. Gibbons, considered by many the movies' most important and production designer, ruled over the design offices of MGM for decades, with his name appearing on some 1500 films'many of which he served in a supervisory capacity. But his own original designs were many and influential. Gibbons shared his Oscar® win for Pride and Prejudice's black and white art direction with Paul Groesse, one of his outstanding associates. Groesse also partnered Gibbons in Oscar® wins for The Yearling (1946) and Little Women (1949). Gibbons' other Oscar®-winning production designs include those for The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1929), The Merry Widow (1935), Gaslight (1944) and Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956). Producer: Hunt Stromberg Director: Robert Z. Leonard Screenplay: Jane Murfin, Aldous Huxley, from Jane Austen novel Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse Cinematography: Karl W. Freund Editing: Robert J. Kern Costume Design: Adrian, Gile Steele Original Music: Robert J. Kern Cast: Greer Garson (Elizabeth Bennet), Laurence Olivier (Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy), Mary Boland (Mrs. Bennet), Edna May Oliver (Lady Catherine de Bourgh), Edmund Gwenn (Mr. Bennet), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane Bennet), Ann Rutherford (Lydia Bennet), Melville Cooper (Mr. Collins). BW-118m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video. by Roger Fristoe

Motion Picture Masterpieces - MOTION PICTURE MASTERPIECES - 5 MGM Favorites on DVD Including "David Copperfield" & "Pride and Prejudice"


Motion Picture Masterpieces, a five-disc DVD set from Warner Home Video, has a misleading title. Although its five MGM productions are based on great novels, none of the movies are equally great, and only a couple come anywhere near masterpiece quality. The set is fun to watch, and fans of MGM's lavish 1930s style will have a ball. (This could have been called a Cedric Gibbons Festival, since he did the art direction for every film.) But it's also a reminder that the best screen adaptations usually come from second-rate books-and even tenth-rate ones-that filmmakers aren't afraid to tamper with for cinematic purposes.

Hollywood's first movie version of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Robert Z. Leonard and released in 1940, has never been topped. One reason is superb production work by art director Cedric Gibbons, costume designers Adrian and Gile Steele, and cinematographer Karl Freund, who forgoes his German Expressionist roots to capture exquisite images of England in the early 19th century. The film's other big triumph is its cast, topped by Greer Garson as lively, lovely Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Olivier as her prideful suitor Mr. Darcy, an ideal role that elicited one of his most restrained and refined performances. The movie adds gimmicky episodes for visual excitement-a carriage race, an archery contest-and sugar-coats the ending. But it's terrific entertainment anyway.

Marie Antoinette, directed by W.S. Van Dyke in 1938, turns the MGM design team loose on the sumptuous Versailles Palace in 18th-century France, where our heroine copes with a hapless husband, falls for a Swedish aristocrat, outgrows youthful irresponsibility to become a compassionate queen, and faces the guillotine after the French Revolution erupts. Norma Shearer is excellent in the title role. Tyrone Power plays the underwritten Count Axel with elegance and charm. And many scenes get stolen by Robert Morley as the Dauphin, a tragicomic character who's heading for the throne but can't figure out how to consummate his marriage. This opulent production is more conventional than the 2006 remake by Sofia Coppola, but just as absorbing. MGM had a flair for the French Revolution, giving it even stronger treatment in Jack Conway's marvelous 1935 version of Charles Dickens's novel A Tale of Two Cities, starring Ronald Colman as the self-sacrificing hero. It's also in the Masterpieces set.

It's hard to beat the story of Treasure Island, with brave young Jim Hawkins setting sail on a pirate-infested ship in search of the legendary Captain Flint's buried hoard of gold and jewels. The best asset of MGM's uneven 1934 version is the supporting cast, especially Nigel Bruce as likable Squire Trelawney and Lionel Barrymore as Captain Billy Bones, the rowdy buccaneer who sets the tale in motion. The leads are less impressive, owing to MGM's not-so-great idea of re-teaming the stars of The Champ, a big hit three years earlier. Jackie Cooper expostulates "Bless my soul!" so often you want to hang him from the yardarm, and Wallace Beery makes Long John Silver more cuddly than a self-respecting pirate would ever want to be. The adventure was directed by Victor Fleming, and there's little to suggest he was just five years away from putting his signature on Gone With the Wind in 1939.

The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, & Observation of David Copperfield, the Younger, released in 1935, has always gotten extra points for featuring W.C. Fields as Mr. Micawber, a role he was born to play. In other respects, though, this is one of Hollywood's weaker Charles Dickens adaptations, and one of George Cukor's least memorable directing achievements. Picturesque posing carries more weight than sharp character sketching, and the atmosphere of Victorian England rarely comes alive. Solid work by Basil Rathbone and Jessie Ralph, as Mr. Murdstone and Nurse Peggotty, is overshadowed by lackluster acting from the likes of Roland Young and Lewis Stone, whose Uriah Heep and Mr. Wickfield make sadly wan impressions. Even the inimitable Fields gets weighed down by the screenplay, which cares more about the novel's catch-phrases than the context they need. What should have been a sparkling comedy-drama becomes a period piece that seems longer than its title, which at least has a truly Dickensian ring.

Each of the five Motion Picture Masterpieces discs has offbeat DVD extras. Some are connected with the features-versions of David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities made for 1930s radio-but the most fascinating are unrelated MGM shorts and animations from the period. Shorts like Two Hearts in Wax Time, about a drunk and a pair of mannequins, and The Spectacle Maker, about a magic monocle, are so bizarre it's hard to imagine what the filmmakers could have been thinking of. Ditto for a cartoon like Poor Little Me, starring Stinky, a skunk. There's also an "oddity" from Pete Smith that will make you look at stunt bowling in a whole new way, if you've ever looked at it in the first place. Singular items like these are worth the DVD price by themselves.

For more information about Motion Picture Masterpieces, visit Warner Video. To order Motion Picture Masterpieces, go to TCM Shopping.

by Mikita Brottman and David Sterritt

Motion Picture Masterpieces - MOTION PICTURE MASTERPIECES - 5 MGM Favorites on DVD Including "David Copperfield" & "Pride and Prejudice"

Motion Picture Masterpieces, a five-disc DVD set from Warner Home Video, has a misleading title. Although its five MGM productions are based on great novels, none of the movies are equally great, and only a couple come anywhere near masterpiece quality. The set is fun to watch, and fans of MGM's lavish 1930s style will have a ball. (This could have been called a Cedric Gibbons Festival, since he did the art direction for every film.) But it's also a reminder that the best screen adaptations usually come from second-rate books-and even tenth-rate ones-that filmmakers aren't afraid to tamper with for cinematic purposes. Hollywood's first movie version of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Robert Z. Leonard and released in 1940, has never been topped. One reason is superb production work by art director Cedric Gibbons, costume designers Adrian and Gile Steele, and cinematographer Karl Freund, who forgoes his German Expressionist roots to capture exquisite images of England in the early 19th century. The film's other big triumph is its cast, topped by Greer Garson as lively, lovely Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Olivier as her prideful suitor Mr. Darcy, an ideal role that elicited one of his most restrained and refined performances. The movie adds gimmicky episodes for visual excitement-a carriage race, an archery contest-and sugar-coats the ending. But it's terrific entertainment anyway. Marie Antoinette, directed by W.S. Van Dyke in 1938, turns the MGM design team loose on the sumptuous Versailles Palace in 18th-century France, where our heroine copes with a hapless husband, falls for a Swedish aristocrat, outgrows youthful irresponsibility to become a compassionate queen, and faces the guillotine after the French Revolution erupts. Norma Shearer is excellent in the title role. Tyrone Power plays the underwritten Count Axel with elegance and charm. And many scenes get stolen by Robert Morley as the Dauphin, a tragicomic character who's heading for the throne but can't figure out how to consummate his marriage. This opulent production is more conventional than the 2006 remake by Sofia Coppola, but just as absorbing. MGM had a flair for the French Revolution, giving it even stronger treatment in Jack Conway's marvelous 1935 version of Charles Dickens's novel A Tale of Two Cities, starring Ronald Colman as the self-sacrificing hero. It's also in the Masterpieces set. It's hard to beat the story of Treasure Island, with brave young Jim Hawkins setting sail on a pirate-infested ship in search of the legendary Captain Flint's buried hoard of gold and jewels. The best asset of MGM's uneven 1934 version is the supporting cast, especially Nigel Bruce as likable Squire Trelawney and Lionel Barrymore as Captain Billy Bones, the rowdy buccaneer who sets the tale in motion. The leads are less impressive, owing to MGM's not-so-great idea of re-teaming the stars of The Champ, a big hit three years earlier. Jackie Cooper expostulates "Bless my soul!" so often you want to hang him from the yardarm, and Wallace Beery makes Long John Silver more cuddly than a self-respecting pirate would ever want to be. The adventure was directed by Victor Fleming, and there's little to suggest he was just five years away from putting his signature on Gone With the Wind in 1939. The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, & Observation of David Copperfield, the Younger, released in 1935, has always gotten extra points for featuring W.C. Fields as Mr. Micawber, a role he was born to play. In other respects, though, this is one of Hollywood's weaker Charles Dickens adaptations, and one of George Cukor's least memorable directing achievements. Picturesque posing carries more weight than sharp character sketching, and the atmosphere of Victorian England rarely comes alive. Solid work by Basil Rathbone and Jessie Ralph, as Mr. Murdstone and Nurse Peggotty, is overshadowed by lackluster acting from the likes of Roland Young and Lewis Stone, whose Uriah Heep and Mr. Wickfield make sadly wan impressions. Even the inimitable Fields gets weighed down by the screenplay, which cares more about the novel's catch-phrases than the context they need. What should have been a sparkling comedy-drama becomes a period piece that seems longer than its title, which at least has a truly Dickensian ring. Each of the five Motion Picture Masterpieces discs has offbeat DVD extras. Some are connected with the features-versions of David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities made for 1930s radio-but the most fascinating are unrelated MGM shorts and animations from the period. Shorts like Two Hearts in Wax Time, about a drunk and a pair of mannequins, and The Spectacle Maker, about a magic monocle, are so bizarre it's hard to imagine what the filmmakers could have been thinking of. Ditto for a cartoon like Poor Little Me, starring Stinky, a skunk. There's also an "oddity" from Pete Smith that will make you look at stunt bowling in a whole new way, if you've ever looked at it in the first place. Singular items like these are worth the DVD price by themselves. For more information about Motion Picture Masterpieces, visit Warner Video. To order Motion Picture Masterpieces, go to TCM Shopping. by Mikita Brottman and David Sterritt

Quotes

"... and her sisters Jane and Elizabeth were seen running down Market Street in an attempt to escape their disgrace." Isn't that exquisitely funny Mr. Darcy?
- Caroline Bingley
Exquisitely. Just think how you would roar with laughter if it happened to yourself.
- Mr. Darcy
You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.
- Mr. Darcy
An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins. And I will never see you again if you do.
- Mr. Bennett
Well, we're hoping Elizabeth can manage to catch a cold of her own and stay long enough to get engaged to Mr. Darcy. Then, if a good snowstorm could be arranged, we'd send Kitty over. But if a young man should happen to be in the house -- a young man who likes singing, of course, who can discuss philosophy -- Mary could go. Then, if a dashing young soldier in a handsome uniform should appear for Lydia, everything would be perfect, my dear.
- Mr. Bennet
Has anybody heard how Jane is this morning?
- Lydia Bennet
Eh, Mr. Bingley sent a note over by his groom. She's much better. Such a happy idea of mine sending her off in the rain.
- Mrs. Bennet
Yes, but to Jane must go all the credit for having caught the cold, my dear.
- Mr. Bennet

Trivia

Notes

According to a 1936 Daily Variety news item, production on M-G-M's Pride and Prejudice was initially scheduled to begin in October 1936 under Irving G. Thalberg's supervision, with Clark Gable and Norma Shearer in the leading roles. Following the death of Thalberg on September 13, 1936, pre-production activity on the film appears to have been halted. Trade paper reports of the production's progress resumed in mid-1937, when Hollywood Reporter announced that Shearer wanted M-G-M to borrow Errol Flynn from Warner Bros. to co-star with her. In August 1939, Hollywood Reporter announced that George Cukor would direct Robert Donat opposite Shearer, and that M-G-M was considering making the film in England. The start of the war in Europe in September 1939 soon caused the closure of M-G-M's operations in England, however. Cukor, according to Hollywood Reporter, was replaced by Robert Z. Leonard because of a scheduling conflict with his assignment on Susan and God (see below).
       A biography of Laurence Olivier notes that M-G-M considered pairing Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable for the leading roles, based on their success in Gone With the Wind, and discussed the idea with producer David O. Selznick. Gable, however, turned down the role of Darcy because, modern sources note, he felt that he was not suited to the part. Olivier's biography also indicates that M-G-M picked Robert Taylor as its next choice, but Taylor was unavailable after being cast in Waterloo Bridge (see below). According to his autobiography, Olivier accepted the lead role in Pride and Prejudice with the understanding that Leigh was to be his co-star and that George Cukor would direct. Leigh wanted the part and tried to convince Cukor to keep her in the film, but the studio decided to have her co-star with Taylor in Waterloo Bridge. An Olivier biography claims that the decision to replace Leigh was made by M-G-M studio head Louis B. Mayer, who was allegedly advised by Selznick to pull her from the film fearing that her affair with Olivier, who was married to Jill Esmond at the time, would generate unwanted publicity and harm the film's commercial success. Olivier and Leigh were married in 1940 after divorcing their respective spouses. In his autobiography, Olivier is quoted as saying "I was very unhappy with the picture. It was difficult to make Darcy into anything more than an unattractive-looking prig, and darling Greer seemed to me all wrong as Elizabeth."
       Although Hollywood Reporter production charts list actors Halliwell Hobbes and Jane Drummond in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been determined. M-G-M took several liberties with Jane Austen's novel, among them moving the time period of the story forty years ahead. According to modern sources, this was done in order to allow for more ornate costumes. Pride and Prejudice won an Academy Award for Best Black and White Art Direction. The first dramatization of the Austen novel opened in London on March 24, 1922 and starred Mary Jerrold, Joyce Carey and Ben Webster.
       Many subsequent stage adaptations of the novel have been produced, including one directed by Robert Sinclair that opened in New York on November 5, 1935 and starred Adrienne Allen and Colin Keith-Johnson, and one entitled First Impressions (Austen's original title for Pride and Prejudice), directed by Abe Burrows, which opened in New York on March 19, 1959 with Polly Bergen and Farley Granger starring. Although Hollywood Reporter reported in October 1947 that M-G-M producer Arthur Freed was preparing a musical version of the film, that film was never produced.
       There have been many film and television adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, among them a January 23, 1949 NBC television network broadcast of a Philco Playhouse dramatization starring Madge Evans and John Baragrey; a PBS network five-part Masterpiece Theater series of Fay Weldon's adaptation of Austen's novel which aired its first episode on a October 23, 1980 and starred Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul; a 1995 A&E Television Networks Inc. and BBC mini-series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle and directed by Simon Langton; an Indian film titled Bride and Prejudice, directed by Gurinder Chadha and starring Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson was released in 2004. Another adaptation starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden and directed by Joe Wright is scheduled for release in late 2005.