Saturday, January 22, 2011

Daughter's of Jane: P&P in Black and White

Since my spate as an undergraduate student has come to a close, I can no longer hold an undergrad position at the UGL. Besides significantly trimming down my income, not being an SA has also curtailed my browsing of the UGL's media collection, which is very impressive. You never know what goodies you'll find whilst shelving.

Pride and Prejudice (1940 film)Image via Wikipedia
A case in point is the main subject of this post: the 1940 film version of Pride and Prejudice, starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, as well as one of my favorite character actors: Melville Cooper (best known as the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood).  Also, Aldous Huxley wrote the screenplay. Yes, the man who wrote Brave New World was also a prolific screen writer for TV and Hollywood.  It was a decent adaptation of the film, even for Hollywood.  As usual Austen's dialog was preserved with lines like Mr. Bennet's:
"An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. Your mother will never see you again if you don not Marry Mr. Collins. And I will never see you again if you do."
and Mr. Darcy's:
"You must allow me to tell you how much I admire and love you."
The characterization was also done very well.  Mrs. Bennet, played by Mary Boland, is exquisite in her overly conniving and blatant attempts to marry off her daughters and Edna May Oliver, as Lady Catherine de Bourgh is wonderful, though I still prefer Barbara Leigh-Hunt.  The one horrible job was Olivier as Darcy.  He was just too wishy-washy and definitely not nearly as socially awkward as he should be.

From there, the adaptation starts to deteriorate. Though the plot deviates from the original in some small ways toward the beginning of the film, the major divergences happen after Elizabeth's rejection of Mr. Collins.  Let's hit the highlights and, by the way, SPOILER ALERT!
  • Mr. Collins is Lady Catherine's librarian, not a clergy man.
  • The Bingley's throw a garden party instead of a ball.
  • The Gardners, the visit to Pemberly, and actually seeing Georgiana were completely cut.
  • Mr. Darcy tells Elizabeth about Wickham in person, not by letter.
  • Lydia and Wickham elope from Meryton, not Brighton.
  • Darcy doesn't just find the love birds and get Wickham a commission; instead, he finds them and gives them a fortune. (How unjust is that! I prefer the ending in which they are miserable and poor for the rest of their lives.)
  • Mary and Kitty find men during the very last scene.
  • And perhaps the biggest twist: Lady Catherine visits Elizabeth as Darcy's "ambassador" aka MATCHMAKER! (It was a shock to me too.)
Also, the film just comes off as very abrupt and lacks the subtlety of the Regency customs and manners.  Everything, like how ruinous Lydia's actions and how "inferior" the Bennets are to Darcy, is either explained outright or so completely over-acted that it is impossible not to see how horrible the situation actually is.

Bennet girls in hoop skirts and puffed sleevesImage via Wikipedia
Besides these errors (and some would same calamitous transgressions by Mr. Huxley), I found the most distracting part was the costuming.  Even though Mrs. Bennet mentions the Battle of Waterloo at one point, the dresses seem more mid-century (see photo to the right), as in Gone With the Wind.  It's just not right.

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1 comment:

  1. wow aldous huxley?? i don't know if i can stomach watching this after reading your post...