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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Film Adaptation of a Classic

Pride and Prejudice (1940) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Cupid's dartIn a dress shop in old England, in the village of Meryton, circa 1796, under the discriminating gaze of one Mrs. Bennet (Mary Boland), her five daughters Mary Bennet (Marsha Hunt), Elizabeth Bennet (Greer Garson), Lydia Bennet (Ann Ruther­ford), Jane Bennet (Maureen O'Sullivan), and Kitty Bennet (Heather Angel) are trying on new gowns for the Assembly Ball (“People of fashion like these.”) Two liveried carriages suddenly pull up out­side in a flurry capturing their attention. Why, it's the new tenants of Nether­field Park: wealthy Mr. Bingley (Bruce Lester) and wealthier still Mr. Darcy (Laurence Olivier.)

Mr. Bennet (Edmund Gwenn) and his wife having these “five grown up daughters … all ignorant and foolish like most girls” are most anxious to fob them off on suit­able husbands before the master dies. His estate is other­wise entailed to his odd­ball cousin Mr. Collins (Melville Cooper) for, “by law it must go to a male heir.” While Mr. Bennet is “so dis­grace­fully undis­crimin­ating he seems able to enjoy him­self in any company,” Elizabeth soon discovers Mr. Darcy to be a bit standoffish towards his under­lings, which puts the kibosh on their bud­ding boy-girl relations. His pride towards her and her prejudice towards him can have secondary effects on other liaisons as well.


The book on which this film is based opens with the line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” That corresponds best to, (Eccl. 4:7-8) “Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun. There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.” The movie develops a sympathy for a marital outcome.

The dances provide opportunity for single men and women to meet and get to know each other a bit. They danced the waltz, the polka mazurka, and the high­land reel. This last was characterized as, “Such a gay dance!” but they all were. Indeed the levity carried over to such a gay marriage that the “flibberti­gibbet” who found herself giddily wed couldn't be bothered to look five years down the road, just to each day to be enjoyed is it comes along. As Solomon advised a man to, (Eccl. 9:9) “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.”

This is better than the girl who “eloped,” i.e. ran away with her fellow, with­out benefit of getting married to him. This was scandalous in a way an elopement with marriage was not. A modern analogy would be that marriage between an eligible man and woman is accepted in stride, whether they've run away or not. But a marriage between same-sex partners is prone to scandal even if their state has been forced to legalize it. In 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the states' bans against same-sex marriage was pseudo-unconsti­tutional—marriage isn't actually mentioned in the Constitution. To quote from the “Catholic Sentinel” of July 3, 2015 (15):

The main opinion recognized in several places the role of religious beliefs in the questions surrounding same-sex marriage. Kennedy said toward the conclusion of his 28-page opinion that “it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

The First Amendment ensures protection for religious organizations and individuals as they seek to teach the principles “that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths,” he continued, and to “their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.”

The legalization of same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court is not proof against scandal; indeed, it all but guarantees it. Similarly, a couple at the time of this movie who ran away to live with each other, with­out an actual marriage, is likely to cause scandal. As for gay marriage, we've always had that; there's no law against being happy.

Production Values

” (1940) was directed by Robert Z. Leonard. Its screenplay writers were Aldous Huxley and Jane Murfin, using Helen Strong's dramatization of Jane Austen's 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice. It stars Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier, and Mary Boland. The actors are too long in the tooth to represent the characters in the novel, but they all did such a superb job that I won't hold their age against them. Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier made a hand­some couple in the end.

Its ratings are USA Certificate: Approved; Australia: G; Australia: PG (TV rating); Canada: G (video rating); Canada: PG (video rating.) The costumes and camera-work were very nice. The cinema­tog­raphy by Karl Freund was first rate for his time. The dance music was lively. Settings and costumes were some­times adapted from “Gone With the Wind” left­overs, but I couldn't tell. All the technicolor film at MGM was used up making the latter, so this one was shot in black and white.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

The novel was a social satire, which in the movie became a romcom to make it palatable to wide general audiences. It worked well at that level. If you want to see its serious side, read the book. The movie was well balanced for its own milieu.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent dance action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for all ages. Special effects: Average special effects. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.