This great black and white movie is one I had never seen before and I was delighted to finally do so. Released in July in 1940, it is based on the Jane Austen book of the same name (1813), and is filmed on a rather grand scale with sweeping views of the English countryside, wonderfully costumed balls, and lots of vintage carriages with handsome horses and liveried servants. It is the story of the Bennet family, landed gentry with five daughters who, according to the laws of entailment, cannot inherit from their father — the house and property must be inherited by the nearest male member of the family, in this case, a cousin. When two wealthy bachelors arrive in town, it becomes Mrs. Bennet’s (Mary Boland) fervent aim to land them for her two eldest daughters, Elizabeth (Greer Garson) and Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan).
The two bachelors in question, Mr. Bingley (Bruce Lester) who has rented the estate next to the Bennet’s, and Mr. Darcy (Laurence Olivier) his good friend and nephew to Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Edna May Oliver), patroness of the cousin, a Mr. Collins (Melville Cooper). Cooper sets his sights on Elizabeth, who in her turn is drawn to Mr. Darcy, who in turn, Lady Catherine has desired to have marry her own daughter. Of course, Elizabeth finds Mr. Darcy to be full of pride, whereas she has developed a prejudice against him for overheard remarks about the countrified folks of the area.
It is a wonderful comedy of manners and customs from another time, full of misunderstandings, rescued morality, and flamboyant costumes. It has inspired acting and subtle satire that makes it unique for its time. Truly a classic movie in every sense of the word. I’ve never read Jane Austen but between this movie and The Jane Austen Book Club (seen on Netflix recently), I’m definitely motivated to do so. A great movie! * * * * *