Pride and Prejudice (1940)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Comedy of Manners, Romantic Comedy  |   Run Time - 117 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Dan Jardine

Pride and Prejudice is a moderately faithful re-telling of Jane Austen's best-known novel. The protagonists are appropriately composed in the pre-Victorian England setting, championing Austen's rebellion against what she saw as the excessive emotionalism and romantic world view of the literature of her time. Austen's aim of puncturing holes in the snootiness of upper-middle class figures is retained in Aldous Huxley's screenplay and Robert Leonard's occasionally stiff direction. The unlikely romance of the leads, played conventionally but effectively by the attractive pair of Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson, evolves from contempt to understanding to affection, retaining a modern appeal in its focus on illusory first impressions and the follies of personal pride and class prejudice. Sometimes Leonard gets the details wrong -- the costumes and sets seem more at home in a late Victorian setting than in Austen's early 19th century -- but the overall effect is truthful, transporting us to a world different from but related to our own. The gentle satire of Austen's novel sits quietly, just beneath the surface, only to rise up and take the occasional bite out of offending characters at opportune moments.