Pride and Prejudice 1940 and 2005 Revisited

Pride and Prejudice 1940 and 2005 Revisited

Although this post was made three weeks in advance, I just finished watching ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with Greer Garson and Sir Laurence Olivier from 1940. It really is a hoot, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. What I found interesting is that there are some similarities between the 1940 and 2005 films.

Greer Garson and Sir Laurence Olivier

Both movies have some mistakes and anachronisms but are very enjoyable in spite of them. And the essence of Jane Austen’s book still comes through. I love both of these movie versions of her classic but for different reasons.

Greer Garson was one of my favorite actresses. Her role in ‘Random Harvest’ was so poignant and so well done that this was my favorite film until the 2005. Now, I have these two tied for my all-time favorite.

Presuming Elizabeth is not an archer

In the 1940 version, Ms. Garson was the epitome of Elizabeth Bennet with teeth in her wit and beauty as well.  Two scenes that I will remember are when she was running away from Mr. Collins, and the one where she triumphed over Mr. Darcy with a bow and arrow and her impertinence.

Bow and arrow you say? Yes, and if you’ve never seen the 1940 version, I heartily recommend it. All of the actors did a marvelous job especially Edmund Gwenn as Mr. Bennet and Edna May Oliver who played Lady Catherine de Bourgh to a T: haughty, arrogant, and demanding. Believe it or not, she was even more tart-tongued than Lizzy. In fact, Ms. Oliver was known for playing characters with that trait.

Edmund Gwenn as Mr. Bennet

Edna May Oliver as Lady Catherine de Bourgh

Again, just as with the 2005 version, the 1940 movie had time constraints. Thus, the plot came forth with some changes of scenes and dialogue in unexpected places. But it still got the job done. Purists, feel free to disagree.

Sir Laurence Olivier did a credible job though he wasn’t given much to say until toward the end. He made a fairly sexy Darcy though I still lean toward Matthew Macfadyen in that department. Colin Firth? Perhaps, I would find him so in another role, but I didn’t with him as Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Elizabeth refusing to dance with Darcy


Oh, I will say I love the men’s’ clothes from that era. And Olivier wore them very well! However, Colonel Fitzwilliam in a kilt was just wrong, wrong, wrong. Don’t know where they came up with that.

Mary Boland as Mrs. Bennet

I also enjoyed Mary Boland as Mrs. Bennet. Yes, Mrs. Bennet is an irritating, pushy, obnoxious person, and that’s how Ms. Boland portrayed her. She and Brenda Blethyn did the part justice, however, the one in the 1995 version was way too over the top even for Austen’s character. A little bit of her is way too much.

In this post, I didn’t try to add the BBC’s 1995 version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as I have not seen all of it. What I’ve seen so far, I thought was okay but not spectacular. That opinion may not hold when I watch the entire series, probably in two sessions. I do want to be fair before I get too critical about it. Who knows? I may end up loving it.

Now, as to the changes made to the 1940 version, these are just my observations. Although the ladies’ costumes were lovely, they were anachronistic as was the waltz that was danced at Netherfield. Also, for poor people, the Bennet’s still lived in a very nice big house with nice clothes and had a stable with a fancy landau carriage which was used to pass Lady Lucas’ carriage on the road while in a race to see who would get home first with the news of Mr. Bingley. That was probably the most outlandish added scene as carriage accidents were often fatal. However, it did get across the competitive nature of Mrs. Bennet and Lady Lucas’ friendship.

Some were critical of the fact that Olivier and Garson were older than Elizabeth and Darcy. To me, that didn’t matter. They made a handsome couple and added to the movie quite well. I did appreciate that Mr. and Mrs. Bennet seemed about the right age, in their 40’s rather than 50’s to 70’s. That’s the only objection I had to Donald Sutherland as his Mr. Bennet would have married around age 40. Otherwise, I thought he did a great job. Since Jane Austen didn’t mention his age, I’m not going to worry about it. 🙂

Kissing her hand before kissing her lips

Another thing that these two versions have in common is an American ending. Now, I know that my British friends might object, but living in Texas I like at least one good kissing scene. And I love the American ending of the 2005 film. I can’t help it if I’m a hopeless romantic. Sigh!

I have also seen several scenes from the 1967 version but the quality of the film is very poor. This, I think, would be a likable one as well if I could find a good copy. Anyone know where one is available?

The 1980 version is also a very interesting one, and I just ordered a copy. Will let you know what I think.


Garson Obituary

1980 Stigmatized

1967 version

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Sheila L. Majczan
Sheila L. Majczan
February 9, 2017 5:11 PM

I have all the versions: even the one set in Mormon country. The 1940 version for me was the wrong costumes on people of older ages than the book. No way is Greer Garson a 20 year old girl. But it was enjoyable just as a romantic movie. The part I most remember is the bird cage and Lady C. sitting on it!

Carol hoyt
Carol hoyt
January 24, 2017 8:06 PM

I have this! Now I plan on rewatching it . I tend to laugh at it more than study it!
So, I’ll give it another try.

Gianna Thomas
January 24, 2017 11:29 PM
Reply to  Carol hoyt

I’ll be watching it again as well, Carol. It is a fun one. 🙂

J. W. Garrett
J. W. Garrett
January 24, 2017 9:19 AM

I have seen most of the P&P movies a dozen times. I collect the DVD versions like some women collect jewelry. I love the 40’s version. The quirky characters are a hoot and the costumes are a scream. How many different ways can you trim a dress or a hat. I loved that part. I think this version has a most excellent Caroline Bingley although Anna Chancellor [95] squeaks ahead in her smarmy-ness.

The 80’s version was closer to canon dialogue than others, and my all time favorite has to be the 95 version. I think everyone has their favorite scenes from whichever version they are watching. That dance scene with Kira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen was superb. Let’s not forget his hero moment as he walked across the meadow in the morning fog [sigh]. I loved that Mrs. Darcy kiss at the end [double sigh]. Many liked the Firth’s wet shirt scene [though not correct], extra sigh… oh well. I’m not even going anywhere near the Zombie movie. That was just wrong.

One of these days, someone is going to get it right on all points, and that, my friends will be quite a movie. I hope I live to see it. Thanks for the post. It got my day off to a good start. You got me to thinking and, when I googled the variations, was surprised at how many I didn’t know existed…interesting.

Gianna Thomas
January 24, 2017 9:37 AM
Reply to  J. W. Garrett

You’re welcome, J. W. I agree that we have favorite scenes. Yours from the 2005 are mine also. I’ve also decided we’ll never get a completely accurate one because Hollywood always has to change them up for whatever reason. I was surprised at the BBC adding a wet t-shirt scene to the 1995 though. But sexy sells more than accuracy. What it boils down to, I think, is that all the versions are enjoyable for various reasons. Now, you’ve got me wanting to see them again. Have a wonderful day. 🙂

January 24, 2017 7:27 AM

Gianna, I just caught your post. I have been so busy getting my latest book ready to publish, I only just now looked up from my desk. I must revisit this version, as at one time I idolized Olivier. Looking at photos they are a bit of a shock—romantic—but very Gone with the Wind. (I am one of the 1995 adoring fans.) But this is a fun look back at how films were made a zillion years ago. I am guessing since this was at the brink of WWII, fabric may have been scarce, and they borrowed the costumes from Scarlet O’Hara. GWTW was filmed in 1939. Perhaps they reached in the studio wardrobe, grabbed some gowns, and said…”These will do. No one will notice.” 🙂 Thank you for a fun post.

Diana J Oaks
January 24, 2017 6:39 PM
Reply to  barbsilkstone

I’m going to nose my way into this part of the conversation, because there are several connections between GWTW and the P&P production. The biggest one is that P&P was supposed to be a color film, but all the Technicolor film on the market had been purchased up for GWTW by David O. Selsnick and due to scheduling and casting constraints, P&P filming couldn’t wait for more to be available so they had to shoot it in black and white in spite of lavish costumes and sets. Second (of course) is that Olivier was having a rather overt affair with Vivien Leigh, although both were married to other people at the time. Vivien was even considered for the role of Elizabeth Bennet, but they passed her over for Greer Garson, because the studio didn’t want to cast Olivier and Leigh as a romantic couple, fearing negative publicity because of the affair. Third – as you speculated, due to budget considerations, they did borrow costumes from GWTW for P&P – they re-trimmed them and put them on background characters only. The female leads got new gowns that were designed to be complimentary in style.

Gianna Thomas
January 24, 2017 11:34 PM
Reply to  Diana J Oaks

Thanks for the extra information, Diana. It’s amazing when you find out why Hollywood has done something a certain way. I knew about Olivier and Leigh but didn’t know their affair was about the time of filming Pride and Prejudice. Awkward timing, I must say. 🙂

Gianna Thomas
January 24, 2017 9:23 AM
Reply to  barbsilkstone

You’re welcome, Barb. I also thought of budget concerns and Gone With the Wind costumes. In fact, in the scene where she rejects Darcy, she wore a beautiful gown that we see again in the second proposal scene as well. I don’t recall that a costume was seen twice in a movie even though in real life we would wear an outfit more than one time. You will enjoy another look at the 1940’s version. In some respects it’s more a variation but a fun one anyway.

Georgina Young-Ellis
January 23, 2017 5:43 PM

I haven’t seen the 1940s version but I will now! I can see from your pictures that the women’s costumes are more mid-1800s than early – I wonder why the costumers would make that choice? Anyway, great post – lots of fun! 🙂

Gianna Thomas
January 23, 2017 11:32 PM

Thank you, Georgina. And who knows why movie makers change things. Budget, maybe? Anyway, I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s more like a variation. But it is fun.

Teresa Broderick
Teresa Broderick
January 23, 2017 4:53 PM

The 1980 version is my absolute favorite. I thought David Rintoul was excellent in the part. Haven’t seen all the 1940 version so can’t comment on that. Greer Garson was a great actress. Loved her in Mrs Miniver.

Gianna Thomas
January 23, 2017 11:40 PM

Thank you, Teresa. I think I’ll like the 1980 as well. And, yes, Greer Garson was a great actress. Amazon does have the 1940 version if you need a copy.

January 23, 2017 11:04 AM

The 1940 version is still my favorite because it’s the first one I ever watched. I love it even though it’s not perfect, and I always picture them as D&E when I’m reading the variations.

Gianna Thomas
January 23, 2017 12:36 PM
Reply to  Anna

It was the first one I saw as well, Anna. The 2005 was the second. I do like both. Neither is perfect, but they get the point across. And I do like Matthew Macfadyen. 🙂

January 23, 2017 9:40 AM

I enjoy both. My biggest ‘issue’ with them is that I think they rush through the later parts of the book. After the disastrous proposal, most versions that are made into film seem to speed up a bit, leaving more out than they did before that point. While I appreciate everything can’t be included, I would like more balance, is all.

Gianna Thomas
January 23, 2017 12:38 PM
Reply to  summerhanford

I agree, Summer. I wish both had allotted more time to the story as well.

Jennifer Redlarczyk
Jennifer Redlarczyk
January 23, 2017 9:37 AM

I particularly like the 1940 since it was my first P&P. I would have loved it if they could have included more scenes. 1980 Elizabeth Garvey truly had Elizabeth’s fine eyes plus she could sing. 1967 was great fun revisiting those clips. Thanks. Jen Red

Jennifer Redlarczyk
Jennifer Redlarczyk
January 23, 2017 9:39 AM

PS David Rintoul was s wooden stick. Sorry Dave…

Gianna Thomas
January 23, 2017 12:40 PM

He’s not the only one, Jennifer. But I am looking forward to watching the 1980 and 1967 versions.

January 23, 2017 9:34 AM

I love 1940 version as well. Greer Garson plays Elizabeth with grace and liveliness. Oliver is a little too much of a dandy, but he is still great. The archery scene is one of my favorite as well. Mrs. Garson favorite movie of mine is Mrs. Miniver.

The 1980 BBC version is exactly like Anji said. It gives a bit of a feeling of a stage performance. Elizabeth Garvie is very ladylike, and David Rintoul has Darcy’s stature. I agree, that he is a bit wooden, but they fit the description from the book best.

Gianna Thomas
January 23, 2017 12:44 PM
Reply to  KateB

I’m with you, Kate. The archery scene is my favorite. It’s not in the book, but Darcy needed a put down for his high-handed way of treating Elizabeth. They both did a good job of acting. And I’ll make it a point to watch the 1980 version soon.

January 23, 2017 8:19 AM

The 1940 version was the first version I watched and I was very young when I saw it. It began my love affair with Jane Austen so it will always be important to me. One thing that will always stick out to me is the movie’s ending and how surprised I was that not all the sisters were paired off at the end of the book.

Gianna Thomas
January 23, 2017 12:48 PM
Reply to  darcybennett

I’m delighted the 1940 version started your love affair with Jane Austen. It’s not 100% accurate, but I think it helped a lot of people become acquainted with Jane Austen and her writings. However, they did change how Lady Catherine accepted Darcy’s choice which I did find fascinating.

January 23, 2017 8:19 AM

It may be time for me to view these classic films soon. Thank you for this wonderful post!

Gianna Thomas
January 23, 2017 1:08 PM
Reply to  carylkane

You’re welcome, Caryl. I had fun watching the 1940 movie again as I have always loved Greer Garson. And, yeah, Olivier did a good job too. I think you’ll enjoy the different versions also. This was a fun post for me, and I’ll probably do one on the 1980 version as well. Look for it in a couple of months as I have not one but two books to finish over the next month or so. 🙂

January 23, 2017 2:41 AM

I’ve only seen the ending of the 1940 version and I’m afraid it didn’t tempt me to try and buy it but if it comes on tv again I will watch it. I love the 2005 film very much and my only complaint is why I have to go to the bonus section of my UK DVD to get the kissing scene. Surely if anyone in the UK objected to it?????? they could stop it at that point. I really must disagree about the 1995 version as I do love this and Colin so much so that I watch all 6 hours of it whenever it’s on tv and I have the DVDs although I must admit to feeling the same about Mrs Bennet. I don’t think I have seen the 1967 version but I have seen the 1980 one however I really don’t like David Rintoul? as Darcy so won’t watch that again. Thanks for this post Gisnna and I do hope you enjoy the 1995 version if you ever watch it in full.

January 23, 2017 2:45 AM
Reply to  Glynis

Sorry about the spelling error with your name Gianna!!!

Gianna Thomas
January 23, 2017 12:55 PM
Reply to  Glynis

Not a problem, Glynis. I will watch the 1995 version in full because I want to check out the impression I got of Colin’s performance and make sure that I still feel the same about it. I will enjoy it, but the 2005 may still remain my favorite. What little I did see of the 1980 and David Rintoul is that he did come across as very proud and haughty. Anyway, it’ll be fun to compare the different versions when I’ve seen all of them. Will let you all know what I think.

January 23, 2017 2:25 AM

I’m so glad you appreciate the 1940 version, Gianna. If it wasn’t for seeing it on TV in the 1960s, I may never have discovered the works of Austen at all. As it was, I checked the book out of my school library the next day and apart from being slightly disappointed that the archery scene was a figment of the film makers’ imagination, I loved it, of course! That was all almost exactly 50 years ago now and I’ve seen all of the TV and film adaptations since. I only vaguely remember the 1967 version (I was only 11 or 12) but believe it doesn’t exist in it’s entirety, as the BBC had the annoying habit of wiping video tape for re-use due to it’s cost. I’ve only ever been able to find bits and pieces of it on YouTube. This is a link to more information about that particular version:

The 1980 version is probably the most faithful to the book but is very much a product of the production values of the times, mainly studio bound and switching between video tape for the interiors and film for the exteriors. I like Elizabeth Garvie’s version of Elizabeth Bennet very much.

1995 remains my overall favourite, though I have to give a shout out for Hugh Bonneville and Alex Kingston from Lost in Austen as my favourite Mr. and Mrs. Bennet.

Gianna Thomas
January 23, 2017 1:00 PM
Reply to  Anji

Thanks for the link, Anji. I’ll check it out. That’s a shame if the BBC messed things up and doesn’t have the complete version. And I will have to admit, I’ve only viewed the last scene of Lost in Austen so I’m not even familiar with the plot. Will have to see if I can find, rent or buy it. Thanks for your comments.

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