***WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW***
Remember when I blogged about this?
Yeah, well, true Austen fans . . . don’t waste your time.
The 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice started out well. Yes, they skipped around a little, deleted some scenes and put lines where they didn’t belong. However, I was expecting this to happen. No one can expect Pride and Prejudice to be completely pure, as was proven by the 2005 Knightley/Macfadyen version. (Unless the A&E network has produced it, of course.) I did like Greer Garson’s portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet. I was a little disappointed in Olivier’s Darcy. His Darcy was too jovial, too flirtatious early on, and much too kind to Elizabeth at the beginning of the movie. Darcy was never so kind at the beginning of the novel:
Mr. Bingley had soon made himself acquainted with all the principal people in the room; he was lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield. Such amiable qualities must speak for themselves. What a contrast between him and his friend! Mr. Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party. His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and every body hoped that he would never come there again.
However, these deficiencies in the movie’s script are nothing in comparison with the final few scenes.
For those who have read Pride and Prejudice, you will recall Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s extreme hatred of Elizabeth Bennet:
And she rose as she spoke. Lady Catherine rose also, and they turned back. her ladyship was highly incensed.
“You have no regard, then, for the honour and credit of my nephew! Unfeeling, selfish girl! Do you not consider that a connexion with you, must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody?”
“Lady Catherine, I have nothing farther to say. You know my sentiments.”
“You are then resolved to have him?”
“I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”
“It is well. You refuse, then, to oblige me. You refuse to obey the claims of duty, honour, and gratitude. You are determined to ruin him in the opinion of all his friends, and make him the contempt of the world.”
“Neither duty, nor honour, nor gratitude,” replied Elizabeth, “has any possible claim on me in the present instance. No principle of either would be violated by my marriage with Mr. Darcy. And with regard to the resentment of his family or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it would not give me one moment’s concern — and the world in general would have too much sense to join in the scorn.”
“And this is your real opinion! This is your final resolve! Very well. I shall now know how to act. Do not imagine, Miss Bennet, that your ambition will ever be gratified. I came to try you. I hoped to find you reasonable; but depend upon it, I will carry my point.”
In this manner Lady Catherine talked on till they were at the door of the carriage, when, turning hastily round, she added —
“I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. I send no compliments to your mother. You deserve no such attention. I am most seriously displeased.”
Lady Catherine’s hatred of Elizabeth is consistent throughout the entire novel. After watching the Garson/Olivier version, I became convinced that the screenwriters had never read the novel in its entirety. It is almost as if they split up the reading between themselves, and whoever was in charge of the final few chapters decided to read the Cliff’s Notes version instead.
In the film, Lady Catherine shows up at the Bennet’s house and says many of the hateful things Jane Austen took the time to write in detail. In the movie, she does, however, make the statement that she has the power to strip Darcy of his fortune. Um, excuse me, but no, Lady Catherine, you don’t have that power. As we learned from Sense and Sensibility, in this time period, estates passed “from father to son, and not from father to daughter”; and if there was no son, they passed to the closest male relative, as learned in both Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice. So, you couldn’t even touch Darcy’s fortune if he dangled it in front of you, you hateful snit. (I forgot to mention that last night, Jai.) She finishes with a statement similar to the one above that begins with “I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet.” It gets worse, though. Unfortunately, for the purists like myself, this 1940s Lady Catherine returns to her carriage where a giddy Mr. Darcy awaits her report of the encounter. She basically tells him that “She bought it” and “Darcy, she’s perfect for you.” WHAT?????? Lady Catherine would have never, NEVER told Darcy that anyone other than her daughter was perfect for him. EVER! Lady Catherine and Darcy were practically giggling like school girls over it. It was the most ridiculous rewrite of Pride and Prejudice that I have ever seen.
All of this said, I will remind you that I am a purist. Some people wouldn’t feel this way, I know. Some people might love this version because everyone pairs off in the end (including Kitty and Mary, ugh). My opinion is just that, one opinion; and I know opinions are a dime a dozen. I do understand the need to change settings, minor cast, costumes, etc., for the sake of filming costs and brevity. I do not understand why anyone would change such a major plot point as the above. Darcy’s concern about the opinions of others was a major theme throughout the novel, and his overcoming that concern is the turning point that made us all fall madly in love with the man. To remove ridicule from Darcy’s life makes his love for Elizabeth easy; and love, as we all know, is never easy. If Darcy had waited for everyone’s approval before letting go of his pride, then it would have meant that he had learned nothing. It would have meant that as soon as another test of his character came along, he would have failed miserably. He would still have been just as proud as he was at the beginning. I think that Miss Austen would have been highly disappointed by this version.
*Novel quotes taken from the e-texts found on the Republic of Pemberly website.