Updated: Feb 13, 2021
BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
Elizabeth Bennet (Greer Garson) is taken back by Fitzwilliam Darcy's (Laurence Olivier) proposal.
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“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE – WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION”
Blu-ray, 1940, Not Rated
Best extra: “The Fishing Bear,” 1940 Technicolor cartoon
WARNER ARCHIVE Collection offers a beautifully-restored black and white gem from 1940 based on Jane Austen’s classic, the oft-adapted 1813 novel, “Pride and Prejudice.”
A stellar cast, with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson in the lead roles, also includes Maureen O’Sullivan, Edmund Gwenn, Edna May Oliver, and Ann Rutherford. This version, directed by Robert Z. Leonard, with a screenplay co-written by Aldous Huxley and Jane Murfin, was inspired by Helen Jerome’s stage play. The film is set a few decades before Austen’s original story, reportedly so the costumes could be more elaborate, as evidenced by the women’s gigantic flamboyant hats and their impossibly frilly, flouncy dresses.
The story centers on Elizabeth Bennet (Garson), one of an English country gentleman’s five daughters. Elizabeth’s mother (Mary Boland) is eager for her daughters to find suitable husbands since the Bennet home and property is going to be inherited by a man named William Collins (Melville Cooper) upon Mr. Bennet’s death.
(1) The MGM production was originally going to be filmed in England, but the start of World War II changed everything. (2&3) Mr. Darcy (Olivier), Mr. Charles Bingley (Bruce Lester), and his sister Caroline (Frieda Inescort) arrive in the English village of Meryton. (4) Sisters Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) and Elizabeth (Garson) Bennet spot the arrival of the carriage.
At a ball, Elizabeth meets Fitzwilliam Darcy (Olivier), a handsome, wealthy aristocrat. Despite a mutual attraction, Darcy’s obvious snobbery and prejudice against the likes of the Bennets, whom he deems socially inferior, soon enrages Elizabeth. It’s no wonder she was thought to be Austen’s own favorite character, as she appears to be brighter and wittier than her siblings, as well as fiercely independent and, of course, proud. Darcy’s wealthy friend Charles Bingley (Bruce Lester) is drawn to Elizabeth’s older sister Jane (O’Sullivan) and immediately begins a courtship. The love lives of Elizabeth and her sisters go in many different directions, but ultimately each finds her match, including Elizabeth and (as she eventually learns) the good-hearted Mr. Darcy.
This 4K restoration by Warner Archive is excellent, with terrific detail without the hyper-sharpness that might detract from the richness of a lovely filmic grain. Contrast, as well as the white, gray and black variations, are especially satisfying. The HD 2.0 audio is also wonderful, with dialogue extremely clear, and sound effects and score balanced ideally.
(1) Mr. Darcy's arrival in town causes quite a stir with (right) Mrs. Bennet (Mary Boland) and another mother. (2) Mr. Bennet (Edmund Gwenn) reserves his time in the library with a house full of women. (3) The Bennet daughters - Kitty (Heather Angel), Elizabeth (Garson), Mary (Marsha Hunt) Lydia (Ann Rutherford) and Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) with their mother Mrs. Bennet. (3) The Meryton village ball. (4) Jane Bennet meets Mr. Bingley.
The disc includes “Eyes of the Navy,” a 1940 B&W recruiting/preparedness/propaganda short film about naval aviation training, which fits into the context of its time period. Watching it with 21st-century perspective, however, makes it impossible not to cringe at the irony of hearing the narrator brag about “all races and creeds” being welcomed into the Navy, and then finding the only person of color in the entire film serving cocktails at the officer’s club.
The 1940 Technicolor cartoon is pretty cute, with its main character the bumbling Barney Bear, who vies with an equally hapless duck to try to catch one of the adorable, puppy-like fish frolicking en masse in a pond. No fish are caught, and poor old Barney and the duck end up singed by a jolt from an electric eel.
— Peggy Earle
(1) After Elizabeth Bennet turned down Mr. Collins' (Melville Cooper) proposal, he ends up marrying Elizabeth's best friend Charlotte (Karen Morley). (2) Elizabeth shows off her archery skills. (3) The emotional Mrs. Bennet (Mary Boland) is heartbroken that her youngest daughter Lydia has disappeared. (4) Lydia (Ann Rutherford) returns home as Mrs. Wickham, showing off her ring with her husband (Edward Ashley).
(1&2) The Bennet household is shocked by the arrival of Lady Catherine (Edna May Oliver). (3) Mr. & Mrs. Bennet watch the latest proposal from Mr. Darcy to their second daughter Elizabeth.