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Can Mr. Darcy ever be rude enough?

July 23, 2010

The Los Angeles Times’ Daily Mirror blog takes a look at P&P 1940.

How can you possibly go wrong with Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy? The sad truth is that you can. Mr. Darcy isn’t hard to get right, in my opinion — all he has to do is be terribly rude — but most adaptations of “Pride and Prejudice” balk at having the leading man be terribly rude.

Oh, for a truly cranky Cranky McJerkpants! Really, he’s kind of a jerk for the first half of the movie. We’ve never been on board with the “shy Darcy” thing. He’s not a bit awkward or shy. He’s just a jerk. He even admits it at the end.

have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. Unfortunately an only son (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own. Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled.

That “dearest, loveliest Elizabeth” makes up for a lot. A LOT. :-)

That being said, we agree with the writer that P&P 1940 is flawed but fun.

13 Comments
  1. Ally permalink
    July 23, 2010 10:33 am

    best comment in regards to P&P0 (1940) I ever heard was that it was the “ultimate P&P fanfiction” – which I thought was a very valid way to look at it…

  2. Di12381 permalink
    July 23, 2010 1:20 pm

    I have a severe dislike for the the 1940 P&P. I was turned off in the first five minutes by it, which I shouldnt be, but I am. Its just all wrong.

  3. Kira S. permalink
    July 23, 2010 2:43 pm

    “When Garson delivers her arch one-liners at him, she comes across as the rude one. That’s backward! (The 2005 film had similar problems.)”

    Indeed, Jane Austen wrote that Elizabeth had “a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody.”

    I really enjoy the humor in P&P ’40, though not the melodrama. Some of the comic characters are the best I have seen on screen, including Mary.

    Side note: The author of the review was a bit confused–Maureen O’Hara, not Maureen O’Sullivan (Jane)–was in “Miracle on 34th Street” with Edmond Gwenn (Mr. Bennet).

    • Kira S. permalink
      July 23, 2010 2:47 pm

      Oops, the name should be spelled Edmund.

  4. July 23, 2010 6:27 pm

    But in the 1940 version, Lady C. is impressed by Lizzie being “plucky”…… … and that killed it. That, more than the costumes which looked pilfered from the set of Gone with the Wind.

  5. AED permalink
    July 23, 2010 9:13 pm

    Hello! I’m the goofball writer who screwed up the Maureens — Kira, thank you for calling me on that. The post has been edited. I am so embarrassed. I hate making dumb mistakes like that!

    I liked the comic characters too — Mary might have been my favorite Mary. Looking at it as fanfic is absolutely the perfect attitude. I loved at the end where Mary and Kitty got convenient boyfriends out of thin air. Austen would never have done that but it was still kind of heartwarming.

    Thanks for reading… I was really shy about posting this review.

  6. Lily permalink
    July 24, 2010 1:51 am

    Haha it is the funniest adaptation by far!!! So very camp!!! Def not a fav but i have sat through it a couple of times. Even if just to hear the name Darcy!!!

  7. Enid Wilson permalink
    July 24, 2010 8:47 pm

    I don’t like 1940 P&P either, too much changes to the plot and Mr. Darcy was nothing broody and he didn’t seem to have redeem himself in my eyes. But the debate about if Mr. Darcy is shy or a jerk. I don’t think he’s either. Maybe he’s just socially awkward?

    Steamy Darcy

  8. Trai permalink
    July 25, 2010 2:36 pm

    Is not this the P&P with the archery? I sat through this one when it was on Turner Classic or somesuch two years ago. I cringed most of the way through! I also agree with Enid; I can’t see Darcy as either shy or a huge jerk… is there something in between? :)

  9. Emily Michelle permalink
    July 27, 2010 4:19 pm

    I see Darcy as simultaneously jerky and shy; he’d prefer not to speak to strangers, but if he finds himself forced into it, it comes out rude because he himself is rude. I base this off his conversation with Lizzie and Fitzwilliam at Rosings:

    “I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers. . . . I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

    So yeah, he’s definitely still being jerky about it, but he genuinely feels uncomfortable around strangers. So he’s both.

    As to the 1940s P&P, it’s both funny and horrible. The last half of the book is squeezed into about a half hour, and the Lady Catherine thing at the end is just insane.

  10. July 27, 2010 8:29 pm

    I’ve never seen Darcy as either shy or a jerk–just as a man who believes he’s superior to almost everyone he meets, by virtue of intellect first and social position second. He finds no reason to waste his time on most of the world; he’s weighed the world and found it pretty cheap. It’s Eliza’s wit that first grabs his attention–superior to most of the women he’s known–and her indifference to his apparent superiority drives him mad. He has to prove her wrong, he has to win her over, and most importantly, he has to possess. Darcy as written betrays an innate sense of power; and he commands a level of freedom and possibility that’s ultimately intoxicating to Eliza. It’s that devil-may-care, quasi-ruthlessness that Colin Firth captures and Olivier completely lacks–which is why the 1940 movie will never do it for me.

  11. Rosie permalink
    August 2, 2010 6:22 pm

    I’ve read this article. I think the author was full of crap. He’s probably one of those who believe that a film adaptation has to be an exact replica of its literary source. So what if the movie was set during the 1830s, instead of the Regency era? It’s still an entertaining movie and I enjoy it very much.

    I refuse to wallow in this mindset that any movie adaptation has to be exactly like the novel, play or historical event that it’s based upon. This smacks of narrow-minded thinking to me.

  12. Phyllis Ferguson permalink
    August 2, 2010 11:53 pm

    In the Assembly rooms, when readers first meet Mr. Darcy, he exhibits the following behaviours: doesn’t talk to anyone he doesn’t know, walks around the room repeatedly, avoids dancing and gradually becomes more irritable and agitated. These actions are interpreted by the local people as being due to pride and snobbery. They may be to some degree but they may also be due to a genuine discomfort with the stress of meeting so many new people especially in the visually, auditorally and emotionally stimulating setting of a ball.

    I feel that Mr. Darcy is showing significant insight into his puzzling mix of strengths and subtle challenges when he confides that “I certainly have not the talent which some people possess of conversing easily with those I have never seen before.”

    Many capable people are socially awkward in certain settings for a variety of reasons. For example: a Pulitzer Prize winning music critic, Tim Page, writes “I suffer little stage fright when it comes to public speaking or appearances on radio or television, but I continue to find unstructured participation in small social gatherings agonizing.”

    The Bingley sisters are deliberately rude and know that their behaviour is hurting others. I do not believe that this is true of Mr. Darcy; there are other explanations for how awkwardly he often behaves.

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