One of my favorite first lines comes from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. While intended to be tongue-in-cheek, this line sets the stage for one of Austen's most beloved comedies of manners.
The 1940 adaptation of the novel will be shown at the Newport Public Library on Tuesday, February 9, at 6:30 p.m.
Greer Garson stars as Elizabeth Bennet, Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane Bennet, and Laurence Olivier as Fitzwilliam Darcy. While flamboyantly costumed, the spirit of this film stays true to Austen's sharp, witty portrait of rural 19th century social mores. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have five unmarried daughters. When the rich Mr. Darcy purchases the nearby Pemberley estate, Mrs. Bennet is determined he will marry one of them. But pride, prejudice, and misunderstandings all combine to complicate their relationships and to make happiness difficult.
Pride and Prejudice was critically well received upon its release. The New York Times film critic praised the film as "the most deliciously pert comedy of old manners, the most crisp and crackling satire in costume that we in this corner can remember ever having seen on the screen." The film received an Academy Award for Best Art Direction, Black and White.