Darcy, Darcy, wherefore art thy nose?

I’m going to have to re-watch the 1940 production of Pride and Prejudice to check out Sir Laurence Olivier’s nose. Yes, his nose.

Olivier was fresh off his success as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights ("Caaaathyyyy! Caaathyyyyy!") and Rebecca when he was cast in P&P. He wanted Vivien Leigh, fresh off her success in a little thing called Gone With the Wind, to play Elizabeth to his Darcy. You’d think MGM would have jumped at the opportunity to have these two in a movie together. But Olivier and Leigh were having an extra-marital affair and the studio was afraid this news would leak and kill the film. So Olivier was cast in P&P and Leigh was cast as a woman driven into prostitution in Waterloo Bridge (gee, was the studio making a moral sexist judgment against her, but not him?).

It’s fairly well documented that Olivier was neither happy about the casting decision, nor about the P&P screenplay. Since he couldn’t change either, he spent his time between takes preparing to direct a stage production of Romeo and Juliet starring…you guessed…himself and Vivian Leigh. So, besides being out of joint a bit, what does this have to do with Sir Larry’s nose?

The other day I told you about the new Jane Austen file site on JASNA’s webpage. One of the articles they included about the 1940 P&P adaptation is an interview with three of the film’s co-stars: Anne Rutherford (Lydia), Marsha Hunt (Mary), and Karen Morley (Charlotte Lucas). According to them, Olivier didn’t just prepare for Romeo and Juliet between takes…but he was testing different noses for Romeo during the film of P&P!

True or false? Who noses? We’ll have to watch and keep our eyes trained on Darcy’s nose. If you don’t own a copy of the movie, it will air in the U.S. on TCM Saturday evening July 21, 2007…check your local listings and follow your nose.

2 comments to Darcy, Darcy, wherefore art thy nose?

  • Missy, that interview is quite a wonderful find! I always liked Hunt & Rutherford’s work so it’s great to have this transcript. Wish the recording (even if it were audio) had been included in the DVD release.

  • Yes, I wish whoever had condensed the interview had left the whole thing in. Too bad the interviewer didn’t follow up on some of the “gems” the actresses gave him…but, it’s good for what is there, even if I feel that a lot is missing.

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