The battle of the sexes and relationships among the elite of Britian's industrial Midlands in the 1920s. Gerald Crich and Rupert Berkin are best friends who fall in love with a pair of ... See full summary »
Pip, a good-natured, gullible young orphan, lives with kind blacksmith Joe Gargery and his bossy, abusive wife 'Mrs. Joe'. When the boy finds two hidden escaped galley convicts, he obeys under -probably unnecessary- threat of a horrible death to bring the criminals food he must steal at peril of more caning from the battle-ax. Just when Pip fears to get it really good while they have guests, a soldier comes for Joe who takes Pip along as assistant to work on the chains of escaped galley-convicts, who are soon caught. The better-natured one takes the blame for the stolen food. Later Pip is invited to became the playmate of Estelle, the equally arrogant adoptive daughter of gloomy, filthy rich Miss Havisham at her estate, who actually has 'permission' to break the kind kid's heart; being the only pretty girl he ever saw, she wins his heart forever, even after a mysterious benefactor pays through a lawyer for his education and a rich allowance, so he can become a snob in London, by now '... Written by
David Lean was not a particularly well-read man, and only became aware of the power of Charles Dickens' story when his wife Kay Walsh dragged him along to a theatrical production of "Great Expectations" in 1939. Incidentally, playing Herbert Pocket in this production, was a young Alec Guinness, whom Lean subsequently cast in the same role in the film version. Aside from bit parts, it was Guinness' first major screen role and was also the first of six films he made with Lean. Martita Hunt was also in the stage production, playing Miss Havisham, a role she reprised in the film. See more »
Early in the movie, when Mrs. Joe is beating the young Pip, she is clearly not touching him, just swinging the switch up and down behind him. See more »
[welcoming Pip to her decaying mansion]
Come nearer. Let me look at you. Come close. Look at me. You aren't afraid of a woman who has never seen the sun since before you were born?
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Martita Hunt plays Miss Havisham, and receives screen credit for it, but she can also be heard as the voice of the cow who, in Pip's mind, disapproves of him stealing food to give to Magwitch ("Somebody else's pork pie!"). She receives no screen credit for playing the voice of the cow. See more »
Charles Dickens certainly liked to write his novels from a child's point of view. Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations all start with the hero/protagonist as a child. Only young Oliver Twist of the three I mentioned ended still a child in the novel's conclusion. In Oliver Twist, young Oliver is reunited with his propertied and somewhat wealthy grandfather looking to rise in station from his humble background.
Young Pip, short for Philip Pirrup, is also of humble background in Great Expectations. His parents are killed when he's young, he lives with his sister and her husband who is a blacksmith. During his childhood he befriends a convict on the run. Later on for mysterious reasons to him, he comes under the protection of eccentric old Miss Haversham who wants him as a companion for her adopted child Estella.
Later on as an adult, he has a mysterious benefactor who provides him income enough to live as a gentlemen, something he fervently desired all his life. It seems to be a dream come true. But there are still quite a few bumps on Pip's road of life.
Charles Dickens despaired of the poverty he saw in early Victorian Great Britain. But he also knew that riches alone did not necessarily guarantee happiness. It didn't for Scrooge, for Ms. Havisham, and certainly not for John Mills as the adult Pip. Nor does it for Valerie Hobson who inherits Ms. Havisham's estate.
Mills and Hobson are a perfectly cast pair of leads in this version of Great Expectations. Alec Guinness began a long association with director David Lean as Herbert Pocket, Pip's friend and roommate.
Finlay Currie, the craggy Scot's player who usually played kindly old gentlemen, turns out to be kinder indeed than originally presented as convict Abel Magwitch. It's a different kind of part for him.
Martita Hunt as Ms. Havisham plays a part all to familiar to me. I had an elderly relative in my family a lot like her, bitter at the world and taking it out on all around her.
My favorite in the film though is Francis L. Sullivan. Usually Sullivan's characters are crooked and/or corrupt in most of his films. As attorney Jaggers who seems to have an unseen hand in all the proceedings he actually is working for the ultimate benefit of both of our leads.
In Dickens's world, wealth can corrupt as easily as poverty. It's the character inside you that counts and that fact is not better demonstrated than in this adaption of Great Expectations.
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