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The Beggar's Opera (1953)

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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 200 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 2 critic

When the composer of an opera about a swashbuckling, wenching highwayman meets his hero's real life counterpart he's disappointed with his lack of dash.



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Title: The Beggar's Opera (1953)

The Beggar's Opera (1953) on IMDb 6.2/10

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Cast overview, first billed only:
George Rose ...
1st Turnkey
Stuart Burge ...
1st Prisoner
Cyril Conway ...
2nd Prisoner
Gerald Lawson ...
3rd Prisoner
Dorothy Tutin ...
George Devine ...
Mary Clare ...
Edward Pryor ...
Athene Seyler ...
Daphne Anderson ...
Inn Keeper
Yvonne Furneaux ...


Authentic rendering of John Gay's 18th century musical, filmed in Technicolor, about Captain MacHeath, a highwayman, and his love for too many beautiful women. Betrayed by Jenny and Sukey, two of his bygone lovers, and temporarily freed by two others, MacHeath is arrested and condemned to death. While waiting to be hanged, the captain is entertained by a musical beggar, who has written an opera of which the highwayman is the hero. Written by Mike Rogers <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | History | Musical


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Release Date:

5 October 1953 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

The Beggar's Opera  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The genesis of this 1728 opera came from Jonathan Swift, who wrote to Alexander Pope in 1716 asking "...what think you, of a Newgate pastoral among the thieves and whores there?" Gay, who was a friend of both, took up the idea. See more »


The Beggar: You're never Captain MacHeath, sir!
Captain MacHeath: Never Captain MacHeath, sir? At my mother's breast I was Captain MacHeath, sir!
The Beggar: I would rather not think so! You're not at all as I imagined. No... no... no. I've overwritten you. My captain is higher by two or three inches.
Captain MacHeath: Hmmm. Wll, sir, thanks to you I shall be higher this time tomorrow by the height of a hangman's card.
The Beggar: No, Captain, you'd never do. There is more of you in two bars of my opera than there is in your own body.
Captain MacHeath: Well, I'm sorry for it.
The Beggar: [...]
See more »


Version of Die Dreigroschenoper (1995) See more »


At The Tree I Shall Suffer
Sung by Laurence Olivier
See more »

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User Reviews

Satire of a Bawdy Age
18 August 2006 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Sir Laurence Olivier expressed a great deal of disappointment with the way The Beggar's Opera finally turned out. On reflection he probably would have done it as a straight dramatic play. Certainly the role of the swaggering outlaw Captain Macheath would seem to be a choice part.

Olivier had sung before on screen, in Fire Over England he warbled an old English ditty There Was a Spanish Lady Who Wooed an English Man and did very well by it in his portrayal of Michael Ingolby in that film. But the problem is that in Fire Over England he was the only one singing. Later on he did very well in The Entertainer as song and dance man Archie Rice. But in The Beggar's Opera his voice suffers by comparison to the trained voices that were dubbed for all the other players except Olivier and Stanley Holloway.

I guess producer Herbert Wilcox felt he couldn't dub voices as known as Olivier and Holloway. But Holloway was a musical performer so he didn't suffer by comparison.

The Beggar's Opera has been argued to be the first musical play done in the English language. John Gay wrote the book and lyrics and the music is taken from old English tunes and arranged by Johann Christoph Pepusch. It's a satire of the corrupt and bawdy age of Robert Walpole, King George I's Prime Minister and the first person to be actually called by that title.

The Age of Walpole began with the end of War of Spanish Succession and the death of Queen Anne and the Hanover succession secured. Robert Walpole had some very simple ideas on what was best for the United Kingdom. Everybody make money, eat, drink and be merry, secure good trade deals and keep out of war at all costs. You could buy anything during his time, including honor and justice. Merchant Peachum played by George Devine is a caricature of Walpole. A most greedy man who'll do anything for a pound.

Macheath knows the people he's dealing and he does it on their own terms. He gets arrested for rewards, he buys a reprieve. It really did work that way back in Walpole's time.

And he's romancing two women, Polly Peachum and Lucy Lockit although the women use him as much as he uses them. Lucy's dad is Stanley Holloway the jailkeeper who's not above a bribe or two from prisoners able to pay.

The Beggar's Opera got a Teutonic remake when Kurt Weill and Berthold Brecht did The Threepenny Opera in the last century and the immortal Mack the Knife comes from it.

Still if The Beggar's Opera was to be done in its original form, wouldn't it have been far better to have a group like the D'Oyly Carte Light Opera Company who do so well with Gilbert and Sullivan do this instead of straight players who have to be dubbed?

7 of 10 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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