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 the 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 Estella, 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 ...Written by
When Mrs. Joe is beating the young Pip, she clearly is not touching him but just swinging the switch up and down behind him. See more »
In trying to become a gentleman, I had succeeded in becoming a snob.
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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 »
In some prints, after the fifteen minute "convict episode" at the beginning of the film ends, a voice-over by the adult Pip (John Mills) says, "it was a year later", as Mrs. Joe arrives home in the carriage. As now usually shown, there is no voice-over in this sequence. See more »
As I watched the beginning of this film, I couldn't help but compare the story to the only other Charles Dickens story I was familiar with: Oliver Twist. It looked like it was going to be another story of a nice, respectful boy being abused by nasty adults. However, as soon as the young boy turned into a man, the similarities ended. Poor Oliver had a lot of ups and downs but life was basically pretty good for the boy, "Pip" in "Great Expectations."
Because of that, I didn't think this Dickens tale had the emotional impact of Oliver Twist, but still was great storytelling. The last 20-30 minutes of this film tied so many things together it really made it a satisfying film. From what I just researched, it sounds like the book was a lot harsher story.
My only major complaint with this film is the casting of the lead character, "Pip," as an adult, which involves most of this movie. John Mills looked way too old to be playing a 20-year-old "Pip Pirrip." In truth, he was too old. Mills was 38 when doing this role. They couldn't have found a younger actor? This guy looked and sounded like Ronald Colman, which is fine except Colman never looked 20, either! This is gross miscasting.
At any rate, I enjoyed a number of actors in here, mainly three older ones: Martita Hunt, Findlay Currie and Francis L. Sullivan. Hunt was just great as "Miss Haversham." I found her fascinating in every sentence she delivered, all of which she did while just sitting in a chair. Currie was genuinely frightening in the beginning as the escaped convict "Magwitch." However, what a transformation that man made in this story! Francis L. Sullivan emotes convincingly enough to play the
lawyer "Mr. Jaggers" and be fun to view, too. The rest of the actors were fine, but nothing memorable.
To me, the acting took a back seat to Dickens' story and to the film's cinematography. Knowing David Lean directed this film, that Criterion usually produces nice-looking DVD transfers and that "Oliver Twist" looked fantastic on disc, I was paying as close attention to the cinematography, and I enjoyed it. The story wasn't that intense until the finale, which was very well done. The romance was a bit questionable and is a sad-but-true comment how many people, at least us men, can be "in love" with a shallow woman who offers nothing but good looks. (Speaking of looks, Valerie Hobson pretending to be a little older Jean Simmons in the role of "Estella' is like Margaret Hamilton passing for slightly-older Jennifer Jones. Give me a break!)
Even though the screenplay is softer than the novel, most people say it still captures Dickens' flavor, and few critics had anything but praise for this classic film. Do I prefer this movie over the aforementioned Oliver Twist? No, but only because the latter is the most stunning photographed black-and-white movie I've ever watched. ("Citizen Kane" ranking second.) This is still very good in that category. Lean and cinematographer Guy Green won Oscars for their work here, so you know it's not too shabby.
The combination of Dickens, Lean, Green and a fine cast all make this a classic movie that is certainly recommended. Don't make the mistake of choosing the insipid 1998 version with Ethan Hawke and Gywneth Paltrow. This is the only version you want to see.
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