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Oliver Twist (1948)

Not Rated | | Drama | 30 July 1951 (USA)
An orphan named Oliver Twist meets a pickpocket on the streets of London. From there, he joins a household of boys who are trained to steal for their master.

Director:

David Lean

Writers:

Charles Dickens (by), David Lean (screen play) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Newton ... Bill Sykes
Alec Guinness ... Fagin
Kay Walsh ... Nancy
Francis L. Sullivan ... Mr. Bumble
Henry Stephenson ... Mr. Brownlow
Mary Clare ... Mrs. Corney
Anthony Newley ... Artful Dodger
Josephine Stuart Josephine Stuart ... Oliver's Mother
Ralph Truman Ralph Truman ... Monks
Kathleen Harrison ... Mrs Sowerberry
Gibb McLaughlin ... Mr. Sowerberry
Amy Veness Amy Veness ... Mrs. Bedwin
Frederick Lloyd Frederick Lloyd ... Mr. Grimwig
John Howard Davies ... Oliver Twist
Henry Edwards ... Police Official
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Storyline

Based on the Charles Dickens novel, this movie is about an orphan boy who runs away from a workhouse and meets a pickpocket on the streets of London. Oliver is taken in by the pickpocket and he joins a household of young boys who are trained to steal for their master. This version of Oliver Twist is topped by Sir Alec Guinness' masterly performance of archthug Fagin. Written by Jenny Evans <J.Evans@uts.edu.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A Screen Event To Be Remembered For All Time !

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

30 July 1951 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

As Aventuras de Oliver Twist See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Cineguild See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Alfie Bass was considered for the the Artful Dodger, until Kay Walsh, Sir David Lean's wife at the time, recommended Anthony Newley who was with her in Vice Versa (1948). See more »

Goofs

In the workhouse, after Oliver eats the gruel, his piece of bread remains on the right side of the dish. Soon after, the piece of bread is in front of his dish. See more »

Quotes

Mr. Brownlow: It only remains for me to tell you that neither of you will ever be employed in a position of trust again.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The film did not premiere in the U.S. until 1951, after ten minutes of footage involving Alec Guinness as Fagin had been cut, due to Jewish pressure groups who claimed that Guinness's portrayal was offensive and anti-Semitic. See more »

Connections

Spoofed in The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950) See more »

Soundtracks

Camberwell Road on a Sunday Night
(uncredited)
Lyrics: Traditional
Music by Guy Warrack
See more »

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User Reviews

The definitive film version of the story – atmospheric, dark and well acted
4 December 2004 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

When his mother just about makes it to the workhouse before giving birth then dying, Oliver Twist is born into the only world he has ever known – the workhouse and poverty. When he draws the short straw from among the children, Oliver asks for more food at dinner and promptly finds himself up for sale for £5 to any honest trader willing to take him in. Oliver is taken to work for an undertaker until a fight over his mother makes him run away to London where the masters will never find him. Taken in by Fagin's group of child pickpockets, Oliver starts to settle in, until a brush with the law starts to bring his family history to the attention of those lacking scruples.

Watching this film now (or indeed at the time of its release in the UK) it is hard to imagine that it would have sparked a riot in Berlin in its first showing in 1949 or that it was banned for two years in America on the grounds of being anti-Semitic and was only released after significant cuts (10 minutes) had been made. Of course the cynic in me would suggest that the US was making any excuse to limit British films in its cinema due to competition (they don't need to do that any more!) but I guess history is written by the winners and Hollywood is definitely winning that battle. Ironically enough the film was also banned in Israel and Egypt because of Fagin – with Israel claiming that Fagin was anti-Semetic and Egypt claiming he was too sympathetic. Any roads, regardless of the historical controversy this film is still considered by many to be the definitive version of Dickens' story and often is in top ten or so when polls for 'greatest British films' are carried out. The plot is dark and sombre as befits the source material, painting a dark world of thieves, poverty and workhouses within which the story of Oliver and his destiny are told. In essence it is a simple story but it is the atmosphere and characters that make it more interesting.

This may have been as successful as some of Lean's other films due to the daft controversies around it, but his is still a very effective job as director. The film feels Victorian and hopeless – just like the lives of those in the story, and Lean creates a real atmosphere of despair and fear that is enjoyably dark and has moments that I was surprised to see in a film of the period. The cast do well with the characters and are a big part of its working. Ignoring all the hysteria over 'bad' characters being ethnic (good to see things haven't changed that much), Guinness is good as Fagin and doesn't allow himself to be just a ethnic stereotype – he is exploitative but he is also human and we get to see him as just being somebody else's 'boy' as well as Oliver. Newton is who I see when I think of Bill Sykes and Davies is a good Oliver even if his accent is way too posh for a workhouse baby and the film tends to lose him among all the more interesting and seedy characters we come across. Support is good from the likes of Walsh, Sullivan, Newley and others, all combining to produce a colourful collection of dark characters in the seedy streets of London.

Overall this is a good story even if it loses the Oliver story halfway through for a while in favour of the other characters. The direction is great and the whole film is dark and atmospheric. The acting is roundly good and supports the wealth of seedy characters on which the film is built.

I'm not a massive fan of Dickens by and large but if I want to see a version of this story then this is the film I return to.


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