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The Beggar's Opera (1953)

Approved | | Crime, History, Musical | 5 October 1953 (UK)
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.


Peter Brook


John Gay (libretto), Denis Cannan | 1 more credit »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Laurence Olivier ... Captain MacHeath
Hugh Griffith ... The Beggar
George Rose ... 1st Turnkey
Stuart Burge Stuart Burge ... 1st Prisoner
Cyril Conway Cyril Conway ... 2nd Prisoner
Gerald Lawson Gerald Lawson ... 3rd Prisoner
Dorothy Tutin ... Polly Peachum
George Devine George Devine ... Peachum
Mary Clare ... Mrs. Peachum
Edward Pryor Edward Pryor ... Filch
Athene Seyler ... Mrs. Trapes
Stanley Holloway ... Mr. Lockit
Daphne Anderson ... Lucy Lockit
Eric Pohlmann ... Inn Keeper
Yvonne Furneaux ... Jenny Diver


Authentic rendering of John Gay's eighteenth 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 <MICHAELPEM@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


WANTED by the Law and by all the women whom he promised to marry


Crime | History | Musical


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


One of the characters, Dolly Trull, is aptly named, as "trull" was an eighteenth century term for "prostitute". 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 »

Crazy Credits

Unusually, the ghost vocalists for the non-singing actors were given billing in the end credits. See more »


Version of Driestuiversopera (1969) See more »


How Happy Could I Be With Either
Sung by Laurence Olivier (as Captain MacHeath)
See more »

User Reviews

Compenent Version of Classic Ballad Opera
1 December 2010 | by adamshlSee all my reviews

While this is an adequate rendering of the famous John Gay mock opera, it suffers from having Olivier sing the entire role in his own untrained voice. After a while his vocalism grows wearisome, having a slight flat and dull quality to his tone.

Brook's direction is also lacking; in trying to open the action up on screen, it looks somewhat forced and off balance. This is still a good film, all things considered and the fact that it's a rare filming of this work.

So in the end we give it a grade of B, and hope a better version will subsequently be made.

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Release Date:

5 October 1953 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Beggar's Opera See more »


Box Office


GBP500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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