It has been called the greatest of all the Dickens films, and it does what few movies based on great books can do: creates pictures on the screen that do not clash with the images already existing in our minds.
Here is another "the book was better than the movie", but not much. The book is one of my favorite Dickens novels; the movie is a well-done adaptation with a more hopeful ending.
One of the great translations of literature into film, David Lean's Great Expectations brings Charles Dickens's masterpiece to robust on-screen life. Pip, Magwitch, Miss Havisham, and Estella populate Lean's magnificent miniature, beautifully photographed by Guy Green and designed by John Bryan.
For a popular author who has stood the test of time, Dickens has few interpreters who can bring his works to the screen. The usual mistake is going through the motions of the plot without conveying the intensity of the emotions behind it. One exception is David Lean, who understands in his bones the little boy shivering in the graveyard, and the young man who wants to shake his past. The film loses some focus in the second half and the adult Estella is unfortunately as dull as she is beautiful. However, if you want a film filled with the true Dickens spirit, this is it.
KCLS has four films with "Great Expectations" as their title. The original adaptation was Directed by the famed British Director David Lean. In 1940, he had not made the epic movies that would come later like "Lawrence of Arabia". With "Great Expectations" he picked Anthony Wagner as the young pip and John Mills as the adult Pip. Both capture Dickens character, but especially the young pip by Wagner. The movie opens with him running through a graveyard to see his mothers grave. He is going to have a surprise of a lifetime. Thus begins a wonderfully close adaptation of Charles Dickens great novel. All the big and small characters from the novel are included. It is a wonderful day at the movies with the original "Great Expectations".
P.S. KCLS has 2 copies of this classic movie and both are available. This would be a wonderful time to check it out for yourself or your family. I would very much appreciate comments from fellow patrons of KCLS on "Great Expectations". Currently their is only one other review other than the one I wrote today. I would appreciate your reaction to the film. Just leave your comments here on the KCLS web site.
Well done version of Dickens classic. John Mills as the older Pip is the most captivating. Other strong performers include Jean Simmons as the haughty young Estella, Alec Guinness as Pip's friend and roommate Herbert Pocket, and Francis Sullivan as the legalistic lawyer, Mr. Jaggers. Although Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham and Valerie Hobson as the older Estelle disappoint, overall, an enjoyable and moving experience.
A well crafted classic by director David Lean (Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence Of Arabia, etc.). His macabre visuals of young Pip terrorized by Magwitch creeping out at the graveyard, and of the cobweb covered Miss Havisham in her ghoulish mansion were exceptional. Good cast led by John Mills (and a young Alec Guinness as Herbert).
Maybe not the production values we are used to seeing today, but it manages to catch the atmosphere and characters of the book very well. Unfortunately, it doesn't do as well with details, and definitely works in a totally spurious happy ending.
David Lean did a good job of condensing a complex and long story into a movie.
The acting is spot-on. The film, in glorious black and white, is breath-taking.
And it's a pleasure to see John Mills and Alec Guinness when they were both young.
I enjoyed the book much more than the movie in this case. The story can make you laugh and cry. Dream big but never forget the friends you make along the way.
Pip: "I realized that in becoming a gentleman, I had only succeeded in becoming a snob."
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