Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Mills, Anthony Wager, Valerie Hobson, Jean Simmons, Bernard Miles, Francis L. Sullivan, Finlay Currie, Martita Hunt, Alec Guinness, Ivor Barnard, Freda Jackson, Eileen Erskine, George Hayes, Hay Petrie, John Forrest, Torin Thatcher, O.B. Clarence, John E. Burch, Richard George, Grace Denbigh-Russell, Everley Gregg, Anne Holland, Frank Atkinson, Gordon Begg, Edie Martin, Walford Hyden, Roy Arthur
Written by: Anthony Havelock-Allan, David Lean, Cecil McGivern, Ronald Neame, Kay Walsh, based on a novel by Charles Dickens
Directed by: David Lean
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 118
Date: 12/26/1946

Great Expectations (1946)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Pip Service

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

When David Lean adapted one of the all-time great novels to the screen, he never forgot he was making a movie; he employed award-winning black-and-white cinematography, memorable camera placement and visionary casting. By no means does the film replace the novel, but it comes to life onscreen on its own terms. Young Pip (Anthony Wager) comes to the aid of an escaped convict (Finlay Currie) on the moors near his home; it's a sequence any horror film would die for. Later, he becomes a regular visitor to the home of recluse Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt), with her overgrown gardens and dusty, undisturbed relics. He becomes forever smitten with Miss Havisham's ward, Estella, and who can blame him when she's played by the achingly beautiful Jean Simmons (just 17 at the time)? Later Pip grows up to become a young gentleman (John Mills) in London, with the aid of his "great expectations," and he hopes to become worthy of Estella, but fate has something else in store for him. The grown-up Estella (Valerie Hobson) lacks Simmons' raw, potent beauty, but that's a minor quibble. To make up for it, a young Alec Guinness plays Pip's flatmate and confidant, Herbert Pocket. The film's first half has more atmosphere than the second (and the ending has some minor tweaks), but Lean's unfaltering direction keeps things tonally rich. It's a 1940s production of such high artistry that only Orson Welles or John Ford could have matched it. Oliver Twist (1948) followed.

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