Nine year-old orphan 'Pip' Pirrip lives with his harridan older sister and her hen-pecked but good-natured blacksmith husband Joe Gargery in rural, Regency-Period Britain. While visiting his mother's grave near the moors, Pip is set upon by Abel Magwitch, an escaped convict from a prison ship whose intimidating appearance causes Pip to steal food and drink from the Gargeries on his behalf. Although Magwitch had initially threatened Pip, a bond quickly forms between the hardened criminal and the boy, so when the convict is recaptured, he admits to stealing the food, but does not implicate his young accomplice. Shortly thereafter Pip receives an invitation from Mrs. Havisham, a wealthy recluse living in a crumbling mansion to play with her niece Estella. He finds her haughty and cruel but becomes attracted to her beauty as his visits continue. Some time later the Gargeries receive a visit from the condescending lawyer Mr. Javers, who offers Pip an education and allowance that will allow...Written by
In the end credits, Valerie Hobson, who played Estella as an adult in David Lean's 1946 version of "Great Expectations", is credited as having played Biddy, a rather prominent character, in this 1934 version, but Biddy never appears at all. See more »
This 1934 version of "Great Expectations", directed by Stuart Walker, has been largely ignored because it pales in comparison with the masterpiece that David Lean made from the same story in the 40's. By comparison, this earlier version is plain and undistinguished, but it is not a bad film in its own right. It is a faithful rendering of the Dickens novel, which is a fascinating story that in itself makes any reasonable movie version worth watching.
The main thing that limits the effectiveness of this version is that most of the acting is so routine. Dickens' characters are always very distinctive (if not peculiar), and to be most effective in a movie they must be slightly exaggerated. Characters like Pip, Magwitch, Miss Havisham, and Estella all have quirks and/or inner conflicts that are very important in making the story work. That is what made David Lean's two adaptations of Dickens stories such brilliant films - he was able to get his actors to portray the characters in exactly the way Dickens created them. But here, only Henry Hull as Magwitch fully realizes the potential of his character.
Still, the story itself is told well enough. The novel was one of Dickens' best, a brilliant study of the main characters: Pip, whose entire life depends on a stroke of good fortune that he misunderstands; Miss Havisham, who spends her whole life reliving one awful experience from her youth; Estella, torn between Pip's warm innocence and Miss Havisham's cold psychological cruelty; Magwitch, desperately trying to leave behind something positive after a sordid, dishonorable life. Although this film version does not realize the full potential of all of these characters, it does at least make sure that we can see who they are, and can ponder the possibilities for ourselves.
The great Lean version of "Great Expectations" is now very hard to find, and for those who like Dickens' stories, this version, while by no means a worthy replacement, is at least a watchable substitute.
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