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An Excellent Version of the Classic Novel
Snow Leopard2 May 2002
Few directors have ever matched David Lean's ability to bring great literary works to life on film, and this is one of his best productions. The Dickens novel itself is so good that even routine film adaptations of it are usually quite watchable, but this version is exceptional, with atmosphere, settings, photography, and characters that do full justice to the original. From the very beginning, with a wonderful realization of the graveyard scene, you are drawn into the world of Pip and the other characters, and feel that you can understand their concerns and dilemmas.

One of the things that makes "Great Expectations" such a classic story is that it adds some real depth to Dickens's usual slightly exaggerated characters, so that they are both memorable and thought-provoking. Characters such as Miss Havisham and Magwitch are interesting in their own right, besides serving as vital influences on Pip's life. Here the fine cast and directing help to realize the potential of the characters, making for an interesting story that also has some things to say. John Mills brings out Pip's innocence and earnestness very believably, and the supporting cast works quite well too. Some of them seem to be almost exactly what Dickens would have envisioned, such as Jean Simmons as the young Estella and Francis Sullivan as Jaggers (a role he also played in an earlier version).

This is exactly what a film version of a classic book should be, keeping the most important themes and events from the story and using the visuals to bring its world to life. It's an excellent movie that is enjoyable and nicely done in every respect.
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Never read the book, loved the film....
keith_g25 December 2004
I came to watch this film with no knowledge of the book, having never read it and only the vaguest knowledge of a couple of the characters - Magwitch the escaped convict and the jilted Miss Haversham. I had absolutely no idea how events would turn out or what would happen to the characters involved. Good for me - no baggage!!

Taken, then, in its own right I can say that I was quite staggered at the overall quality of this film in every respect and from the very opening shots: The acting, cinematography, costumes, sets, lighting, effects etc. etc. were all perfect and gave no hint of the film's vintage. Surprise surprise (or maybe no surprise), the storyline was quite superb - the ripe 'Dickensian' dialogue was a pleasure to hear and the plot was intelligent and interesting while maintaining a steady pace throughout.

All in all, a very pleasant experience for me and I'm glad it eventually found its way onto my radar!

So - a timeless masterpiece in my opinion and well worth watching by anyone looking for a break from modern CGI-laden disaster/action movies or who do not want to see yet another instance of the Americans saving the world from extra-terrestrial menace.

Nine out of ten without a moment's hesitation....
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A miracle of invention, economy and detail
J. Spurlin25 January 2007
This adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic novel, directed by David Lean from a script he co-adapted, and photographed by Guy Green, is a miracle of invention, economy and detail. Every piece on every set; every line of dialogue; every gesture and line reading of every actor; every black-and-white frame of this beautiful film seems perfect. Dickens's characters, situations and themes are all vividly dramatized. Pip, Pocket, Joe, Mr. Jaggers, Magwitch and—unforgettably—Miss Havisham, are all here and all ready to move, amuse, frighten and entertain anyone willing to spend time with them.

I haven't read the book since I was thirteen. I vividly remember Miss Havisham, but I don't remember noting the contrast between her and Magwitch, the ex-convict. She becomes bitter and vengeful after a great heartbreak; he becomes great of heart through one small act of kindness. That's what made the movie for me this time; but clearly there's richness to spare for future viewings.

There is so much here not only for Dickens fans, but for anyone who loves movies. I especially liked that shot from Pip's point of view as he becomes sick. It's the kind of crazy effect beloved of filmmakers, too; but I love it not so much for itself, but for being the right shot at the right moment. Some directors hide, others show off, but directors like David Lean know how to do both and know when to do which.
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A true classic
ellkew23 May 2003
The term 'classic' is often banded about with regard to films but I feel this one does warrant the term. A masterpiece of film-making by one of the best director's to take the chair. From the opening on the flat marshland framed by the hangman's gantry, this is wonderfully atmospheric storytelling of the highest quality which manages to capture the feel of the novel. The inspired touches with the cows muttering to Pip when he takes the stolen food to the convict and the howling wind over London as Pip's past is about to knock on his door, stay in the mind. This film is rich in character and detail. A sumptuous film that is a real treat. I can still, even today, taste the pork pie that Pip steals from the larder and feel his fear as Joe's wife goes to look for it and the sadness as the older Pip is embarrassed by Joe in his upmarket London surroundings and watches his old friend leave London from his living room window. An absolute masterpiece of cinema.
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A very nearly perfect film!
mark2-125 June 2005
This is very close to being one of the most perfect films ever made.

Every actor performs at his best - making every word and inflection count - and the script is perfect, the direction is perfect and the photography is excellent.

I am astounded by what Antony Wager, the young actor portraying Pip as a youngster, is able to deliver.

I only have one "but" - while Jean Simmons is perfect as the young Estella, I find Valerie Hobson - as the only member of the entire cast - miscast as the older Estella. I have researched this a little and have since found that she was married to the film's producer.

I wonder whom David Lean had been planning to use? I have been thinking about which actress, amongst those of the period who would have been available, would have been good for the role. The obvious choice is Vivien Leigh and another is Margaret Leighton.

Two years later David Lean made Oliver Twist, which, while good, is a very different kind of film. I don't really feel it lives up to the quality of Great Expectations.

I have a daughter in her early 20's. She and I saw Great Expectations on TV years ago and she still has very fond memories of it today and rushed to borrow the DVD I just purchased. She otherwise abhors "old films" and in particular those in B+W.
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Great version of the Dickens novel...beautiful B&W photography...
Doylenf28 May 2001
The Dickens novel is given classic treatment in David Lean's "Great Expectations". The opening scene is so atmospheric it sets the tone for the convoluted story to follow. The earlier scenes with young Pip are the most enjoyable for me--especially those involving Estella (Jean Simmons) and Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt).

Brilliant performances from all concerned. John Mills is wholly satisfying as the adult Pip and Valerie Hobson as the adult Estella--but it is Martita Hunt's Miss Havisham, sitting among the ruined finery of a wedding that never took place, everything exactly the way it was on that fateful day--and waging war on men ever since--that lingers in the memory.

Some of the best black and white photography seen until that time and an absorbing story with twists and surprises that have logical explanations. Compares favorably with the other great British film, "Oliver Twist" and, by all means, recommended viewing.

Not only worthy of its Best Picture nomination, it should have won over "Gentleman's Agreement" which now seems preachy and artificial.
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A great film
jonomichel21 June 2002
When David Lean directed Great Expectations, he used black and white, even though color was available. From the very first scene, you see that the black and white brings out a quality in the film, that wouldn't have been achieved with color. The black and white makes the film seem simpler than it really is. Great Expectations is a film, which ends very nicely for the characters, but their journeys throughout the film are not.

Pip sees himself for the rude snob he became, and Estella prides herself for being a heartless, ruthless bitch (for lack of a better word), and Miss Havisham is cold, and simply out to destroy men. The only person in this film who is not arrogant, or evil is the simple Joe.

I am far from a film expert. Infact, I only watched this movie because I am studying Great Expectations at school. However, after hours of in-depth discussion, there is so much more to this film than meets the eye. My favorite scenes are those in the first quarter of an hour. Lean's use of Silhouettes gives the search for the two escaped convicts a feel of war, and creates an atmosphere of tension very well. It also introduces the key characters in the story excellently.

As far as the story goes, I found it much easier on the head to watch than the book was to read. While it wasn't close in length to books i've read before (I think it's shorter than my little brother's "Harry Potter" books), it took me close to 30 hours to read. The movie compacts the majority of the book into 2 hours of film. The exclusion of characters like Orlick I have no problem with, as they are nearly completely irrelevant to the story. Lean explains the death of Pip's sister in less than 10 seconds, while the book takes somewhere in the region of 10 pages.

The acting is excellent. Alec Guinness was the only actor I had heard of, and that was only thanks to George Lucas. John Mills was interesting to watch, and after seeing the movie, I didn't know weather to like Pip for how he ended up, or to see him for the nasty person he had changed into (and come back from).

Only when watching it for the second time, did i realise the thought behind the direction. When Magwitch reappears, the atmosphere from their first meeting is created exactly; even the wind sounds the same. The sets were also incredible, and remade 19th century England perfectly. Ms. Havisham's `Statis House' was particularly memorable for me, as it is exactly how I pictured it from reading.

David Lean's Great Expectations set a benchmark in 1946 for great movies. It was nominated and won several Oscars, and is still enjoyed today. Every aspect of this film was enjoyable, it tells a great story, and if you look closer, you will appreciate the art of film making a little more, as I have.
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Another Famous Dickens Book Comes To Life
ccthemovieman-116 July 2007
As I watched the beginning of this film, I couldn't help but compare the story to the only other Charles Dickens story I was familiar with: Oliver Twist. It looked like it was going to be another story of a nice, respectful boy being abused by nasty adults. However, as soon as the young boy turned into a man, the similarities ended. Poor Oliver had a lot of ups and downs but life was basically pretty good for the boy, "Pip" in "Great Expectations."

Because of that, I didn't think this Dickens tale had the emotional impact of Oliver Twist, but still was great storytelling. The last 20-30 minutes of this film tied so many things together it really made it a satisfying film. From what I just researched, it sounds like the book was a lot harsher story.

My only major complaint with this film is the casting of the lead character, "Pip," as an adult, which involves most of this movie. John Mills looked way too old to be playing a 20-year-old "Pip Pirrip." In truth, he was too old. Mills was 38 when doing this role. They couldn't have found a younger actor? This guy looked and sounded like Ronald Colman, which is fine except Colman never looked 20, either! This is gross miscasting.

At any rate, I enjoyed a number of actors in here, mainly three older ones: Martita Hunt, Findlay Currie and Francis L. Sullivan. Hunt was just great as "Miss Haversham." I found her fascinating in every sentence she delivered, all of which she did while just sitting in a chair. Currie was genuinely frightening in the beginning as the escaped convict "Magwitch." However, what a transformation that man made in this story! Francis L. Sullivan emotes convincingly enough to play the

lawyer "Mr. Jaggers" and be fun to view, too. The rest of the actors were fine, but nothing memorable.

To me, the acting took a back seat to Dickens' story and to the film's cinematography. Knowing David Lean directed this film, that Criterion usually produces nice-looking DVD transfers and that "Oliver Twist" looked fantastic on disc, I was paying as close attention to the cinematography, and I enjoyed it. The story wasn't that intense until the finale, which was very well done. The romance was a bit questionable and is a sad-but-true comment how many people, at least us men, can be "in love" with a shallow woman who offers nothing but good looks. (Speaking of looks, Valerie Hobson pretending to be a little older Jean Simmons in the role of "Estella' is like Margaret Hamilton passing for slightly-older Jennifer Jones. Give me a break!)

Even though the screenplay is softer than the novel, most people say it still captures Dickens' flavor, and few critics had anything but praise for this classic film. Do I prefer this movie over the aforementioned Oliver Twist? No, but only because the latter is the most stunning photographed black-and-white movie I've ever watched. ("Citizen Kane" ranking second.) This is still very good in that category. Lean and cinematographer Guy Green won Oscars for their work here, so you know it's not too shabby.

The combination of Dickens, Lean, Green and a fine cast all make this a classic movie that is certainly recommended. Don't make the mistake of choosing the insipid 1998 version with Ethan Hawke and Gywneth Paltrow. This is the only version you want to see.
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a delightful tale with broad appeal (Modern viewers, take note.)
gscheyd29 January 2008
As a fan of many so-called classic films, I am nonetheless aware that there is some validity to the criticism that early movies (say, anything before Brando in Streetcar) as a rule have less vitality than their modern counterparts, are formulaic to a fault, and strain the limits of modern attention spans more than can be fully blamed on the viewer. Great Expectations treads miles clear of any of these criticisms, and so I recommend it in particular to anyone who has a general disdain for films that a) were released in the first half of the 20th century and/or b) were shot in black and white. Here is one that can change your mind.

Naturally, given the talents of the author, the plot itself leaves little to be desired. Further, David Lean, his cast, and his crew, have done a splendid job translating Dickens to the screen. This is indeed, as the Criterion Collection folks have classified it, one of the "Great Adaptations." I doubt that there is a better cinematic adaptation of any Dickens novel and am almost certain there is none in which the Dickensian English dialogue flows more pleasantly and naturally. The actors herein deliver Dickens as Olivier himself delivered Shakespeare. Nor is this an unimportant accomplishment; having to spend a couple of hours listening to actors who sound more like they are delivering a series of quotes (though admittedly they are) than that they are actually conversing can be positively unbearable. Indeed I think that's the main thing that people are hitting upon when, with broad brush-strokes, they paint older films as tedious. Great Expectations is the antidote to just this attitude.

If you are a lover of classic films, you have likely already seen this one or will do so regardless of my review, but if, on the other hand, you entertain the possibility of watching Great Expectations with a deep-seated skepticism I implore you to give it a chance. I have every confidence you'll be pleasantly surprised and find yourself drawn into what is, after all, a fascinating story.
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Magnificent translation of classic Dickens book with a splendid direction by David Lean
ma-cortes20 September 2005
The movie deals with an orphan child called Pip (Anthony Wager and grown-up John Mills) meets on the dark moor an escaped convict (Finlay Currie) and helps him . Later on , at a musty mansion he meets an old woman , Miss Havershan (Martita Hunt), and a beautiful girl called Stella (Jean Simmons and grown-up,Valerie Hobson) . Pit suddenly becomes a gentleman with the support of an unknown benefactor and his advocate (Francis L. Sullivan) . He befriends Herbert Pocket , Alec Guinness , in his debut picture as Pip's likable flatmate .

The film is an adaptation based on Charles Dickens's novel , being very fine directed by the classic director David Lean . In the movie there are drama , a love story , humor , tragedies and is pretty enjoyable . Impressive black and white cinematography by Guy Green , David Lean's usual ; in fact Lean has only utilized four cameramen throughout his career , the others have been Freddie Young , Jack Hyldyard and Ronald Neame who besides is producer and screenwriter of the film ; everybody famed and specialist photographers . The motion picture is considered to be the greatest version of the Charles Dickens novel , the recent rendition featured by Ethan Hawke as Pit , Gwyneth Paltrow as Stella and Anne Bancroft as Miss Havershan is deemed average . John Mills acting as the starring is first rate , he's romantic , sympathetic , attractive but also vulnerable and memorable . Alec Guinness as the agreeable friend is top notch , and secondary cast as Bernard Miles , Freda Jackson and Finlay Currie are excellent . Rating : Above Average . Well worth seeing for the classic cinema lovers .
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Mutton dressed as lamb
keith-moyes-656-48149112 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This was one of the key movies that helped establish David Lean's reputation as a director. It has been delighting audiences for over 65 years so its merits are too obvious to need repeating here.

Nonetheless, I don't rate it as highly as most people.

My doubts mostly concern the casting. There are truly memorable performances from Martita Hunt, Finlay Currie, Bernard Miles and Francis L Sullivan but, like many people, I have always had a problem with the relative ages of the lead actors.

The young Pip was played by 14-year-old Tony Wager. He is fine, but is having to play opposite 17 year-old Jean Simmons. This age discrepancy is all too noticeable. Why cast a teenager opposite an adolescent?

This curious decision would have made sense if the intention had been for Jean Simmons to play the adult Estella as well (with make-up and lighting this would have been perfectly feasible). However, the 20 year-old Estella is actually played by 29 year-old Valerie Hobson.

There is worse to come.

When the story jumps forward 6 years, 20 year-old Pip is now played by a 38 year-old John Mills. Similarly, Pip's contemporary, Herbert Pocket, is played by 32 year-old Alec Guinness. It might be possible for men in middle-age to get way with playing callow youths on stage, but not on film. Mills and Guinness have to use all their technique as actors to consciously play young, but the effort always shows and the movie camera is merciless in probing the deception.

Meanwhile, Joe Gargery is still being played by 39 year-old Bernard Miles. There is now only a one year age difference between stepfather and stepson.

These age problems often turn up in Dickens, because several of his novels have childhood prologues and the main action can cover many years. The most intractable of his books is probably Dombey and Son, where the main phase of the story takes Florence Dombey from 12 to 17. This is a near impossible age range for any actress to span.

However, I suspect the problems with this film were nothing to do with the story. They were probably due to the disruptive effect of the War, which cut off the supply of new young actors for five years. In 1946, most of the actors with the fame and the experience to carry a movie like Great Expectations had already established themselves way back in the Thirties.

Movie buffs, and many ordinary movie-fans, will of course be scornful that I let this question of age bother me. But it does bother me.

Great Expectations may show David Lean at the height of his powers as a director, but it takes more than a great director to make a great movie. You have to get the screenplay and the casting right as well. For me, one out of two was not quite good enough.

Oliver Twist was David Lean's great Dickens film.

PS: In the Railway Children, 19 year-old Sally Thomsett played a girl of about 12 or 13, so she might have been able to play Florence Dombey. Her problem may have been that she would have been more convincing as the adolescent Florence than as the young woman at the end of the book - despite her true age.
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True Dickens
screenman11 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
For Dickens fans throughout the world, David Lean's beautifully authentic rendition of 'Great Expectations' is a treasure to behold. And even those who are not fans of Dickens (how sad are they?) should hardly be discouraged by the astonishing antiquity of this work. It is truly a feat of genius. But then, Dickens himself was a genius; and any work that represents him with fidelity must endure as long as our culture.

Over 60 years ago, Lean set out to recreate the story and characters of Dickens and accomplished the task with honours. The sets, the locations, the lighting, the editing, and indeed all of the technical aspects of cinematography are quite superb. But more important, the actors are perfectly chosen for the characters they must play. In a movie that features the very youthful John Mills in its starring role, it is easy to overlook the host of supporting characters who not only acquit themselves well, but who entirely suit the parts they play.

The comparatively unknown Ivor Barnard has Mr Wemmick to a tee. Likewise, Francis L Sullivan - who would not have been my first choice - does a Stirling job as lawyer Jaggers (he features more believably as the beadle in Lean's other master-work of Dickens' 'Oliver Twist'. Then there is Bernard Miles as the stalwart but childish Joe Gargary 'What Larks!'. I could go on... Unlike most modern directors, David lean evidently read the original.

Dickens is something of an acquired taste. For generations like mine that had him forced down our throats in youth he was often a blight, a gloomy, contrived and unwelcome one at that. But accepted by choice he is the master of story-telling and character creation. His narrative prose has eloquence beyond equal. Yes; I became a fan.

Just check-out the chapter detailing the wedding day in 'Dombey & Son, and you'll see why.

This movie charts the progress of Pip - one of Dickens' less admirable heroes. He has too much pride and too much ambition, and when unexpectedly given the opportunity to realise both; he becomes a snob. As most of us would. As indeed Dickens knew, and he taunts us with that self-realisation. It's a clever story by a very clever man.

But pride comes before a fall. And Pip falls flat on his face. The scenes of revelation in which Abel Magwich discloses his identity and Ms Havisham confronts the wickedness she has realised are classic moments in human experience, and Lean has them to perfection.

Even if you're not a Dickens fan, even if you don't care for old movies, even if black & white doesn't suit your taste (it suits Dickens perfectly), watch this re-telling of human nature in all of its strengths and weaknesses. If it doesn't enthral you - your heart must have stopped beating. And you're certainly not fit to read the original.

Loved the book, loved the movie; Can't recommend either enough.
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Great movie whose first 40 minutes eclipses the rest
cherold14 March 2016
The first 40 minutes of Great Expectations is as good as anything in filmmaking. Wonderfully atmospheric, with gorgeous black and white cinematography, the movie is pitch perfect in every way.

The rest of the movie is quite good, with many fine performances and scenes and an engaging story, but there are a few things that weaken it.

While some of this may be that the early, rural scenes offer more opportunity for lush visuals and a sense of wild adventure, I think the greater problem is the two adult leads.

The children are great. Wagner's unfailingly polite Pip has just the right feel of confusion mixed with good manners as his fate is controlled by others. Jean Simmons is amazing with her haughty disdain and mercurial disposition.

Then the kids grow up into John Mills and Valerie Hobson, and things decline. The problem with both roles is you get now sense of their past. Mills has a change of fortune as an adult, but up until then he's a simple village boy, yet he speaks well at every time, lacking any sense of country habits or manners. And in spite of her remarkable upbringing, Hobson comes across as just pleasant, with none of the anger or secretiveness or resentment you would expect to peek just out of the shadows.

I'm not saying the characters had to be played in exactly the way I'm describing, with more roughness to Pip and more animalism to Estelle, but *something* needed to be done in both roles to bring the characters alive. Mills and Hobson are simply uninteresting in a movie full of interesting people.

That is not to say that all of the movie is not excellent. I was electrified when I saw it and promptly read the book, which is my favorite by Dickens. But with better casting this film could easily have been perfect, and I always feel a little let down at the moment Pip grows up.
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It is a very beautiful movie
richard-178714 December 2014
This is a very beautiful movie. Why? Very simple, actually.

1) The script is a masterful adaptation of a powerful novel. The dialogue is beautifully written, and often very powerful.

2) The acting is uniformly first rate. The actors, especially John Mills, know how to deliver great lines with powerful effect. They also know that great acting includes the ability to pause for necessary silences. Listen to how they deliver the lines.

3) The direction is first rate as well, as is the Oscar-winning cinematography. It's a joy to look at, and the pacing, never rushed, is wonderful.

These three qualities come together to make a masterpiece.
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Nice try, doesn't work
Spleen27 October 1999
Warning: Spoilers
The guy in front of me in the cinema was the spitting image of the Abel Magwitch on the screen - at least from behind. When you see Finlay Currie's Magwitch, you'll realise this is no joke. He's a gruff and alarming, just as he should be.

The opening scenes are great, but the film can't sustain them - unlike Dickens's novel, which is almost unique in the way it awakes our interest in the child and goes on to DEEPEN our interest in the adult. On screen it's often hard to see much in the mature Pip. Still, the mature Pip is far from being a disaster, and Alec Guinness's Herbert gives us a strong vicarious liking for the man (which, again, is as it should be).

And yet the story just continues to deteriorate as it approaches its end. David Lean knew that he wouldn't be able to include everything from the book - Orlick, for instance, is nowhere to be seen - but the film has the appearance of filling in detail more and more hastily as it goes along. The amount of narration sharply increases - always a bad sign. The entire character of Bentley Drummle is given to us in voice-over narration, when Pip casually mentions that (a) Estella is engaged to him, and (b) he's not very nice. Since we don't actually SEE how odious he is, we don't have much reason to believe Pip on this point - yet, of course, it is ESSENTIAL that we know not just that Drummle is odious but that we feel the very same desire Pip does to pick him up and throw him in a fireplace (or something of that kind).

The Hollywoodish ending is worst of all. I don't know why it's always been fashionable to lament the way Dickens ends the novel. His published ending was at least much better than the one he first wrote out; and every attempt I've seen to fiddle with Dickens's published ending is a flat failure.

I won't deny that Lean's film has a certain style. It certainly has potential. The main problem, I think, is the difficulty of turning `Great Expectations' into a good film. He did much better two years later with `Oliver Twist'.
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Probably the greatest black and white movie of all time.
robert-elliott723 January 2004
Before he became famous for Directing epics (The Bridge On The River Kwai, Lawrence OF Arabia etc.) David Lean directed a number of British literature classics. While I have never seen a movie that has eclipsed It's literary source, This is by far the best adaptation you are likely to see. To adapt one of the most famous novels by one of the most loved novelist's of all time is an almost impossible task. To end up with a result like this is a combination of many superb collaborations. From Lean's Crisp and tight direction to Guy Green's stunning Oscar Winning Black and White photography. The casting of each part was superbly cast from a fine stock of British actors. Led by John Mills as the central Character Pip he was backed up by a magnificent set of actors. Alec Guinness (in his first major role) played Herbert Pocket, Martita Hunt was unforgettable as Miss Havisham, That fine Scottish actor Finlay Currie played the convict Magwitch. Francis L. Sullivan Played the lawyer Jaggers just as he did in a 1934 Hollywood version. The ever reliable Bernard Miles played Pip's shy brother in law, the blacksmith Joe Gargery. The Heroine and the object of Pip's affections Estella was played by two of British cinemas most beautiful exports. A very young Jean Simmons played the young Estella and Valerie Hobson( who 15 years earlier played opposite Boris Karloff, as the bride to be Elsa in the horror classic Frankenstein) was the older Estella. Almost 60 years old there has been many versions of Great Expectations made since this masterpiece. The only question is why when it is obvious this version will never be surpassed as the definitive version.
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Unknown Benefactor
bkoganbing29 January 2007
Charles Dickens certainly liked to write his novels from a child's point of view. Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations all start with the hero/protagonist as a child. Only young Oliver Twist of the three I mentioned ended still a child in the novel's conclusion. In Oliver Twist, young Oliver is reunited with his propertied and somewhat wealthy grandfather looking to rise in station from his humble background.

Young Pip, short for Philip Pirrup, is also of humble background in Great Expectations. His parents are killed when he's young, he lives with his sister and her husband who is a blacksmith. During his childhood he befriends a convict on the run. Later on for mysterious reasons to him, he comes under the protection of eccentric old Miss Haversham who wants him as a companion for her adopted child Estella.

Later on as an adult, he has a mysterious benefactor who provides him income enough to live as a gentlemen, something he fervently desired all his life. It seems to be a dream come true. But there are still quite a few bumps on Pip's road of life.

Charles Dickens despaired of the poverty he saw in early Victorian Great Britain. But he also knew that riches alone did not necessarily guarantee happiness. It didn't for Scrooge, for Ms. Havisham, and certainly not for John Mills as the adult Pip. Nor does it for Valerie Hobson who inherits Ms. Havisham's estate.

Mills and Hobson are a perfectly cast pair of leads in this version of Great Expectations. Alec Guinness began a long association with director David Lean as Herbert Pocket, Pip's friend and roommate.

Finlay Currie, the craggy Scot's player who usually played kindly old gentlemen, turns out to be kinder indeed than originally presented as convict Abel Magwitch. It's a different kind of part for him.

Martita Hunt as Ms. Havisham plays a part all to familiar to me. I had an elderly relative in my family a lot like her, bitter at the world and taking it out on all around her.

My favorite in the film though is Francis L. Sullivan. Usually Sullivan's characters are crooked and/or corrupt in most of his films. As attorney Jaggers who seems to have an unseen hand in all the proceedings he actually is working for the ultimate benefit of both of our leads.

In Dickens's world, wealth can corrupt as easily as poverty. It's the character inside you that counts and that fact is not better demonstrated than in this adaption of Great Expectations.
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"You can break his heart!"
theowinthrop29 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
David Lean's reputation as a first rate director began in the 1940s with a series of films that were mostly small scale but had first rate casts and literate scripts. The most notable were his version of Noel Coward's BLYTHE SPIRIT and Coward's BRIEF ENCOUNTER, but he also did a notable film of Coward's straight play of the period between the World Wars, THIS HAPPY BREED. But you will notice that he concentrated on work by Noel Coward, and while the results were excellent it was limiting to him. Then he did two adaptations of Charles Dickens' OLIVER TWIST and GREAT EXPECTATIONS. These two films were also excellent (despite some controversy about the make-up used by Alec Guiness as Fagin in TWIST). The two Dickens' movies demonstrated that Lean was not tied to only one writer but could do others. Soon he'd do MADELEINE, HOBSON'S CHOICE, SUMMERTIME, and his epics were to come out in the 1960s. He never stopped doing adaptations (DR. ZHIVAGO and his last movie A PASSAGE TO India were great films too). He died in 1991 before making his last film - it would have been an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's masterpiece NOSTROMO.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS is claimed (by most critics) to be Dickens' masterpiece. Like it's proceeding novel A TALE OF TWO CITIES, it is among the shorter full novels of Dickens (only HARD TIMES shorter than these two) at about 600 pages each. Dickens tried to study the effect of inheritance on a human being. Philip Pirrup ("Pip" - Anthony Wager and later John Mills) is an orphan with only one older sister (Mrs. Joe Gargary) and lives with his sister, her husband the village blacksmith (Sir Bernard Miles) and Biddy (Eileen Erskine). Despite the harshness of his sister (who boasts she brings up Pip, Biddy, and even Joe "by hand", Pip has a decent life - Joe and Biddy are warm to him. One day, when visiting the graves of his parents, Pip is surprised by an escaped convict. The convict threatens Pip, who returns with food and supplies for him. Pip doesn't say anything to the anyone about the convict, but just helps him. However, the convict is caught - but he realizes Pip had been true to him. He thanks the boy before being taken away.

Some years later Pip is invited to the home of an eccentric wealthy woman named Mrs. Haversham (Martita Hunt). He is taken there and meets her lawyer, Mr. Jaggers (Francis Sullivan), a young boy (who we later learn is one Herbert Pocket - Alec Guiness plays him as a young man) and a proud, beautiful young girl named Estella (played by Jean Simmons here; later by Valerie Hobson). Pip is to come several times a week to play cards with Estella (who keeps putting him down, calling him a common boy), to the amusement of Mrs. Haversham. The old lady was the victim of betrayal when getting married, and hates the world as a result. When Estella complains about Pip being so common, Mrs. Haversham whispers to her, "You can break his heart!"

One day, Jaggers tells Pip and Joe that Pip has gotten a patron - he is to be brought up to be a gentleman by an unknown benefactor. Jaggers says that he has "great expectations" for Pip's future as a result - hence the title of the story.

That's the background. Mills slowly turns from incredulous type into a terrible snob - even making poor Joe and Biddy feel out of place in his presence. He pursues Estella, who despite his rise still considers him a poor boy. He also considers that Mrs. Haversham is his benefactor - but he is not sure. Then comes the shock - he meets the real benefactor (Finley Currie as Abel Magwich) and discovers that great wealth does not come from "gentleman" all the time.

Much has been cut out by Lean in his script. A subplot involving an attack on Mrs. Joe by an poor farm hand named Orlick is not included - as is a moment of melodrama aimed at Pip by Orlick later on. There is not enough about Pip's rival for Estella, a super snob named Bentley Drummle (Torin Thatcher). The problem of transporting of criminals to Australia and the rules regarding their returning is not really discussed in the film. Instead it is the effect of wealth on people that is the center of the film version, and the film is stronger as a result.

Mills had one of his best early roles as the hero who discovers that there are fine human beings who don't need money. Simmons and Hobson are properly selfish as Estella*. Guiness is pleasant as Pip's closest friend (but the role is not as rich as his Fagin in TWIST). As was pointed out Sullivan gives a sturdy performance as a man in a corrupt profession in a corrupt world, who tries to help people. If not as great as OLIVER TWIST was, it was Lean's fine first attempt at telling Dickens on screen

{*Dickens originally did not intend for Pip and Estella to end up together - there is a one page conclusion still extant that shows them going their separate ways. The novel and film have the ending that Dickens added at the recommendation of his friend Edward Bulwer - Lytton.)
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Smashing Adaptation Of Classic Charles Dickens Social Drama
ShootingShark21 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Pip, an orphan, is a modest apprentice to a blacksmith when he is contacted by a London lawyer and informed that a mysterious benefactor has decided to set him up as a society gentleman. Pip quickly finds friends and takes to his new station in life, but gradually comes to realise he has turned his back on his upbringing. Meanwhile, an unpleasant surprise awaits him regarding the identity of his sponsor ...

I find I can usually sum up the plot of most movies in two sentences, but the above synopsis doesn't even begin to describe the terrific story and memorable characters of one of Charles Dickens' best and much-admired novels. This film is arguably the best screen adaptation of his work (the closest contender being Lean's subsequent Oliver Twist), which benefits chiefly from fabulous photography by Guy Green and a truly marvellous cast. Mills and Hobson are excellent in the leads, but the honours go to Currie as the terrifying yet honourable Magwitch and Hunt as the doomed Miss Havisham. In strong support are Sullivan as bombastic lawyer Jaggers and Barnard as his assistant Wemmick, and don't miss very early performances by Simmons and Guinness. There are several justly famous sequences in this movie; notably the ultra-spooky opening in the graveyard and the cobweb-ridden wedding banquet hall, but my favourite is the scene where Magwitch returns through the stormy night to reveal the terrible truth to Pip. I have one complaint however, which is the unnecessarily altered ending - in the movie Pip and Estella escape to start a romance afresh, whilst in the book Estella marries the rich oaf, has a miserable time until he dies, then meets up with Pip again, but they both agree too much time has passed and too much has transpired for them to feel the same way about each other - a far richer, more melancholy resolution. That aside though, this is a great romantic Victorian melodrama and the script (by Lean, producer Ronald Neame and three other writers) sensibly retains Dickens' memorable characters and profound insight into human nature. Ever the best of friends, eh old chap ?
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Lean's Masterpiece
Buffy-7820 January 2000
David Lean's version of Great Expectations, although simplified and given a happy ending, is perhaps the closest in atmosphere of any Dickens adaption to the original. The lonely desolation of the Kent marsh where Pip grows up is perfect, as is his initial transformation into a gentleman.

The acting is almost uniformly superb, with perhaps only Valerie Hobson striking a slightly flat note. However this is a minor problem and detracts little from the film as a whole.

If you only ever watch one Dickens adaption, make sure it is this one. Nowhere else is the atmosphere better captured than here.
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Maybe the title is the film's problem (so to speak)...
ElMaruecan8223 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Warning, iconoclast review ahead...

Okay, this is the fifth movie on the British Film Institute's Top 100, one of Charles Dickens' most acclaimed adaptations, a Best Picture nomination that made many distinguished critics agree on its being one of the finest British movies ever made.

Okay, that's a film that quite holds up to its title and I don't think I expected anything other than greatness with David Lean's "Great Expectations". I don't think I was disappointed either but to say the film was flawless would betray an intimate conviction I can't get rid of, well, I'll try to explicit my point without offending the fans.

It started well actually, the Philip Pirrup introduction reminded me of an episode of "Growing Pains" (yes, the Vermont one from Season One) and I never thought that "Pip" guy was an invention of Charles Dickens. I was like "oh, that's where it comes from". Then there's the ominous sight of the little boy (Tony Wager) wandering into the graveyard to put flowers in his parents' tombstone, and encountering Magwitch (Finaly Currie) the convict.

Great start. Both actors were so convincing and that scene alone heightened my expectations, I felt like it was the encounter between Cosette and Jean Valjean, anything but greatness would come from this encounter. The surrounding characters didn't disappoint either, the bossy and annoying sister (Freda Jackson), her patient and good-hearted blacksmith husband Joe (Bernard Miles), all these Dickensian vibes transcended by a haunting black-and-white cinematography made me wish the childhood parts could last as long as possible, like "Oliver Twist" I guess.

And the childhood part kept on grabbing my interest with the part set at Mrs Havisham's mansion where Pip was invited to be the playmate of her adopted daughter Estella (an adolescent Jean Simmons) only to deal with her arrogance and verbal cruelty. What is it with this child only attracting people of the creepiest sort? Indeed, just when you expect some puppy romance to pop up, poor little Pip is constantly belittled and physically harassed by a cruel and harsh girl who can't see his love for her or just sees it too well and toys with it like a doll she expects to throw out.

And poor little Pip was too coarsely gentle, too shy to react properly and she was the first girl he ever knew so his heart was stolen forever but after that first disastrous day, he swears not to ever cry because of her and learn to get along with his new friend Herbert with whom he enjoys a few fighting games. But I make the film sound like something only about characters, but there's a whole atmosphere haunting it and everything seems to be rather contradictory in Pip's journey.

Indeed, in a scary graveyard he meets a dangerous criminal and yet this inspires Pip a strong outburst of generosity. In a beautiful mansion, he finds an old woman wearing wedding clothes and leaving the remains of a wedding ceremony to decay, and at that point, we're waiting for the answers. Yes, there must be a reason for Havisham's attitude, not to mention Estella's. "Great Expectations" did leave me with plenty of them.

The first twist of "Great Expectations" comes with the intrusion of a lawyer named Mr. Jaggers (Francis L. Sullivan) when Pip inherits some allowance from some unknown benefactor and becomes a true gentleman over the years, even a pure English snob through the mentorship of Herbert Pocket (a youngish Alec Guinness) and while the film doesn't lose any of its entertaining value there are just a few little problematic points that I can't ignore. I couldn't simply buy that this little boy could turn to John Mills, if anyone it should have been Guinness.

John Mills strikes me as the nicest actor ever but couldn't they have a younger actor? Guinness or how about a young Anthony Quayle? Mills was 38 years old and you can't make him pass as a 22 years let alone a 16-year old chap. Valeria Hobson plays a more believable Estella though it's hard to see her as the same girl played by Simmons. The casting was my main problem though Mills gave a great performance, he was just too old to be the counterpart of that kid. But there was another problem which is in the storytelling.

Cinema complicates everything, I know we were supposed to believe that Miss Havisham was the mysterious benefactor but I was convinced it was Magwitch from the start, otherwise why would the opening introduce us to him? I knew it was a matter of time before he would come up again and then I kept waiting for him while watching Pip enjoy his idle wealth in a sequence that was nothing new when you've seen many William Wyler movies, it was well done, well acted, well photographed but for some reason, it just left me cold.

Maybe it's because the material was too old or too conventional. 1946 was the year of a true English masterpiece: "A Matter of Life and Death", if you see "Great Expectations" after that, you're likely to be disappointed and feel yourself forced to praise the editing, the cinematography but was that new after "Rebecca"? I feel kind of guilty to diminish this film but it was obviously a case of compacting a rich and multilayered story into two hours of cinematic banality punctuated by some genuinely powerful scenes and a nice introduction. Maybe I should have lowered my expectations.

But who could expect that from such a title?
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Almost perfect rendering of the novel
cappi98-117 May 2001
I have the Criterion Version DVD & VHS. It is one my favorite films. I am a big David Lean fan and I found this to be on of his best. The pace and beautiful black and white photography by Guy Green are such a tribute to the Dickens novel it is based on. An excellent film for study of editing and direction.
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simply perfect
didi-520 February 2005
David Lean's evocative 'Great Expectations' is simply the best of all the cinema versions of this much-loved book. It is also the most cinematic - especially concerning the rotting, dusty house of Miss Havisham, who pines for the love she has lost, sitting in her decaying wedding dress with the table made up for the feast.

John Mills is perhaps at his best as the grown Pip, who goes to seek his fortune after being left a sizable sum of money from he knows not who (but we can guess fairly early on). As the boy Pip, Anthony Wager is OK, but is overshadowed by Jean Simmons as the girl Estella.

Best in this cast are Bernard Miles as Joe (an irritating portrayal but charming and realistic - this is a yokel who can't quite understand how Pip has become a gentleman); and Finlay Currie as the convict Magwitch.

The film is notable too for the debut of Alec Guinness as Herbert Pocket, Pip's roommate in London. Valerie Hobson rounds out the cast as the grown Estella, while Martita Hunt is a sinister Miss Havisham, and Francis L Sullivan is the grasping lawyer Jaggers.

Anyone who loves the book will appreciate the treatment this film lovingly gives it. Cineastes will find much to admire in David Lean's movie, which doesn't just make a visual record of the printed page, but really makes an effort to make a memorable film. It certainly succeeds.
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Nicely Done but Missing Some Key Moments
Hitchcoc17 December 2016
This is a classic version of one of Dickens' great works. It involves the story of Pip (Philip Pirrip) orphaned and raised by his sister. It starts with an assault by a criminal who terrorizes him. Pip dreams of being a gentleman and at some point money shows up from an unnamed benefactor. This sets his life in motion. One day he is called to the house of Miss Havisham and meets Estella (Jean Simmons/Later Valerie Hobson) the snobbish ward of the old lady. Pip's life takes a series of dramatic jolts that almost ruin him. The acting is wonderful and the story tight and well plotted. What is missing are some very important interactions among significant characters from the book. I know a movie can only be so long, but it cheats out of some really significant action. I am particularly fond of the Disney mini-series that came out a few years ago, starring Jean Simmons, this time as Miss Havisham.
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"Pip! A young gentleman of great expectations."
elvircorhodzic28 July 2016
One of my favorite novels. I read it when I was 12 years old. All films at extremely beloved novel by Charles Dickens take with a huge grain of salt and skepticism. All except one. GREAT EXPECTATIONS is almost perfect film. I may be a little subjective, but I will review damage. Photos is almost magical. Specific atmosphere without photos do not make sense. Set design is at a high level also. All compliments go to the director.

Of course, the director had to shorten the literary material, but my joy is not denied curious spirit and atmosphere that I experienced reading the novel. Even those who have not read the novel, one can enjoy the warm, sensitive and exciting adventure. Everything was done sparingly and with a lot of taste, and this can be observed in the music, costumes and acting. Especially when we see the game between the frightened boy and haughty girl.

John Mills as Pip as an adult, nice to see an actor who accepts the role with relish. Mills had 38 years, but it obviously did not bother him in the magical performance. Pip was gracious and cheerful young man, calm and restrained behavior that has captured the hearts.

Estella, „younger and older". Both versions are decent. The character that I, as a child, a little hate, now somewhat understand. The girl (Jean Simmons) was pretty tough, rude and arrogant. The older girl (Valerie Hobson) was perverse, but determined. Both are..... beautiful

Other actors are very good fit. Alec Guinness as Herbert Pocket is playful friend. Finlay Currie as Abel Magwitch was convicted and benefactor at the same time. Francis L. Sullivan as Mr. Jaggers is good lawyer who accidentally pulling all the strings and keeps some secrets. Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham is unfortunate and crazy "Miss".

A graceful, magical and intelligent film. Great characterization, very good acting, dialogue and narration.
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