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The Beggar's Opera (1953)

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 »


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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


Crime | History | Musical


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Release Date:

5 October 1953 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Die Bettleroper See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The genesis of this 1728 opera came from Jonathan Swift, who wrote to Alexander Pope in 1716 asking "what think you, of a Newgate pastoral among the thieves and whores there?" John Gay, who was a friend of both, took up the idea. See more »


The Beggar: What's an opera if everyone is dead in it?
See more »


Version of The 3 Penny Opera (1931) See more »


The Charge Is Prepared
Sung by Laurence Olivier
See more »

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User Reviews

Intriguing and entertaining
3 July 2017 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

As was said in my review for the 1963 production of the Britten version, John Gay's ballad/satirical opera 'The Beggar's Opera' is a lot of fun and it is no wonder it's popular with most, the dialogue, music and characters are all great. Benjamin Britten's radically different but enormously enjoyable and melodious, an ingenious and often brilliant modern re-imagining that shows the composer's individual treatment of folk-songs, version is also well worth it as well.

This 1953 film may not be completely ideal, but it is still intriguing and entertaining with a good deal to like. Occasionally, some of the dialogue loses impact when director Peter Brook tries to open up the action. While there are wonderful, imaginative visuals, Brook's directorial inexperience shows with some of the drama a bit undistinguished and stagy.

However, 'The Beggar's Opera' (1953) is a very handsome-looking film, with stylish production and costume design and some imaginative photography that succeeds in opening up the action. The music is a superb mix of rousing fun and heartfelt nuance. Most of the dialogue crackles with sharp wit and avoids being too wordy.

Most of the story absorbs and is lively in pacing, with the action being just about easy to follow and the twist is well executed.

Laurence Olivier may not have the best singing voice there is, but has charismatic swagger and energy aplenty. Hugh Griffith, Dorothy Tutin, George Devine and Stanley Holloway give him strong support.

All in all, intriguing and entertaining if not the most ideal version. 7/10 Bethany Cox

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