Great Expectations – 1946 | 118mins | Drama | B&W
Great Expectations was director David Lean‘s first adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic. David Lean portrays the full cinematic potential of Dickens’ novel, and the result is not only one of the finest literally adaptations ever made, but one of the best British films of all time.
The story is of young orphan boy Pip (John Mills), a small boy running, running, running across the Kent marshes that is our first glimpse of Pip. He is an orphan destined to many adventures. Though shaken until his teeth rattle by an escaped convict called Magwitch (Finlay Currie), he is persuaded to steal food for him. He is taken to amuse an eccentric old lady, Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt), into whose shuttered house the light of day is never allowed to penetrate. When he grows up he is informed by a lawyer named Jaggers (Francis L. Sullivan) that he has inherited a fortune from someone who wishes to remain unknown. He can no longer remain an apprentice to his brother-in-law Joe, the kindly blacksmith.
In London, the raw country lad is taught by young Herbert Pocket (Alec Guinness) to become a polished gentleman. He imagines that his unknown benefactor must be old Miss Havisham, whose pretty niece Estella was his haughty playfellow long ago and with whom he has ever since been in love. Then a one-eyed ruffian appears in his apartments. It is the convict he befriended. It is he who is Pip’s benefactor. This man, Magwitch, had been transported to Australia where he made a fortune. Though he knows that the penalty for being found in England would be death, he has determined to come back to make sure that Pip is happy in his career as a fine gentleman.
Pip and Herbert Pocket hide Magwitch in their apartment, and with the help of Wemmick, Mr. Jaggers’s clerk, try to smuggle him out of the country. But an informer has traced the old convict, and a police galley chases the rowing boat in which the two friends hope to intercept the packet boat to get Magwitch taken aboard. The rowing boats are run down by the packet in a fog; the informer is killed and Magwitch hurt. The old man is tried and sentenced to death. He does not live to mount the gallows and as he lies dying in the prison hospital, his last moments are cheered by Pip’s revelation that the daughter he lost long ago has grown into a beautiful woman – the Estella whom Miss Havisham had adopted.
Pip falls ill from the strain of his experiences. When he is well enough to be moved, Joe takes him back to the smithy where he recovers. One day he walks over to the gloomy house where he first saw Estella. And there he finds her again. To his horror he sees that she is beginning to live as Miss Havisham had lived.
Tearing down the curtains, Pip shows Estella the dust and squalor of the desolate room and they run out into the sunshine to start a new life together. Nominated in several categories, the film earned Oscars for cinematographer Guy Green and art director John Bryan.
David Lean: Director
Wilfred Shingleton: Art Direction
George Pollock: Asst Director
Guy Green: Cinematography
Sophia Harris: Costume Design
Jack Harris: Editing
Anthony Havelock-Allan: Executive Producer
Walter Goehr: Music Score
Ronald Neame: Producer
John Bryan: Production Designer
Norman Spencer: Production Manager
Anthony Havelock-Allan: Script
Ronald Neame: Script
David Lean: Script
Kay Walsh: Script