“Pip! A young gentleman of great expectations.”
A young orphan (Anthony Wager) who exhibits kindness to an escaped convict (Finlay Currie) is sent to be the playmate of a girl (Jean Simmons) living with an embittered older woman (Martita Hunt). Years later, grown Pip (John Mills) becomes a gentleman through the help of an unknown benefactor, re-encounters the convict, and remains enamored with his childhood crush (now played by Valerie Hobson).
David Lean’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel — listed as number five on the BFI’s list of all-time great British films — is widely acknowledged as its best cinematic rendering, and remains among the top Dickens adaptations ever produced. Upon its release, Bosley Crowther of the New York Times referred to it as “a perfect motion picture”, noting it could “safely be recommended as screen story-telling at its best” — and this lofty sentiment isn’t far from the truth. Lean and his crew manage to take Dickens’ dense, character-rich serial novel and turn it into a gripping, finely acted two-hour drama with a clear story arc and plenty of invigorating twists and turns.
Lean apparently had a very specific vision for how the film should look, and his attention to detail clearly pays off. From its opening scene at the cemetery on the moors, to Miss Havershim’s decaying manse, to Pip’s new living quarters as a “gentleman” in London, each of the carefully crafted sets (the film won an Oscar for best art and set direction) emanate Dickensian authenticity. Guy Green’s Oscar-winning cinematography is truly stunning, and the supporting performances by the ensemble cast are consistently impressive, embodying Dickens’ characters exactly as we likely imagine them. Among the notable stand-outs are Finley Currie as Magwitch the convict (appropriately menacing in his on-screen “debut” on the moors), Bernard Miles as Pip’s humble brother Joe Gargery, and Martita Hunt as the infamous spinster Miss Havisham.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Anthony Wager as young Pip
- John Mills as grown Pip
- Finlay Currie as Magwitch
- Bernard Miles as Joe Gargery
- Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham
- Francis Sullivan as Mr. Jaggers
- The incredibly tense opening sequence on the moors
- Guy Green’s stunning cinematography
- Fine period sets
Yes, as a classic rendering of a classic novel. Nominated by Peary as one of the best pictures of the year in his Alternate Oscars.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)