David Lean directs this classic adaptation of Dickens's novel about a young orphan who develops 'great expectations' after a mysterious benefactor pledges to sponsor his transformation into a gentleman. Pip (Anthony Wager) is visiting the graves of his deceased parents when he finds himself confronted by an escaped convict, Magwitch (Finlay Currie). Unfortunately for Pip, Magwitch isn't the only frightening adult he becomes acquainted with. When Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt), an eccentric old woman still dressed for the wedding at which she was abandoned by her groom years ago, seeks a playmate for her charge, Estella (Jean Simmons), it is Pip who is sent for. The boy quickly falls in love with Estella, though his hopes seem forlorn due to the gap in social standing between the two. When an older Pip (John Mills) discovers that he has a benefactor, he feels that Estella may be won, but has he read the situation correctly?
David Lean's handsome adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic novel captures the warm humour and richness of character that so many film-makers miss in their reverent recreations of Victorian England. From the nightmarish opening sequence on the windswept graveyard where young orphan Pip (Anthony Wager) meets the desperate escaped criminal Magwitch (Finlay Currie) to the shadowy, musty mansion of the widow Miss Haversham (Martita Hunt) where he first meets the impertinent young beauty Estella (Jean Simmons), Lean captures a child-like exaggeration of reality with his elegant expressionism. When Pip's sudden change in fortune sends him to London as a burgeoning gentleman in high society, Lean sketches a beautiful, bustling city.
John Mills's performance as the adult Pip charts his change from the wide-eyed wonder and generous spirit of the child he was to the class snob transformed by money and social standing, an ugly flaw that Pip confronts when his mysterious benefactor is finally revealed. The outstanding cast also features Valerie Hobson as the grown-up Estella, now a beguiling enchantress, a bright young Alec Guinness in his film debut as Pip's jovial London roommate Herbert Pocket, and the imposing Francis L. Sullivan as the decidedly humourless lawyer Jaggers. Exquisitely photographed by Guy Green (who won an Oscar for his work). Lean and his collaborators effectively maintain the heart of Dickens's epic drama while cutting it to its essentials in this vivid, compelling film. --Sean Axmaker, Amazon.com
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