Great Expectations (1946)

Great Expectations 1946

Pip – a young gentleman of great expectations! Orphaned Philip ‘Pip’ Pirrip (Anthony Wager) lives with his older sister and her blacksmith husband Joe (Bernard Miles). He encounters runaway convict Magwitch (Finlay Currie) on the marshes and assists him with food and helps him cut himself free. However Magwitch is recaptured when he has a fight with a fellow escapee. An eccentric elderly spinster Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt) wants company for herself and her teenage ward Estella (Jean Simmons) a cruel but beautiful teenager who mocks Pip but with whom he falls in love from afar. Pip is apprenticed to a blacksmith when he turns 14 and Estella goes to France to become a lady. Years later Pip (John Mills) is visited by Miss Havisham’s lawyer Jaggers (Francis L. Sullivan) and he is to be the beneficiary of a mysterious benefactor to become a gentleman of great expectations in London where he befriends Herbert Pocket (Alec Guinness) who tells him that Miss Havisham’s life is dedicated to revenge against men because she was jilted at the altar and Estella was brought up likewise. They are reunited when Pip is 21 and he visits Miss Havisham after getting his living stipend of £500 a year and he finds that Estella (Valerie Hobson) is engaged to a man she doesn’t love. Pip is visited by Magwitch who reveals he was his benefactor and that Miss Havisham was using him. He confronts her and she realises the great harm she has done and as Pip is leaving a terrible accident occurs. Magwitch should not be on the territory and is commiting a felony and Pip undertakes to help him escape England … I want to be a gentleman on her account. Director David Lean recalled a perfectly condensed theatre adaptation of the Dickens novel and wrote the screenplay with producer Anthony Havelock-Allan, Cecil McGivern, Ronald Neame and Kay Walsh. From its magnificent opening sequence on the marshes (shot by Robert Krasker) and the atmosphere conjured by the decaying mansion housing Miss Havisham, this is a film of such dazzling detail and character, brilliant playing and staging and flawless pacing, as to merit the description perfect. Lean came of age as a director and the cinematography by Guy Green and the soaring score by Walter Goehr pick out, express and complement the heart of the drama. It never dodges the little social critiques (Mills’ reaction to the public hangings) or the touches of humour (Pip popping Pocket in the jaw; his silly fashionable get up) nor the ideas of snobbery, stupidity, guilt or social injustice that characterise the text of the novel. The final scene, when Pip returns and throws light upon Estella is heartbreaking and delightful. A simply bewitching masterpiece. What larks!

Say Hello to Yesterday (1971)


A time capsule of London at the beginning of the Seventies, love in the afternoon and the likely dream of bored housewives everywhere who saw Romeo and Juliet – having a ridiculous meet-cute with hyper-verbal Leonard Whiting and playing kiss-chase across the city for 10 hours. He spurns lovely young Susan Penhaligon (uncredited) and hits on forty year old Jean Simmons taking the train to London and haunts her into hanging out with him. When she arrives at her mother’s Regency flat he turns up with flowers and Mother says, If you have an affair with that boy you’ll regret it, if you don’t have an affair with him, you’ll regret it. She and Papa had their own fun separated by WW2. What’s a frustrated middle class woman to do?  An everyday tale of a day in the life, sort of, and an underrated look at life in those in-between years when unnamed people could have a one-day stand and not live to regret it. Written and directed by Canadian Alvin Rakoff whose preferred soundtrack of Joni Mitchell and Donovan was replaced by work from Riz Ortolani, best known for Mondo Cane. If the city looks great, that’s thanks in large part to being photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth. It’s also nice to see Catweazle (Geoffrey Bayldon) as an estate agent. Whiting’s general disappearance from screen acting for several years is mystifying albeit it seems he was typecast as the beautiful young man. He was last credited as ‘Julia’s Father’ in a 2015 thriller called Social Suicide alongside his former co-star Olivia Hussey as ‘Julia’s Mother’ in what appears to be a reworking of Romeo and Juliet. Sigh.