Great Expectations (1946)

great expectations poster 1946 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting : 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking, strong adaptation


Movie Info

Movie Name:  Great Expectations

Studio:  Cineguild

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  December 16, 1946 (Premiere)/May 22, 1947 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

great expectations pip miss havisham martita hunt anthony wager

Yo, lady…you’re wiggity-wiggity-wack!

After a chance encounter with an escaped prisoner (Finlay Currie), Pip (Anthony Wagner) is summoned to the home of the eccentric Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt) and her ward Estella (Jean Simmons).  When Pip (John Mills) is selected by a mysterious benefactor for “great expectations”, Pip finds himself in London with his friend Herbert Pocket (Alec Guinness) to become a man of high standards and dreams of wooing Estella (Valerie Hobson).  When Pip’s benefactor is revealed, Pip finds himself in greater danger than ever.

Directed by David Lean, Great Expectations is an adaptation of Charles Dickens classic 1861 novel.  The film was released to critical acclaim and won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography—Black-and-White and Best Art Direction-Set Decorations—Black-and-White with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  The Criterion Collection remastered the film (Criterion #31).

Dickens is a classic, and Great Expectations is one of his great works.  There are some Dickens’ stories that I know really well and there are other stories I know just on the fringes; Great Expectations is one of those stories.  Even if you don’t know the story inside and out, you feel like you know Great Expectations inside and out.

great expectations magwitch pip herbert pocket john mills alec guinness finlay currie

So…you’re not that bright are you, Magwitch

Dickens stories are often stories of chance encounters.  Here, Pip meets a convict and everything really just spawns from that.  It isn’t as chance oriented as some of Dickens’ other work, but Pip’s ties to Estelle end up being tied to the convict.  What is more compelling about Great Expectations is the odd relationship between the cold Estelle and Pip which feels more like a Henry James novel than a Dickens novel and the eerie Miss Havisham which feels like the Brontes’ or Austen’s material.

The cast is strong.  John Mills is a good Pip and Valerie Hobson manages to be cool and cold while still being likable as Estelle.  Jean Simmon plays the young Estelle, and Simmons later went on to play Miss Havisham in the 1989 version of the story.  Martita Hunt gets the easy scene stealing Miss Havisham and Finlay Currie equally takes all of his scenes as the crusty convict Abel Magwitch.  The movie features Alec Guinness who appeared in many of Lean’s films as the best friend Herbert Pocket.

great expectations boat scene ending

Boat chases…kind of like a James Bond movie

David Lean brings his style to the movie.  The film is filled with atmosphere and style.  The film just looms and the darkness of Miss Havisham’s home is in great contrast to how Pip lives when he becomes a man with “expectations”.  The culmination of the film has to be the great escape scene upon the water with the ship crashing down upon the characters…it is dated by today’s standards, but the looks great considering the context of when the film was made.

David Lean always brought out the best in the projects he took, and his Charles Dickens films are no exception.  Great Expectations is often listed as one of the best British films of all time and you can see why watching the film.  While I enjoy Lean’s later films more, Great Expectations is a solid outing.  It simplifies the tale but also brings the story to life.  Lean continued with the Dickens film in his next film with his adaptation of Oliver Twist in 1948.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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