Great Expectations, fulfilled December 14, 2007Posted by Jeff in 1946 through 1960, Movies, Trivia questions.
When we think of British films, we tend to think small … Kind Hearts and Coronets … A Hard Day’s Night … The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner … British movie studios have never been rolling in pounds sterling, and their best films tend to reflect a more intimate tone.
Except, of course, for David Lean.
Lean (1908-1991) was the master of the Big Movie. 49th Parallel (1941), Brief Encounter (1945), Oliver Twist (1948), Summertime (1955), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), Ryan’s Daughter (1970), the under-appreciated A Passage to India (1984) … each film was an Event, of the kind we don’t see any more in these days of direct-to-video and wide releases. I can remember sitting in the Chinese Theater with my dad the week A Passage To India opened, just soaking in the aura of the masters of their crafts: John Box’s art direction, Ernest Day’s cinematography, Maurice Jarre’s score … and of course, Lean’s editing and direction.
Great Expectations (1946) was among the first of Lean’s extraordinary run of unforgettable movies, and although I share the common admiration for Lawrence of Arabia, I hope I will not offend by saying that I still think this movie is his masterpiece.
Young Pip (Anthony Wager) is introduced to the entrancing Estella (Jean Simmons) and the mysterious Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt):
Much later, the escaped convict Magwitch (Finlay Currie) hears his sentence, and the older Pip (John Mills) learns some astounding truths from the implacable barrister Jaggers (the brilliant Francis L. Sullivan):
Will Pip succeed in rescuing Estella (now played by Valerie Hobson) from Miss Havisham’s fate?
This is how Dickens ends his novel:
“You have always held your place in my heart,” I answered.
And we were silent again, until she spoke.
“I little thought,” said Estella, “that I should take leave of you in taking leave of this spot. I am very glad to do so.”
“Glad to part again, Estella? To me, parting is a painful thing. To me, the remembrance of our last parting has been ever mournful and painful.”
“But you said to me,” returned Estella, very earnestly, ‘God bless you, God forgive you!’ And if you could say that to me then, you will not hesitate to say that to me now — now, when suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but — I hope — into a better shape. Be as considerate and good to me as you were, and tell me we are friends.”
“We are friends,” said I, rising and bending over her, as she rose from the bench.
“And will continue friends apart,” said Estella.
I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so, the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.
There was some criticism that Lean changed Dickens’s ending. For what it’s worth, my high school English teacher thought that the last nine words meant that Pip and Estella were going to end up together. What do you think?
A Criterion DVD of Great Expectations goes to the first person to post a comment to this entry, answering this question in full: Who is this woman, and what is her connection to the movie of Great Expectations? (She does not appear in the movie.)