decorated initial 'By the time that the first black-and-white film version of Dickens's 1861 novel (scripted by Paul West) was made at Paramount in 1917, over forty other films of Dickens's works had already been made. The cinematic interest in this late novel seems to have quickened with the onset of the Great Depression, and in every decade of the twentieth century since the 1934 version a film has been made�of Great Expectations, often with an eye to the television audience: 1946, 1959, 1961, 1967, 1974, 1989, and 1998. Increasingly, the issues of class-consciousness and the money morality of a society organized according to the Cash Nexus have been complicated by matters of obsessive romance and arrested emotional development, to say nothing of the Freudian treatments of Miss Havisham, Orlick, and Mrs. Joe. A further wrinkle is the antipodean interest in Magwitch's s Australian years, a textual lacuna that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in particular has sought to address.

The first cinematic interpretation of Great Expectations was a silent film produced in 1917 by Daniel Frohman, who had attained prominence on the New York Stage. Speed gives the date as 1916, and mentions Jack Pickford played Pip, and Louise Huff Miss Havisham. A second black-and-white silent film was scripted by Laurids Skands and directed at Nordisk (Denmark) by A. W. Sandberg in 1921. In 1934 Universal Studios in the U. S. did a talking picture written by Gladys Unger and directed by Stuart Walker. Phillips Holmes was Pip; Florence Reed, Miss Havisham; Jane Wyatt, Estella; with Henry Hull and Alan Hale.

During the 1930's and only a few (and mostly amateur) stage productions of Great Expectationsoccurred. . . . . The most important film version — David Lean's of 1946 — was yet to come. The great bulk of radio and television plays were yet to appear. Frances Jolly's “Great Expectations" received notice in the Dickensian [4]. Alec Guinness [who later reprised his comic interpretation of Herbert Pocket in the 1946 film, which was his cinematic début] could sense stage possibilities in the novel in 1939; but World War II intervened.[Philip Bolton, Dickens Dramatized (1987), 416-417]

Produced by Cineguild, England, the 1946 version starred a youthful Sir John Mills as Pip (the boy being played by Anthony Wager) and the lovely Valerie Hobson as the difficult grownup Estella, with Ivor Bernard as a flitting Wemmick, Bernard Miles as the affable Joe, a cold and calculating Francis L. Sullivan as Jaggers, Freda Jackson as Mrs. Joe, Martita Hunt as an icey Miss Havisham, and Finlay Currie “wholly magnificent as Magwitch" (Speed 20). Bosley Crowther, reviewing the film in the New York Times just after its American release in May 1947 described Lean's adaptation as “screen storytelling at its best." For this quality he singles out for praise the authors of a “script that is swift and sure in movement" (co-writers Anthony Havelock-Allan, David Lean, and Ronald Neame) and the director, Lean, for superlative sensitivity. Ronald Neame doubled as producer, providing an interesting team approach that created a tonally unified conception of the novel. The ending is reminiscent of Poe rather than Dickens, however, as Pip rips down the draperies of Satis House to let in the light of day upon the mould and decay of Satis House and release Estella (caught up in his arms) from the possessive spirit of the vengeful Miss Havisham.

In Lean's film we associate Miss Havisham, played with dignity and cunning by Martita Hunt, with candles, an unseen fire, and empty hearth, and her vanity table [the last an image frequently conjured up by nineteenth-century illustrators of the novel]. The frame's image places her near candle flames, with her face lit by a fire before her which we do not see. The effect of this close juxtaposition of images is to make Miss Havisham seem already damned in some genteel hell, full of cobwebs and old ribbons, or already on her funeral bier lit dimly by candles which offer no warmth. In the scene where Miss Havisham is prompting Pip to love Estella, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Jaggers, she is framed against a bare, black, cold hearth, which acts as a kind of visual correlative to her heartless, cold, and bitter words. [Barreca, 40]

In an article for the first series ofThe Dickens Magazine, Harmon Greenblatt relates how David Lean met Martita Hunt (the actress playing Miss Havisham in Alec Guinness's West End production of Great Expectations) through his wife at the time, Kay Walsh: “Lean had said that if he had not seen the stage version, he would never have done the film" (8). Adrian Turner, in the liner notes for the Criterion DVD of Lean's film, notes that, although reading Dickens may have been considered mandatory for every middle-class British child in the first half of the twentieth century, “Lean was not 'well read' — amongst Dickens' works, he claimed acquaintance only with A Christmas Carol — but like Dickens, he was a born storyteller" (1). When he saw the screenplay produced the studio's resident Dickens adapter, Clemence Dane, he thought it useless, and determined that he and Ronald Neame could do much better themselves. Subsequently, they also did a masterful job of casting, in particular with Guinness in the role of Herbert Pocket: “he is so full of honesty and boyish enthusiasm, the perfect antidote to Pip's snobbery" (9). Lean's manner of engaging the sympathies of the audience in the opening scene is nothing short of brilliant:

The first few minutes of the film, the pan along the shore with what looks like a series of gallows on the waterfront, are nowhere in the book, but the image is so strong that it forces us to enter Dickens's and Lean's world and never leave it until the film is over. The next scene, in which Pip is at his parents' grave and encounters Magwitch, invokes strong reactions from the audience. When Magwitch grabs Pip, the theatre audience literally gasped. The theatregoers feel the same fear as Pip. Here is the spirit, the drama, the emotion of Dickens on the screen. [9]

Just prior to the Christmas 1946, David Lean's Great Expectations became the first adaptation to arrive in cinemas after the Second World War. Long-time theatrical reviewer and editor of The Dickensian Leslie C. Staples pronounced the new film “a worthy transcription of a great book" (79). With a lifetime's appreciative reading of Dickens and personal knowledge of many British stage adaptations from Dickens's works, Staples provides a highly readable but, by today's standards, amateurish assessment; he relishes the Dickensian impersonations, and seems resigned to the un-Dickensian ending as “ingenious and effective" (81), given that neither of the original textual endings would do for a film. Regina Barreca remarks of Lean's rejigging of the ending that Estella is still a virgin, having been jilted rather having married Bentley Drummle: “In the film, she comes Pip broken-hearted but with everything else intact" (44), so that we see her as an extension of Miss Havisham, “who she claims is still a forceful presence in the house" (44), so that the conclusion involves Estella choosing Pip and the sunlight over Miss Havisham and the perpetual shadows of the past.

Objecting to technical aspects of setting rather than to manipulation of plot, Leslie C. Staples notes how unlike any Kentish church he has ever seen is the one which Lean has employed for the opening graveyard scene; an additional moment of aporia is the seawall by which young Pip makes his way home after the incident with the convict. Despite these and other inconsistencies in setting, Staples is pleasantly surprised by how much of Dickens's story Lean has been able to retain in a two-hour adaptation. Inevitably, he observes, such minor but charming Dickensian originals as Miss Skiffins had to be eliminated, but excising Orlick renders Mrs. Joe's sudden death less probable than her slow decline after her assault by her husband's journeyman in the novel. Staples praises the film for its verisimilitude in its re-creation of a packet-steamer from the period, and the dramatizing of “the attempted escape of Magwitch (photographed on the Medway, to avoid the heavy traffic on the Thames) . . . [which he describes as both] convincing and thrilling" (80). The sets for Barnard's Inn, a London landmark with which Staples was familiar, Bill Barley's Thames-side cottage, and the ruined precincts of Satis House, he highly approved. But his most fulsome praise he bestows upon the stellar cast of British actors, lauding in particular Alec Guinness, reprising his 1940 stage role of Herbert Pocket, as “wholly charming" (81). However, he obviously has some reservations about Hay Petrie's impersonation of Uncle Pumblechook: although Petrie is a “superb character actor," remarks Staples, Lean's Pumblechook “has not the aspect one associates with that redoubtable seedsman" (81). Veteran British comedian O. B. Clarence made a welcome — if far too brief — appearance as Wemmick's Aged Parent, in which role he proved “an unalloyed delight" (81).

Significantly, David Lean and his screenwriters did away with the role of Orlick, a character often omitted from subsequent “made-for-tv" productions such as NBC's (1974), written by Sherman Yellen and starring Michael York (Pip), Sara Miles (Estella), James Mason (Magwitch), Anthony Quayle (Jaggers), and Robert Morley (Pumblechook). Both the 118-minute 1946 and the 124-minute 1974 versions (the latter directed by Joseph Hardy) end amidst the Gothic cobwebs of a ramshackle Satis House rather than, as in the book, in the light of day in the ruined garden. Lean's ending strikes one today as excessively melodramatic and somewhat contrived, the lovers still young and not broken by the vagaries of time. Yellen's scripting of the reunion is much more muted, with streaks of grey and a world-weariness characterizing both Pip and Estella; particularly delightful is the wistful note of melancholic comedy sounded in Estella's remarking to the middle-aged lover “You may kiss me now, Boy." Sylvia Miller, reviewing the production, found the Yellen-Hardy tv adaptation “an insipid seasonal confection" (261), but apparently enjoyed Anthony Quayle as Jaggers for his having been able “to preserve something of the grim sidelong humour of the original." The sardonic Miss Havisham (Margaret Leighton), who sees her own folly even as she enacts it, is immolated with spectacular effect, and her death is one of the finest things in the film as she begs Pip (Michael York) for forgiveness.

The BBC produced a thirteen-part serial version in 1959 (from 5 April through 28 June), rebroadcast from 30 March through 22 June 1960, was followed by a ten-part version in 1967 written by Hugh Leonard, broadcast on British television in ten parts between 22 January and 26 March. The year 1961 saw at least six stage, radio, and televised versions of Great Expectations (Bolton 417). Leopold H. Ginner directed a Swiss screen-version in 1971. There has even been an animated cartoon version, according to Bolton (produced in 1978), rebroadcast on 3 March 1985 on American television. The last film version recorded by Bolton is the twelve-part BBC1 television version broadcast in 1980 (rebroadcast in 1981), written by James A. Hall, produced by Barry Letts, and directed by Julian Amyes. This version was later released in 1988 by BBC Video/CBS/Fox in two VHS cassettes totaling 300 minutes. The eccentric, philosophical Miss Havisham was played by Joan Hickson, Pip by Jerry Sundquist, and Estella by Sarah-Jane Varley.

An extended version not catalogued by Bolton (1987) is the leisurely-paced 1989, six-hour British version featuring Anthony Hopkins as Magwitch and as Miss Havisham an elderly Jean Simmons, who in youth had been David Lean's Estella. John Rhys-Davies, still very active in television today, played an affable Joe Gargery; Martin Harvey, young Pip, and Anthony Calf, mature Pip; Kim Thomson, Estella; Adam Blackwood, Herbert; Ray McAnally, Jaggers; Niven Boyd, Orlick; Susan Franklyn, Biddy; Rosemary McHale, Mrs. Joe; Frank Middlemass, Uncle Pumblechook; Charles Lewesen, Wemmick, John Quentin, Wopsle; and Sean Arnold, Compeyson.

A radical departure from the above relatively close adaptations for screen and television was Alfonso Cuaron's modernized and Americanized treatment of Dickens's story filmed in 1998 with some recognizable characters in very different settings. Cuaron's biggest problem was also his biggest strength: his thorough knowledge of David Lean's 1946 adaptation. What attracted Cuaron to Great Expectations was not Dickens's England but his moral universe; he thus was prepared to accept Mitch Glazer's screenplay of the poor boy with a good heart who goes from penury to celebrity and affluence, but suffers unrequited love, even though the treatment has transferred the scene of the romance from nineteenth-century England to the bright, green world of twentieth-century Florida (its tropic warmth a stark contrast to the chilled world of the Marshes) and New York (the American equivalent of London). The most significant modification is not one of scene, however, but of sex, sensuality, and eroticism, all amply provided by a sultry Gwyneth Paltrow: in Cuaron's opinion, remarks Pamela Katz, “Sex without love . . . can be even more painful than no sex at all" (97). The steamy romance, the lush setting, the contemporary casting (with the late Anne Bancroft delivering a splendidly neurotic Miss Havisham), and dazzling cinematography made the film popular with North American adolescents, who, unencumbered by having to read the novel as part of their schooling, discovered the novel for themselves — surprised that it contained virtually no sex and was set in nineteenth-century England. That the book's controlling consciousness, filtering our perceptions of his younger self and of the other characters, would have come as no surprise since Finn's [with a nod to Mark Twain, the film's name for Pip]

voice-over dominates the film and, in like fashion, we see most of the film through his eyes. His vision of Estella is particularly stylized. Her face is usually photographed in an extreme (and extremely flattering) close-up: it always appears suddenly, by Finn's side, and then just as suddenly leaves. This surreal touch makes her seem more like a figment of Finn's imagination than a solid human figure. Her reality rests in his mind alone. [Katz, 102]

Other extended versions include the leisurely-paced 1989, six-hour British version featuring Anthony Hopkins as Magwitch and as Miss Havisham an elderly Jean Simmons, who in youth had been David Lean's Estella. John Rhys-Davies, still very active in television today, played an affable Joe Gargery; Martin Harvey, young Pip, and Anthony Calf, mature Pip; Kim Thomson, Estella; Adam Blackwood, Herbert; Ray McAnally, Jaggers; Niven Boyd, Orlick; Susan Franklyn, Biddy; Rosemary McHale, Mrs. Joe; Frank Middlemass, Uncle Pumblechook; Charles Lewesen, Wemmick; John Quentin, Wopsle; and Sean Arnold, Compeyson.

Finally (at least at the time of writing) in terms of attempts at faithful adaptations, we come to Tony Marchant's admirable screenplay for the 1999 three-part (180-minute) Masterpiece Theater mini-series starring Ioan Gruffudd of Horatio Hornblower fame as mature Pip and Justine Waddell as Estella, psychologically impaired by the anti-male programming of Miss Havisham (Charlotte Rampling). With plenty of screen time available for the PBS production, director Julian Jarrold enlisted an extensive cast, including Clive Russell as Joe Gargery; Leslie Sharp, Mrs. Joe; Laura Aikman as young Biddy, and Emma Cunniffe as mature Biddy; Nicholas Blane, Wopsle; Selina Cadell, Sarah Pocket; Jo Cameron Brown, Miss Skiffins; Timothy Tranter as young Orlick, and Tony Curran, mature Orlick; Gemma Gregory, young Estella; Bernard Hill, Magwitch; David Horovitch, Matthew Pocket; Laurence Dobiesz, young Herbert, and Daniel Evans, mature Herbert; Hugh Lloyd, the Aged P; Ian McDiarmid, Jaggers; Laila, Molly; Terence Rigby, Pumblechook; and Nicholas Woodeson as Wemmick. Charlotte Rampling is effective as the eccentric, enigmatic crone who has exiled herself from society — and reality — and taken refuge in the Gothic shadows of Satis House. The adult Pip is strikingly handsome and poised, coolly smitten by the troubled Estella. The shoot was set in Edinburgh, which still offers many locales redolent of early nineteenth-century London.

As a footnote, the most bizarre video adaptation of Dickens's classic bildungsroman is Southpark's Episode No. 62, which aired 29 November 2000. Writer Trey Parker provides a science-fiction treatment of the novel as Malcolm McDowell ('English Person') narrates what begins as a textually accurate synopsis but turns into a fantastic yarn about a Genesis device on the Havesham Estate designed to emasculate young men. The interjection of robotic monkeys to facilitate the villainess's carrying out her evil designs is an indication of a post-modernist intertextual approach which synthesizes the children's classic The Wizard of Oz and Dickens's first-person narrative about nineteenth-century British class-consciousness. Estella is still the main romantic interest, the scornful beauty for whom Pip realizes only a gentleman will do, but her insults have a most un-Dickensian, in-your-face sting. The sitcom departs from the original text significantly, when, after mere months away in London, Pip returns to uncover Miss Havesham's scheme to use his tears and those of other heart-broken young men to enable her Genesis device to ensnare Estella's soul and allow her to live forever while exacting revenge on the entire male gender. Whether Dickens or Feminism or High Culture (as exemplified by PBS's Masterpiece Theatre) is the main butt of the spoof is difficult to say. Ironically, according to Jeffrey Sconce, this episode, perhaps because it departed from the Southpark formula, met with considerable audience resistance:

this episode “failed" only in terms of viewer response and ratings. Informal surveys of Southpark fan websites reveal “Pip" to be the single most unpopular episode of the series ever to air, a fact confirmed by the parent network's decision not to rerun this apparently too digressive episode later in the season. [184-85]


Amyes, Julian (director). Great Expectations. Teleplay by James Andrew Hall. Starring Stratford Johns (Magwitch), Joan Hickson (Miss Havisham), Phillip Joseph (Joe), Derek Francis (Jaggers), Colin Jeavons (Wemmick), Patsy Kensit (young Estella), Graham McGrath (young Pip), Tim Munro (Herbert), John Stratton (Pumblechook), Sarah-Jane Varley (Estella)and Gerry Sundquist. UK: first broadcast in 1981on the BBC as a twelve-part tv mini-series (30 min. episodes). London: BBC Enterprises, BBC Video; and Livonia, Michigan: CBS/Twentieth-Century Fox Home Entertainment, 1988. Running time 300 minutes. VHS 5411.

Aylott, Dave (director). The Boy and the Convict. Film, Black and white, Silent, UK, 1909.

Barreca, Regina. “David Lean's Great Expectations."Dickens on Screen, ed. John Glavin. Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 2003. Pp. 39-44.

Bolton, Philip H. Dickens Dramatized. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall, 1987.

Bridges, Alan (director). Great Expectations. Adapted by Hugh Leonard. Starring Gary Bond, Francesca Annis, and Maxine Audley. TV, UK: 1967.

Brooking, Dorothea (producer). Great Expectations. Adapted by P. D. Cummings. Starring Dinsdale Landen, Helen Lindsay, and Marjory Hawtrey. TV, UK: 1959.

Burstall, Tim (director). Great Expectations--The Untold Story. Starring Todd Boyce, Anne Louise Lambert, and Jill Forster. TV, Australia: 1987.

Butler, Ivan. “Dickens on the Screen." Film Review 1972-73, ed. F. Maurice Speed. London: W. H. Allen, 1972.

Connor, Kevin (director). Great Expectations. Screenplay by John Goldsmith. Starring Jean Simmons (Miss Havisham), John Rhys-Davies (Joe), Ray McAnally (Jaggers), Anthony Calf (Pip), Kim Thomson (Estella), Adam Blackwood (Herbert), Anthony Hopkins (Magwitch). UK: mini-series (six episodes of 60 mins. each); USA running time 303 minutes. 1989.

Crowther, Bosley. “Great Expectations." [Review.] New York Times, 23 May 1947. Accessed at the New York Times Movie Reviews' website 24 April 2005:!res=EE05E7DF173CE564BC4B51DFB366838C659EDE

Cuaron, Alfonso (director). Great Expectations. Screenplay by Mitch Glazer. Starring Ethan Hawke (Pip), Gwyneth Paltrow (Estella), Anne Bancroft (Miss Havisham), and Robert De Niro (Magwitch). Los Angeles: Twentieth-Century Fox Home Entertainment, 1998. Running time 112 mins. DVD 0 24543 00005 1.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.

Felton, Norman (director). Great Expectations. Adapted by Dora Folliott. Starring Roddy McDowall (Pip) and Estelle Winwood (Miss Havisham). Made for television, USA: 1954.

Greenblatt, Harmon. “David Lean Production." The Dickens Magazine Series 1, Issue 5 (2001): 8-9.

Hardy, Joseph (director). Great Expectations. Screenplay by Sherman Yellen. Starring Michael York (mature Pip), Sarah Miles (Estella), Joss Ackland (Joe), James Mason (Magwitch), Margaret Leighton (Miss Havisham), and Robert Morley (Pumblechook). London and New York: ITC Live Home Video, 1993. Originally filmed in 1974. Running time 124 mins. VHS 69926.

Jarrold, Julian (director). Great Expectations. Screenplay by Tony Marchant. Starring Ioan Gruffudd (Pip), Justine Waddell (Estella), Charlotte Rampling (Miss Havisham), Daniel Evans (Herbert), Gemma Gregory (young Estella), Bernard Hill (Magwitch), Ian McDiarmid (Jaggers), and Gabriel Thomson (young Pip), and Clive Russell (Joe). First broadcast on Masterpiece Theater, 1999. Running time 180 mins.

Jordan, John O. “Great Expectations on Australian Television." Dickens on Screen, ed. John Glavin. Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 2003. Pp. 45-60.

Katz, Pamela. “Directing Dickens: Alfonso Cuaron's 1998 Great Expectations. Dickens on Screen, ed. John Glavin. Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 2003. Pp. 95-103.

Lean, David (director and screenwriter). Great Expectations. Starring John Mills (Pip), Valerie Hobson (Estella), Bernard Miles (Joe), Francis L. Sullivan (Jaggers), Martita Hunt (Miss Havisham), Ivor Barnard (Wemmick), Anthony Wager (young Pip), Jean Simmons (young Estella), and Alec Guinness (Herbert). London: 1946. The Criterion Collection, Rank and Janus: 1998. Running time 118 mins. DVD 0-78002-127-4. Liner notes by Adrian Turner. GRE 270.

Miller, Sylvia. “Great Expectations." [Review.] Monthly Film Bulletin 42 (December 1975) 261.

Parker, Trey, and Matt Stone (directors and screen-writers). “Pip, “ South Park. TV, Animated, USA: 2000.

Rosenberg, Edgar (ed.). “Launching Great Expectations." Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. Pp. 389-423.

Schlicke, Paul, ed. Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1999.

Sconce, Jeffery. “Dickens, Selznick, and Southpark." Dickens on Screen, ed. John Glavin. Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 2003. Pp. 171-187.

Staples, Leslie C. “Great Expectations Realised." Dickensian 43 (1947): 79-81.

Vignola, Robert G., and Joseph Kaufman (directors), Great Expectations. Adapted by Paul West and Doty Hobart. Starring Jack Pickford (Pip), Louise Huff (Estella), and Grace Barton (Miss Havisham). Film, Black and white, Silent, USA: 1917.

Walker, Stuart (director). Great Expectations. Adapted by Gladys Unger. Starring Phillips Holmes, Jane Wyatt, and Florence Reed. Film, Black and white, USA: 1934.

Watt, Kate Carnell, and Kathleen C. Lonsdale. “Dickens Composed: Film and Television Adaptations." Dickens on Screen, ed. John Glavin. Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 2003. Pp. 201-216.

Charles Dickens Victorian Musical Theater

Last modified 26 June 2005