Great Expectations in Film and Television, 1917 to 1998

y 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 madeÊof 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...