Great Expectations


1h 40m 1934

Brief Synopsis

Charles Dickens' classic tale of Pip, a poor orphan who befriends an escaped convict and who grows up in the company of a bitter old woman, Miss Havisham, and her haughty young ward, Estella. Pip learns the rewards of both vindictiveness and gratitude as a result of these events.

Film Details

Also Known As
Charles Dickens' Great Expectations
Release Date
Oct 22, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Isle of Wight,Great Britain; Portsmouth, England, Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (London, 1861).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Synopsis

Around 1850 in a small town in England, Pip visits his parents' graves, and is accosted by escaped convict Magwitch, who terrifies him into promising to bring him food, drink and a file with which to saw through his chains. Pip steals the goods, and after his aunt forces him to drink tarwater for stealing, he sneaks out at night and brings everything to the grateful Magwitch. Magwitch frees himself from his chains, but then fights wildly with another escaped convict. His screams draw the attention of the police, who have solicited Pip's uncle Joe Gargery's help in finding the convicts. Both convicts are caught, but before they are returned to prison, Magwitch confesses to having stolen from Mrs. Joe so that Pip will not get in trouble, and Pip cries for the unhappy man. Some time later, Mrs. Joe and Pip's Uncle Pumblechook arrange for Pip to become a part-time companion to Miss Havisham, an eccentric heiress whom no one has seen since the day she was stood up at the altar. At Miss Havisham's estate, Pip is greeted by Estella, a haughty little girl who was adopted by the great lady. Pip first meets Miss Havisham in a cobweb-filled room where time seems to have stood still since the day of her proposed wedding. Pip returns to the Havisham estate once a week for years, during which he sees Miss Havisham raise Estella to disdain men. Pip becomes ashamed of his humble heritage because Estella thinks he is common, but during the course of years they become friends, and Pip befriends a young lad named Herbert Pocket, the son of Miss Havisham's poor relations, as well. When Pip is sixteen, Miss Havisham bids him a sudden farewell and gives Joe twenty-five guineas for his past services. Pip becomes apprenticed to Joe, and Estella goes to Europe to a finishing school. One day, lawyer Jaggers informs Pip and his family that an anonymous benefactor wishes him to be sent to London and educated like a man of "great expectations," on the condition that Pip always bear the name of "Pip," and that he never inquire as to the identity of his benefactor. Pip is glad to be quit of smithing, although he is sorry to leave Joe, and goes for a last visit to Miss Havisham, whom he believes to be his benefactor. In London, Pip shares a flat with Herbert, who coaches him on etiquette when they attend a dinner at Jaggers' home, where Pip meets snobbish Bentley Drummle, and Jaggers' odd housekeeper Molly, who dislikes being looked at. Pip becomes reacquainted with Estella, with whom he is in love. At a ball she warns him that she has no love for anyone, nonetheless, he intends to ask Miss Havisham for permission to marry her. That night, Pip is visited by the aged Magwitch, who reveals that he has built a fortune in Australia and is Pip's benefactor. Pip is shocked by this news, and becomes concerned for Magwitch's safety when he realizes that Magwitch could be executed for returning to England. After Magwitch meets Herbert, he tells his life story: He has been arrested many times, but learned to read and write, and finally married a gypsy named Molly, who gave birth to a daughter. A man came along named Compeyson, who was the same man Magwitch struggled with long ago in the cemetary, and he came between Magwitch and his wife, and turned her against him. Molly told Magwitch that she killed their child, and then ran off with Compeyson. She was later convicted of strangling a woman of whom she was jealous, and Compeyson was also convicted of passing bad bank notes. Jaggers defended Magwitch during his last trial, and informed him that his child was dead and that Compeyson was to blame, which is why he tried to kill him in the cemetary. As Magwitch talks, Herbert passes a note to Pip telling him that Compeyson is the same man who deserted Miss Havisham on her wedding day. Pip goes to Miss Havisham and tells her that he cannot forgive her for leading him to believe she was his benefactor, and for raising Estella to torture him with her lack of love. Miss Havisham has succeeded in making him unhappy, but suddenly sees in him the misery she once felt. Estella informs him that she is to marry Drummle even though she does not love him. Pip consults with Jaggers on his plans to take Magwitch out of the country, and discovers that Molly is Magwitch's wife, and Estella is their child. Jaggers tells Pip that the family history is better kept secret, but they hear Molly arguing with someone and discover Compeyson running from the house. Molly warns them that he intends to kill Magwitch, whom she also believed to be dead these past years. Pip takes Magwitch by night to meet a steamship, but they are apprehended by the police, who also capture Compeyson. Magwitch and Compeyson struggle in the boat and fall into the water. Compeyson is sucked under the steamer wheels to his death, but Pip rescues Magwitch, who by now is like a father to him, and is remanded to the prison hospital, where he is scheduled to be executed. Magwitch considers Pip his son, and Pip sincerely loves the benevolent convict. Before Magwitch dies, Pip reveals to him that his daughter is alive, and is the same woman whom Pip loves. Pip reunites with Estella, who learned from Miss Havisham before she died that love is worth the suffering.

Film Details

Also Known As
Charles Dickens' Great Expectations
Release Date
Oct 22, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Isle of Wight,Great Britain; Portsmouth, England, Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (London, 1861).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The title card reads: "Carl Laemmle presents Charles Dickens' Great Expectations." This film marks Francis Sullivan's American film debut, and Henry Hull's first film for Universal. A plot synopsis in copyright records includes the handicapping of Mrs. Joe at the hands of a blacksmith apprentice named Orlick, and the ensuing friendship between Mrs. Joe's helper Biddy and Pip; later in the film, Pip returns home to find Joe and Biddy have married. Although these scenes were not included in the viewed print, the viewed print's cast list includes the characters "Orlick" and "Biddy," thereby confirming that the scenes were part of the original release. An article in New York Times reveals that Gladys Unger attempted to retain the majority of Dickens' dialogue for Great Expectations. Some of the convict scenes were filmed off the coast of England near Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. According to a modern source, Walter Brennan appears in the film as a prisoner aboard a ship. A modern source notes that Valerie Hobson was first cast as Estella, but her scenes were deleted. She later played "Estella" in Universal's remake in 1947, which was produced and directed by David Lean, and starred John Mills as "Pip." Dickens' novel was first filmed in 1917 by Paramount. This version was directed by Robert G. Vignola and starred Jack Pickford as "Pip" (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.1689). Other incarnations of Dickens' novel include a 1974 Great Britain-United States television co-production, directed by Joseph Hardy and starring Michael York, Sarah Miles and James Mason; a television mini-series aired by the Disney Channel in July 1989, starring Anthony Calf, Jean Simmons and Anthony Hopkins; a 1998 20th Century Fox film set in modern-day New York, directed by Alfonso Cuaron and starring Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow and Anne Bancroft; and a 1999 Great Britain-United States television co-production starring Ioan Gruffudd, Justine Waddell, and Charlotte Rampling.