Oliver Twist (1948)

DAVID LEAN

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBB

United Kingdom1948Cineguild.  Screenplay by David Lean, , , , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Podcast:  My Criterions

David Lean followed his scintillating adaptation of Great Expectations with this equally engrossing film version of Dickens’ popular novel. In it, a young boy is born to an unwed mother in a suburban workhouse, raised under harsh conditions before escaping to the big city and coming under the wing of a group of thieves. The ring of criminals, led by the nefarious Fagin (Alec Guinness under impressive heavy makeup) also features the spritely Artful Dodger (a surprisingly mature ), who personally takes care of Oliver’s education in pickpocketing until an altercation with a wealthy gentleman puts our pint-sized hero in the care of the kind-hearted aristocrat. The moody, noir-ish cinematography is the perfect punctuation for the dark story, made richer by the heartwarming emotions that flourish by the time this masterpiece reaches its conclusion. Also features a spitfire performance by the magnificent  as Bill Sykes’s girl Nancy, and a wonderfully emotive turn from young ,  in the title role. The film was released in 1951 in the United States, three years after its 1948 British debut due to pressure from groups who found Guinness’ portrayal of Fagin (complete with gigantic nose) to be anti-Semitic (though Lean purposely cut out all references to Fagin’s ethnicity to avoid this).

The Criterion Collection:  #32

Venice Film Festival: In Competition

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