HOBSON’S CHOICE (David Lean, 1954)

Based on Harold Brighouse’s 1915 play, David Lean’s comedy Hobson’s Choice is by turns boisterous and reserved, depending on which character is center-stage: longtime Salford bootmaker and shoe shop-owner Henry Hobson, a widower and public alcoholic, or tea-totaling employee Willie Mossop, who becomes his rival when, patiently urged on by Hobson’s middle-aged daughter, Maggie, opens […]

SUMMERTIME (David Lean, 1955)

David Lean’s touristy Summertime, adapted from Arthur Laurents’s play The Time of the Cuckoo, cancels almost everything it gives us, with this bit overturning that bit. The finale is one place where this odd procedure works: American secretary Jane Hudson, on holiday in Venice, capitulates to martyrdom and moralism by abandoning her married Venetian lover, […]


The first stretch of Great Expectations, prior to the one year jump-ahead, may be the finest passage in David Lean’s œuvre, principally for its conjoining of his splendid evocation of Pip’s anxious orphaned boyhood and Guy Green’s haunting, crisp, gray (and Oscar-winning) black-and-white cinematography. Especially wonderful, and gorgeous, is Pip’s secret return to the fog-drenched […]

OLIVER TWIST (David Lean, 1948)

In Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist the contrived happy outcome for young Twist brings to fruition the novel’s (especially early on) comical narration; but by deleting this humorous dimension, David Lean’s 1948 film, like so many film adaptations of the book, abandons the silly plot by having it stand on its own. (Also, a few details […]

BLITHE SPIRIT (David Lean, 1945)

Noel Coward’s play was a wartime lark—perhaps a skylark (note the title)—in which the institution of marriage and the death of wives are treated most casually, as though neither really matters. David Lean’s light, frothy film version added to the wifely ghosts their spouse, Charles, played chipperly by Rex Harrison, whose first wife, Elvira, died […]