David Lean's Best Movies: Box Set
David Lean's Best Movies: DVD Review
I've just bought a ten DVD set of movies, the . Lean was one of British cinema's great directors in the Forties and Fifties. Films like Brief Encounter, Blithe Spirit and his Charles Dickens adaptations are considered classics these days. This page briefly reviews each of these and the others on the DVD David Lean Centenary Collection
If you want to sit back and luxuriate in movie magic, get this David Lean Best Movies collection. Love and loss, sorrow and joy, fear and favour - Lean did them all like the master director he was. You'll probably know some of these films already: if there are any you haven't seen, do yourself a favour and put the cat out, get supplies in and settle down for a movie marathon.
Best Movies By David Lean
Do they make them like this any more?
Enough: I Want It!
Ten DVDs and some nice extras in the box set. Please be aware: this is a Region 2 DVD.
Click on the pic if you want to see the set on Amazon. Read on for for a movie by movie breakdown.
Brief Encounter (1946)
David Lean's Best Movies #1
Poignant and touching: the tale of two people who meet by chance and begin a relationship, at first in a tearoom in a railway station. They continue to meet weekly, despite being married,
Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard play the not-quite lovers with delicacy and complete believability. Their nearness, their problems, their never quite consumating the relationship, all contribute to a beautiful film and one with a memorable parting scene.
Miss Havisham: "Come nearer. Let me look at you. Come close. Look at me. You aren't afraid of a woman who has never seen the sun since before you were born?"
Great Expectations (1946)
David Lean's Best Movies #2
David Lean's first Dickens adaptation. Great Expectations revolves around Pip, apparently a poor orphan, who is led to have great expectations of wealth and place in society.
Pip meets the chilly Estelle and the tragic, decaying figure of MIss Haversham. Miss Haversham's cobweb-draped life sticks in the memory but even that pales when compared with Pip's contact with the convict Magwitch in a Kent graveyard - a scene that Hitchcock would have been proud of.
Oliver Twist (1948)
David Lean's Best Movies #3
A second triumphant Dickens adaptation from David Lean, the story of the orphan Oliver Twist. Lean was extremely faithful to the book and the film benefited from that. Everybody knows the iconic scene where Oliver approaches the Beadle in the workhouse to ask for more gruel.and the manhunt for Bill Sykes showed the London of the era at its most squalid.
Fagin was played by Alec Guinness. Oliver was played by John Howard Davies who went on to become BBC Head Of Comedy.
Blithe Spirit (1945)
David Lean's Best Movies #4
Based on a play by Noel Coward, Blithe Spirit is a ghost story and a light comedy: Widowed Charles remarries and is happy with second wife Ruth until first wife Elvira decides to come and stay with them after a séance run by medium Madame Arcati. Three's definitely a crowd and the unhappy couple turn to Madame Arcati for help.
Stars Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings and Kay Hammond. Margaret Rutherford is on fine form as Madame Arcati..
Hobson's Choice (1954)
David Lean's Best Movies #5
Charles Laughton gloriously overplays his role as a tyrannical father and bootmaker in 19th century Salford. The beer-swilling Laughton refuses to let his three daughters marry - he doesn't want to pay marriage settlements and he likes having three unpaid housekeepers.
Eldest daughter Maggie rebels and sets her cap at meek Will Glossop, one of her father's workers. They marry and set up a successful rival business. Happy in her life, Maggie begins to plot similar success for her sisters.
The following clip shows Laughton in full flow, especially his walk home from the pub (about three minutes in).
In the clip below, the strange instrument you can hear is the musical saw, played by a Belgian café owner.
Charles Laughton And The Demon Drink
In Which We Serve (1942)
David Lean's Best Movies #6
A wartime film by David Lean, this is one that drags a huge range of emotions from its actors and us as watchers. It has a simple precept, that members of a society must fight to uphold that' society and it treats all its characters with sympathy and dignity.
Film schools cite this as an exemplary film: how each scene echoes its predecessor and presages the next scene. I'm less technical - it just makes for a film that flows beautifully while deaing with some very difficult concepts.
Scandal of its day: Lean dared to show the sinking of a British ship, in defiance of the patriotic fervour characterising most films of the era.
Written by, jointly directed by and starring Noel Coward, plus another fine performance by John Mills.
David Lean's Best Movies #7
This is based on a true story, that of Madeleine Smith, accused of murdering her lover in nineteenth century Glasgow.
Daughter of an upper middle class family, she proved reluctant to follow her parents' wish and marry a suitable bachelor. When Emile L'Angelier is poisoned suspicion rapidly turns to Madeleine and she is charged with murder.
I'll leave out further details so you can watch the trial, a gripping affair, for yourself.
The Passionate Friends (1949)
David Lean's Best Movies #8
Anne Todd plays a woman married to an older man (Claude Rains). Life is fine but dull when former lover Trevor Howard comes back into her life. The affair resumes during a holiday in the Alps.
Told in flashbacks, this is a fine depiction of British society of its class: the straitlaced Rains whose emotions only show off-camera, the urbane Howard and the torn Anne Todd (married to David Lean at the time).
Film is based on a work by H.G. Wells - one of his lesser known novels.
Anne Todd: Passionate Friends - A moment of weakness and despair
The first aircraft to break the sound barrier was the Bell X-1 flown by Chuck Yeager of the United States Air Force in 1947.
The Sound Barrier (1952)
David Lean's Best Movies #9
The ultimate product placement film, this tells the tale of one man's obsession with speed and engineering. The product, in two senses of that word, is the De Havilland Comet jetliner - a miraculous development in its day.
Iconic scenes: the Comet flying to Egypt in record-breaking time, passing over the English Channel, the Alps, Ancient Greece and the Pyramids. Bear in mind that it was six years before a rival jet arrived on the market - this was a momentous development.
De Havilland Comet On Newsreel
This Happy Breed (1944)
David Lean's Best Movies #10
Adapted from a Noel Coward play, this would nowadays be called a kitchen sink drama. It explores the life of an ordinary family, settling into peace after World War I.
We pass through notable events like the British Empire Exhibition, the General Strike of 1926, the arrival of the Charleston - all feed into the lives of the extended family.
The Happy Breed is a warm-hearted film, stylish and well acted. You may not cower and you may not cry but you will be engaged.
I don't think I can add anyhting you don't already know - an epic film!
David Lean on IMDB
For more info on David Lean's career, visit the Internet Movie Database David Lean section.