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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oliver Twist (1948)

A young boy (John Howard Davies) given the name of Oliver Twist is born and raised in a workhouse. He is apprenticed to a coffin maker at the age of 8 but escapes to London where he is lured into working for Fagin (Alec Guinness), who employs a gang of adolescent pickpockets and thieves. Following the success of his 1946 adaptation of Dickens' GREAT EXPECTATIONS, David Lean directed this superb adaptation of the celebrated Dickens' novel. It's quite faithful to the novel with a few minor exceptions, the most notable one being the absence of any relationship between Oliver and Nancy (Kay Walsh, who's wonderful) which was remedied in the 1968 musical adaptation. And it's Walsh's shocking murder that stays with you long after the film is over. At the time, Guinness's brilliant Fagin was viewed as anti-Semitic which is why the film wasn't released in America (in a cut form) until 1951. Today, he comes across more like a sleazy pedophile. The excellent B&W cinematography is courtesy of Guy Green. Lean's dream cast includes Robert Newton, Anthony Newley, Francis L. Sullivan, Kathleen Harrison, Diana Dors, Maurice Denham and a scene stealing performance by the bull terrier who plays Bill Sikes' dog.

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