Great Expectations

One of the texts we will be discussing on Tuesday is Great Expectations, which has always been a favorite of shows like Masterpiece Theatre.  English-language film and television adaptations of Great Expectations have come out at a rate of about 1 per decade since the 1930s:


• The earliest film adaptation is a 1917 silent film starring Jack Pickford.  There are a few stills from it here:


• There was another American adaptation in 1934, directed by Stuart Walker.  It has not been released on DVD, but NYPL has it on VHS.


• The 1946 edition directed by David Lean—listed on the syllabus—is available in full here:


• In 1954 there was a 2-part TV adaptation on the American show Robert Montgomery Presents.  I haven’t been able to locate it.


• The first BBC adaptation was a 13-episode series aired in 1959.  There is some info about it here:


• There was another BBC TV adaptation released in 1967.  I haven’t been able to find a copy of it.


• There is a 1974 film that was aired on TV in the US and released in cinemas in the UK, directed by Joseph Hardy.  It is available on DVD at NYPL.


• The BBC produced another miniseries in 1981.  NYPL and Columbia have it on DVD.


• There was an Australian animated TV movie that aired in 1983.  It is on YouTube in full:


• There was a 1989 ITV miniseries starring Anthony Hopkins.  It has not been released on DVD, but NYPL has it on VHS, and the GC library has it on laserdisc.


• The 1998 film with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow is one of the few adaptations of Great Expectations that moves the story to another setting.  It should be on course reserve.


• There was another BBC adaptation in 1999.  It is on YouTube:


• The most recent BBC adaptation came out in 2011.  I believe this should be on course reserve.  It is also available on DVD at NYPL and NYU.


• There was a British film adaptation directed by Mike Newell and released on the festival circuit in 2012.  It does not appear to be available on DVD in the US.  Here is the trailer:


There have also been a few stage adaptations:


• There was a 1939 stage adaptation directed by Alec Guinness, which David Lean had seen before beginning work on the 1946 film.


• There was a 1975 musical stage adaptation by Cyril Ornadel.


• There was a 1995 stage adaptation by Hugh Leonard.  The script was published, but is not available in any library in this area.  It could be obtained through ILL.


• An adaptation by Jo Clifford ran briefly at West End Theatre in London earlier this year.  Video of the show was also broadcast live to cinema audiences.  Here is the Web site:


In contrast to Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations has garnered relatively little interest outside of the English-speaking world, perhaps because of its dependence on English laws relating to debt and inheritance.  Whatever the reason, I was only able to find a few non-English adaptations:


• There is a 1922 Danish silent film adaptation called Store forventninger.  It is unclear whether this adaptation is set in London or relocated to Denmark (or perhaps the location is simply unspecified).  It still uses English naming conventions (e.g. Miss Havisham).  There are some stills, a plot summary (in Danish), and brief clip here:


• There is a German “radio play” titled Große Erwartungen and available on CD at the German Amazon.  I am not sure whether this performance was actually broadcast on the radio.


• A Bollywood movie adaptation was announced in March of this year, and is planning to start shooting in 2014:


There have been at least four graphic novel versions of Great Expectations, as well as a number of abridgments.  All of them seem to have the purpose of making the story more readable or “lively”, presumably because the novel is often perceived as dull by high school students.


• An adaptation by Rick Geary (2008) is #1 in the “Classics Illustrated” series.  It’s available at Hunter College and NYPL.


• An adaptation by Brigit Viney (2010) is part of Cengage’s “Classical Comics” series.  NYPL has it.


Great Expectations: The Graphic Novel by Jen Green (2010).  NYPL has it.


• An adaptation by Jacqueline Morley and Penko Gelev (2011) is part of the “Graphic Classics” seties by Barron’s.  NYPL and Columbia have it.


• There is an illustrated “retelling” by James Riordan (2002), which simplifies the language and plot greatly to cater to a younger audience (9+, according to the publisher’s description).


• There are also “retellings” by Gill Tavner (2007) and Florence Bell (1993).


I only found a few derivative works of Great Expectations that were formally published:


Great Expectations: The Untold Story (1987) is an Australian TV movie that follows Magwitch during his time in Australia.  It is not out on DVD, but a VHS tape could be gotten through ILL.


• Peter Carey’s 1997 novel Jack Maggs is also based on the character Magwitch.  NYPL has it.


• From the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies series, there is Sherri Browning Erwin’s Grave Expectations (2011).  The gimmick is that Pip is a werewolf.  NYPL, Brooklyn PL, and Queens PL have copies.


There are dozens of parodies to be found on YouTube, again mostly the result of high school class projects.  Most of them are not particularly interesting, but you can find them easily if you want.


The South Park episode “Pip” (2000) retells the story of Great Expectations within a “South Park Classics” frame that parodies Masterpiece Theatre.  According to a DVD commentary cited by Wikipedia, it was one of the least popular episodes of the series.  The full episode is streaming here:


There is some Great Expectations fan fiction here:

Many of the authors note in their descriptions that they didn’t like how the novel ended (or didn’t like it period), and decided to make their own version.  It’s interesting how many people, from the authors of these rewrites rewrites to the creators of the graphic novels, have attempted to redress the perceived shortcomings of the novel, rather than just putting it aside.

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