Friday, October 07, 2022

Behind the scenes of David Lean's Great Expectations

A search for more footage of Freda Jackson turned up this video. Anthony Wager played the young Pip in David Lean's classic adaptation of Great Expectations, which was released in 1946. 

The film first shows him at home with his family and, if it's not evidence of what children were like in 1946, it is at least evidence of how people liked to think they were like.

So we see the boy washing up and feeding the chickens to show he is not spoilt. It's interesting that there's no sense here that some jobs are for boys and some for girls.

And as so often in vintage films or photographs, some elements have aged faster than others. So, while a whiff of modernity still clings to those Thirties windows, the children look thoroughly quaint to us.

Then it's over to the film set. First we see Anthony doing his lessons - again, we're reassured he's not getting above himself - and then there are some wonderful shots of the actors taking lunch in full costume. Somehow they look even more Dickensian here than they do in the final film.

Finally, Freda Jackson appears. She plays Pip's sister Mrs Joe, who has brought him up "by hand". Here she douses him under the pump and I get the impression that if you were doused by Freda Jackson you stayed doused.

Anthony Wager, latterly appearing under the name Tony Wager, had a long acting career, but never reached these heights again. He died in 1990 at the age of 58.

There is a touching little site that honours his memory. It was posted by his sister Marilyn, with whom we have seen him at the start of this film.

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