American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre Presents...
Making Movie History for 80 Years!

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Series compiled by:   Dennis Bartok
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The American Cinematheque is a non-profit 501 (C) (3) organization.
The Film Programs of the American Cinematheque are presented at the magnificently renovated, historic 1922 Grauman's Hollywood Egyptian Theatre. Located at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard.
Photo Credit: Randall Michelson. Detail of Egyptian Theatre Ceiling.

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<<< October 10 - Nov. 2, 2003 >>>


Presented in association with the British Academy of Film & Television Arts/Los Angeles (BAFTA/LA)

Sponsored by the Consulate General of Great Britain.

"[LAWRENCE OF ARABIA art director John Bryan] suddenly looked at me and said, ‘I know what you are. You’re a bloody boy scout.’ In a way, I am. I’m a grown-up boy scout. Because I love going to these mad places." – David Lean.

When the British Film Institute recently published its critics’ poll of the 100 Best British films ever made, it came as no surprise that 3 of the top 10 movies – BRIEF ENCOUNTER, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and GREAT EXPECTATIONS – were directed by the same man: David Lean. His name is synonymous with visually breathtaking epics such as DR. ZHIVAGO, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and A PASSAGE TO INDIA – although ironically, he was nearly as acclaimed early in his career for intimate dramas such as BRIEF ENCOUNTER and SUMMERTIME, and his masterful Dickens adaptations GREAT EXPECTATIONS and OLIVER TWIST. "I love making motion pictures. Working on the script is important and very necessary, but I’m not a word man. I’m a picture man. I love getting behind a camera and trying to get images on the screen," Lean once observed – and truly, his films play out as a cascade of unforgettable images, characters and landscapes, from the haunted marshlands in GREAT EXPECTATIONS, to the winter palace in DR. ZHIVAGO, to Peter O’Toole striding victoriously across the wrecked train in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.

Born March 25, 1908 in Croydon, a suburb of London, into a strict Quaker family, Lean was astoundingly considered to be "either not very bright or incorrigibly lazy" by his teachers at school. He became fascinated with photography and film at an early age (American director Rex Ingram was one of the young Lean’s heroes), and after a brief stint working at his father’s accounting firm, he landed a job at age 19 with Gainsborough Studios, where he toiled as a gofer/wardrobe assistant before moving into editing. By the late 1930’s, Lean was widely acknowledged as the finest editor in British cinema for his work on such movies as PYGMALION, MAJOR BARBARA and 49th PARALLEL. In 1942, he was invited by NoŽl Coward to co-direct the war drama IN WHICH WE SERVE, which began Lean’s career as a director.

He was, by all accounts, one of the most thoroughly knowledgeable and dedicated filmmakers in the history of the medium, a superb craftsman with an innate ability to move audiences and critics with his sweeping stories of soldiers and poets, rebels and star-crossed lovers. Frequent star Alec Guinness hailed him as "easily the most meticulous artist in motion pictures," and Lean himself wryly observed, "I am told that some people say I have celluloid instead of blood in my veins. Well, I simply cannot help it." A notoriously private and complicated man, Lean was married numerous times and spent much of his adult life living in far-flung locales such as India and the South Pacific. Despite his numerous awards and box office successes, Lean was intensely sensitive to criticism; the negative reviews of RYAN’S DAUGHTER wounded him deeply and contributed to his long absence from directing in the 1970’s. He returned to filmmaking in 1984 with the triumph of A PASSAGE TO INDIA, and was knighted the same year by Queen Elizabeth for his contributions to British cinema. He was working on an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s "Nostromo" at the time of his death in 1991, leaving behind one of the richest and most accomplished legacies of any director in the history of cinema.

This series is the first major L.A. retrospective in many years of Lean’s work, and include his masterpieces LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, DR. ZHIVAGO, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, BRIEF ENCOUNTER, GREAT EXPECTATIONS and OLIVER TWIST, along with such rarely-seen films as THE PASSIONATE FRIEND, HOBSON’S CHOICE, IN WHICH WE SERVE, THIS HAPPY BREED and others, along with Q&A with friends and colleagues of Lean’s.


Friday, October 10 – 7:30 PM

In Glorious 70 mm:

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, 1962, Columbia, 216 min. The beautiful, near-godlike Peter O’Toole stars as the tortured, Man Who Would Not Be King in director David Lean’s absolute masterpiece – as close to perfect as a film can get. Featuring one of the finest casts in any motion picture: Omar Sharif (in his first major English-speaking role), Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Claude Rains and Lean’s longtime collaborator Alec Guinness as Prince Feisal. D.P. Freddie Young’s 70 mm. photography is rightly considered to be a work of genius, matched by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson’s screenplay, Maurice Jarre’s stirring score and John Box’s production design. Winner of 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. "When you’re in the desert, you look into infinity … It makes you feel terribly small, and also in a strange way, quite big." – David Lean. Discussion following with Academy Award winning editor Anne V. Coates. Terrence Marsh will not be able to attend as was previously announced.


Saturday, October 11 – 5:00 PM

BRIEF ENCOUNTER, 1946, MGM/UA, 86 min. Dir. David Lean. A seemingly happily-married woman (Celia Johnson) gets a piece of grit in her eye at the train station; a married doctor (Trevor Howard) helps remove it. From such simple, commonplace stuff is woven one of the most heartbreaking portraits of lost love and longing ever put on film – a story, in its very, very British way, equal to the sweeping passions of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DR. ZHIVAGO. Based on NoŽl Coward’s play "Still Life."


Saturday, October 11 – 7:30 PM

In Glorious 70 mm:

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, 1962, Columbia, 216 min. Dir. David Lean. [See October 10 for description.]


Sunday, October 12 – 4:00 PM

New 35 mm. Print:

GREAT EXPECTATIONS, 1946, MGM/UA, 118 min. The film that set the standard for all Dickens adaptations before or since. Director David Lean’s early masterpiece opens with the awesome images of a convict stumbling across a storm-wracked moor, and then plunges us into the story of an impoverished underdog, Pip (John Mills) trying to defy the rigid caste system of Victorian England. Co-starring Alec Guinness (in his first film for Lean), Jean Simmons, Francis L. Sullivan and Valerie Hobson, with Oscar-winning, black-and-white photography by Guy Green. "Probably no finer Dickens film has been made than Lean’s GREAT EXPECTATIONS." – Michael Pointer, Charles Dickens On Screen.


Sunday, October 12 – 7:30 PM

In Glorious 70 mm:

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, 1962, Columbia, 216 min. Dir. David Lean. [See October 10 for description.]


Thursday, October 16 – 7:30 PM

Double Feature:

IN WHICH WE SERVE, 1942, MGM/UA, 115 min. Dirs. Noel Coward and David Lean. Following the sinking of their destroyer, three British sailors – captain NoŽl Coward (who wrote the script and co-directed), officer Bernard Miles and ordinary seaman John Mills – flash back on their loved ones at home, their small triumphs and tragedies, on England itself and what they’re fighting for. Widely hailed as one of the first "realistic" portraits of WWII, the film still succeeds today as both stirring propaganda, and a time capsule of a generation who went to war, never knowing if they would return.


THIS HAPPY BREED, 1944, MGM/UA, 115 min. Lean turned down an offer to co-direct HENRY V with Laurence Olivier to make this, his first full feature as sole director. Based on an acclaimed play by NoŽl Coward, THIS HAPPY BREED is a lovingly-crafted, slice-of-life portrait of several decades in the life of a typical British family, charting their marriages, squabbles, births, deaths and understated resilience. Robert Newton (OLIVER TWIST) is cast very much against type as the middle-class father, with Lean favorite Celia Johnson (BRIEF ENCOUNTER) as his wife, aided by John Mills, Stanley Holloway and Lean’s second wife Kay Walsh.


Friday, October 17 – 7:30 PM

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, 1965, Warner Bros., 193 min. Dir. David Lean. "If this man were my father, I should want to know," says General Yevgraf Zhivago (Alec Guinness) to his wary niece – and the story that he narrates, of decadent Tsarists, anguished revolutionaries, two beautiful women in love with the same man, a nation and a people in upheaval, and above all, the poet and physician (Omar Sharif) who witnesses and remembers it all – is one of the most lyrical and visually breathtaking stories in the history of film. From the bloodstained march through the Moscow streets, to the snowbound train ride through the Ural Mountains, to the haunted ice palace at Varykino, this is the essence of pure cinema. Brilliantly scripted by Robert Bolt (from Boris Pasternak’s novel), and photographed by Freddie Young (who replaced Nicolas Roeg soon into shooting). Co-starring Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Tom Courtenay, Ralph Richardson and Siobhan McKenna, with music by Maurice Jarre.


Saturday, October 18 – 4:00 PM

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, 1965, Warner Bros., 193 min. Dir David Lean. [See October 17 for description.]


Sunday, October 19 – 5:00 PM

Double Feature:

MADELEINE, 1950, Winstone Films, 101 min. Dir. David Lean. A true Lean rarity, this gothic melodrama is based on the real-life story of an aristocratic Glasgow woman, Madeleine Smith, who was accused of poisoning her lower-class French lover in 1850. Lean’s third wife, Ann Todd, was well cast as the icy, unfathomable murderess; the deep-focus black and white photography was heavily influenced by Welles’ CITIZEN KANE, a Lean favorite. With Ivan Desny, Norman Wooland, Leslie Banks.

HOBSON’S CHOICE, 1954, Cowboy Pictures, 107 min. Dir. David Lean. Another Lean rarity, HOBSON’S CHOICE was based on the much-loved play by Harold Brighouse, and stars Charles Laughton at his cantankerous best as the owner of a middle-class boot shop who refuses to give his three daughters a dowry – until his eldest child decides to marry without his approval. With John Mills. "I adored Charlie. Someone asked Laurence Olivier if he had ever worked with a genius and he said, ‘Yes, one: Charles Laughton." – David Lean.


Thursday, October 30 – 7:30 PM

Double Feature:

SUMMERTIME, 1955, Cowboy Pictures, 100 min. Dir. David Lean. The original British title of the film, SUMMER MADNESS, comes closer to the glorious, hothouse atmosphere of this story of a lonely American spinster (Katharine Hepburn) who succumbs to a passionate affair with a married Italian antique dealer (Rossano Brazzi.) Lean insisted on shooting on location in Venice, and the result is a Technicolor valentine to the ancient city. This was the director’s personal favorite among all his films. "It had an enormous effect on tourism. I remember the head of a hotel chain coming up to me and saying, ‘We ought to put a monument up to you.’ " – David Lean.

THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS, 1949, MGM/UA, 86 min. Another Lean rarity! His offscreen wife Ann Todd stars as a young woman torn between her love for an old flame (BRIEF ENCOUNTER’s Trevor Howard) and her loyalty to her jealous husband (Claude Rains.) The screenplay had a most unusual pedigree: it was based on a novel by H.G. Wells, adapted by Lean and suspense novelist Eric Ambler (MASK OF DIMITRIOS). "The film is very nearly very good. It was not a great success, but I’m quite proud of it." – David Lean.


Friday, October 31 – 7:30 PM

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, 1957, Columbia, 161 min. Lean won the first of two Academy Awards for Best Director for this epic portrait of the clash of wills between a British POW, Col. Nicholson (Alec Guinness, who initially turned down the role) and a tradition-bound Japanese officer (silent star Sessue Hayakawa) over the building of a railway bridge in the jungle during WWII. William Holden stars as the cynically-realistic American POW who is forced to trek back into the hellish jungle to destroy the bridge with Jack Hawkins and his rag-tag team of commandos. Brilliantly adapted by Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson from Pierre Boulle’s novel, with an unforgettable score courtesy of Malcolm Arnold. "There has been a lot of argument about the film’s attitude towards war. I think it is a painfully eloquent statement on the general folly and waste of war." – David Lean.


Saturday, November 1 – 5:00 PM

OLIVER TWIST, 1948, MGM/UA, 116 min. Dir. David Lean. A startlingly real, atmospheric evocation of childhood terrors and the evils of poverty. Innocent orphan Oliver (John Howard Davies) is shanghaied into a gang of child thieves by blackguards Bill Sykes (a particularly chilling Robert Newton) and Fagin. Alec Guinness’ masterful, almost unrecognizable performance as Fagin led to unexpected problems when the film was denounced as anti-Semitic by the League of B’nai B’rith – in Berlin, rioters tore the theatre apart where the film was shown, and its release was delayed for three years in the U.S. to let tensions ease. "OLIVER TWIST moves forward in staccato bursts, propelled by coiling tensions and by outbursts of sudden, brutish violence … this is possibly David Lean’s wildest movie, certainly his darkest and arguably his best." – Al McKee, Film Comment. Cinematographer Guy Green In Person.


Saturday, November 1 – 8:00 PM

RYAN’S DAUGHTER, 1970, Warner Bros., 187 min. Dir. David Lean. Initially planned as a return to the small-scale storytelling of his BRIEF ENCOUNTER days, RYAN’S DAUGHTER instead became an epic contest between Lean and the Irish landscape, as he attempted to tell the tragic story of a married Irish woman (played by Sarah Miles, wife of the film’s screenwriter Robert Bolt) and her affair with a shell-shocked British soldier (Christopher Jones). A flawed gem, RYAN’S DAUGHTER boasted some great performances (John Mills, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and Leo McKern) and some still-questionable ones (Robert Mitchum, famously miscast as a meek schoolteacher) – but no one doubts that Freddie Young’s astonishing cinematography ranks with his best work in LAWRENCE and DR. ZHIVAGO.


Sunday, November 2 – 4:00 PM

BLITHE SPIRIT, 1945, MGM/UA, 96 min. Dir. David Lean. A lighter-than-air lark from Lean’s early days, BLITHE SPIRIT starred Rex Harrison as a successful novelist whose life is turned upside down when a medium (played by the great Margaret Rutherford, at her eccentric best) summons the ghost of his first wife (Constance Cummings.) Lean’s only outright comedy, this was the third of his four films based on NoŽl Coward material – the next would be his masterful BRIEF ENCOUNTER.


Sunday, November 2 – 6:15 PM

A PASSAGE TO INDIA, 1984, Columbia, 163 min. Lean’s final film (and his first since RYAN’S DAUGHTER, 14 years earlier) is a deeply satisfying marriage of his finest qualities as a director: truly epic in scope, it also manages to be astonishingly intimate and emotionally complex. Judy Davis stars as a repressed young Englishwoman who accuses an Indian doctor (Victor Banerjee) of attempted rape at the mysterious Marabar Caves, setting off a firestorm of political and racial controversy in British-controlled India. Peggy Ashcroft won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her heartbreaking work in the film, as did composer Maurice Jarre (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA) for his superb score. And nearly 40 years after they first worked together on GREAT EXPECTATIONS, Lean’s greatest collaborator Alec Guinness returned one final time, for his gentle, melancholy performance as Professor Godbole.