David Lean: the troubled romantic and the end of empire

John Orr

in Romantics and Modernists in British Cinema

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780748640140
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671090 | DOI:
David Lean: the troubled romantic and the end of empire

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David Lean was more than a contemporary of Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Reed. It is usual for admirers to make a critical leap from the post-war success of Brief Encounter and the Charles Dickens' diptych, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist (1948), to the big-budget location shoots produced by Sam Spiegel, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia. Within that period, however, and bridging the gap, are three neglected films in which the English stage and film actress Ann Todd, who became Lean's third wife, is the central female protagonist, if not the focal point of each narrative: The Passionate Friends (1948), Madeleine (1949) and The Sound Barrier (1952). The Passionate Friends and The Sound Barrier gloss the relationship of romance and restraint in post-war Britain echoing Brief Encounter, while Madeleine is a further examination, after Dickens, of the nineteenth-century heritage, this time in bourgeois Victorian Glasgow. If Lean's epic grandeur is connected after 1956 to the end of empire, his troubled romanticism is marooned period-wise after Lawrence of Arabia, in the age of empire.

Keywords: David Lean; Ann Todd; Madeleine; The Sound Barrier; The Passionate Friends; Lawrence of Arabia; romanticism; Britain; The Bridge on the River Kwai; Brief Encounter

Chapter.  10405 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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