- SKU: 19842495
- Release Date: 03/27/2012
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Ratings & Reviews
- Audio commentary on Brief Encounter by historian Bruce Eder
- New interviews with Noël Coward scholar Barry Day on all of the films
- Interview with cinematographer-screenwriter-producer Ronald Neame from 2010
- Short documenatries form 2000 on the making of IN Which We Serve and Brief Encounter
- David Lean: A Self Portrait, a 1971 television documenary on Lean's career
- Episode of the British televisions series The Southbank Show from 1992 on the life and career of Coward
- Audio recording of a 1969 conversation between actor Richard Attenborough and Coward at London's National Film Theatre
- Plus: A booklet featuring essays by Ian Christie, Terrence Rafferty, Farran Smith Nehme, Geoffrey O'Brien, and Kevin Brownlow
Based on Noël Coward's play "Still Life," Brief Encounter is a romantic, bittersweet drama about two married people who meet by chance in a London railway station and carry on an intense love affair. Sentimental yet down-to-earth and set in pre-World War II England, the film follows British housewife Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson), who is on her way home, but catches a cinder in her eye. By chance, she meets Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard), who removes it for her. The two talk for a few minutes and strike immediate sparks, but they end up catching different trains. However, both return to the station once a week to meet and, as the film progresses, they grow closer, sharing stories, hopes, and fears about their lives, marriages, and children. One day, when Alec's train is late, both become frantic that they will miss each other. When they finally find each other, they realize that they are in love. But what should be a joyous realization is fraught with tragedy, since both care greatly for their families. Howard and Johnson give flawless performances as two practical, married people who find themselves in a situation in which they know they can never be happy. ~ Don Kaye, Rovi
This Happy Breed
With This Happy Breed, playwright Noel Coward hoped to glorify the British working class in the same manner that he'd celebrated the "higher orders" in Cavalcade. The film begins just after World War I. Middle-class Londoner Robert Newton hopes to improve his family's lot by moving them into a comparatively posh house in the suburbs. The house is large enough for each family member to claim a corner or room as his or her own, allowing Coward to spotlight the characters' highly individual strengths, shortcomings and emotions. Twenty years go by, filled with the sorts of triumphs and tragedies with which British audiences of the 1940s could readily identify. Finally, left alone after their children and relatives have moved on, Newton and his wife (Celia Johnson) leave the house behind for a smaller, more practical apartment. This was the second of four collaborations between author Noel Coward and director David Lean. While Coward can't completely disguise his patronizing attitude towards "regular folks," Lean is successful in conveying the essential warmth, humanity and value of the film's characters. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The Noel Coward/David Lean combination which turned out such dramas as Brief Encounter and This Happy Breed sets its sights on the viewer's funny bone with Blithe Spirit. Rex Harrison plays a novelist, newly married to straight-laced Constance Cummings. Via a seance, Harrison accidentally summons the spirit of his first wife, Kay Hammond. Believing that Hammond wants to ruin his marriage, Harrison enlists the services of local medium Madame Arcati (Margaret Rutherford) to exorcise Hammond's spirit. She fails, and in time, Harrison's second wife is killed; now he has two playful spirits on his hands! Technicolor is used throughout Blithe Spirit, with the ghosts' shimmering paleness providing contrast to the plain, everyday colors of Harrison's conservative country home. Blithe Spirit was later transformed into the Broadway musical High Spirits, with the original script bent out of shape to turn the character of Madame Arcati (played by Beatrice Lillie) into the leading role. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
In Which We Serve
Few morale-boosting wartime films have retained their power and entertainment value as emphatically as Noël Coward's In Which We Serve. To witness Coward's sober, no-nonsense direction (in collaboration with his co-director/editor, David Lean) and to watch his straightforward portrayal of navy captain Kinross, one would never suspect that he'd built his theatrical reputation upon sophisticated drawing-room comedies and brittle, witty song lyrics. The real star of In Which We Serve is the British destroyer Torrin. Torpedoed in battle, the Torrin miraculously survives, and is brought back to English shores to be repaired. The paint is barely dry and the nuts and bolts barely in place before the Torrin is pressed into duty during the Dunkirk evacuation. The noble vessel is finally sunk after being dive-bombed in Crete, but many of the crew members survive. As they cling to the wreckage awaiting rescue, Coward and his men flash back to their homes and loved ones, and, in so doing, recall anew just why they're fighting and for whom they're fighting. Next to Coward, the single most important of the film's characters is Shorty Blake, played by John Mills. (Trivia note: Mills' infant daughter Juliet Mills appears as Shorty's baby.) Even so, the emphasis in the film is on teamwork; here as elsewhere, there can be no stars in wartime. For many years, the only prints available to television were from the bowdlerized American version, which crudely cut out all "hells" and "damns." Fortunately, this eviscerated American release has since been shelved in favor of the full, glorious 115-minute version. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Cast & Crew
- Celia Johnson - Laura Jesson
- Trevor Howard - Dr. Alec Harvey
- Stanley Holloway - Albert Godby
- Joyce Carey - Myrtle Bagot
- Cyril Raymond - Fred Jesson
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