Oliver Twist (1948)

David Lean’s screen version of Charles Dickens’s masterpiece remains the finest cinematic interpretation of this much-adapted novel.

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“From every angle this is a superb achievement.”
Variety, 1948

Oliver Twist was David Lean’s second Dickens adaptation, following his 1946 version of Great Expectations. Like the earlier film, this handsomely produced tale of a young Victorian lad struggling to overcome his workhouse origins combines an assured grasp of narrative, striking expressionistic touches and rich characterisations from a stalwart British cast (including Robert Newton as Bill Sikes, Anthony Newley as the Artful Dodger, and a young Diana Dors in a bit part).

The critical success of the film helped establish Lean, working here with a team of regular contributors including producer Ronald Neame and cinematographer Guy Green, as one of the foremost directors of his day, although Alec Guinness’s performance as Fagin attracted accusations of anti-Semitism.

Adapted many times before Lean’s version, Oliver Twist would subsequently be remade as a musical – Oliver! (1968) – and by Roman Polanski in 2005.

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