Great Expectations (1989 TV miniseries)

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Great Expectations
Written by Charles Dickens (novel)
John Goldsmith
Directed by Kevin Connor
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 6
Producer(s) Greg Smith
Cinematography Douglas Milsome
Running time 60 mins per episode
Original channel ITV
Original run 1989 (US video)
21 July 1991 (1991-07-21) – 25 August 1991 (1991-08-25) (UK TV)

Great Expectations is a British television serial based on Charles Dickens' novel of the same title. The six-part serial was first broadcast on the ITV network in 1991[1] though it was distributed on video in the United States in 1989.

Jean Simmons, who played the role of the young Estella in the 1946 movie, played Miss Havisham in the 1989 version. Other key roles include John Rhys-Davies as Joe Gargery, Ray McAnally as Jaggers, Anthony Calf as the adult Pip, Kim Thomson as both young and adult Estella, Adam Blackwood as Herbert Pocket, Anthony Hopkins as Abel Magwitch, Niven Boyd as Orlick, Susan Franklyn as Biddy and Martin Harvey as young Pip. Having the same actress play Estella as a child and adult provided a smoother transition in following the character than in some adaptations.

The miniseries format, running five hours, enabled much more of the original story to be filmed than other versions, allowed the restoration of significant characters omitted in other versions, such as Orlick and Wopsle, and the better examination of the roles of other characters, such as Biddy, Drummle, Miss Havisham and the adult Estella. The result is more understandable plot development, and the revelation of themes of the work that tend to be obscured in shorter versions, such as class striving and the values of character vs. wealth. This version takes relatively few liberties with characters and plot turns, and adheres closely to Dickens' published ending.

Jean Simmons who had played Estella, the exquisite young woman encouraged to break men's hearts by the bitter and reclusive Miss Havisham in David Lean's film of 1946, returned here to Dickens' late masterpiece. But whereas Martita Hunt, 'played Miss Havisham as a magisterial Queen Mary figure', Simmons saw Miss Havisham, 'as a physically frail woman; her hate and disappointment give her strength.'



Harty Church on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent was used when young orphan Pip, whilst visiting his parents' grave, meets the sinister escaped convict, Abel Magwitch. Upnor Village was used as the home of Herbert Pockets' fiance Clara's house. St James church in Cooling which is situated on the marches near the Hoo Penisuala, inspired Dickens so much that it was used for the dramatic scene where Pip meets Magwitch. [2]


  1. ^ Radio Times, 20–26 July 1991
  2. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Great Expectations Film Focus". 

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