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David Lean Directs Noel Coward (In Which We Serve, This Happy Breed, Blithe Spirit, Brief Encounter) (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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In Which We Serve In the midst of World War II, the renowned playwright Noel Coward engaged a young film editor named David Lean to help him realize his vision for an action drama about a group of Royal Navy sailors (roles that would be filled by Coward himself, Great Expectations’ Bernard Miles, and Ryan’s Daughter’s John Mills, among others) fighting the Germans in the Mediterranean. Coward and Lean ended up codirecting the large-scale project—an impressive undertaking, especially considering that neither of them had directed for the big screen before (this would be Coward’s only such credit). Cutting between a major naval battle and flashbacks to the men’s lives before they left home, In Which We Serve (an Oscar nominee for best picture) was a major breakthrough for both filmmakers and a sensitive and stirring piece of propaganda.
Black & white
1.37:1 aspect ratio
This Happy Breed David Lean brings to vivid emotional life Noel Coward’s epic chronicle of a working-class family in the London suburbs over the course of two decades. Robert Newton (Oliver Twist) and Celia Johnson (Brief Encounter) are surpassingly affecting as Frank and Ethel Gibbons, a couple with three children whose modest household is touched by joy and tragedy from the tail end of the First World War to the beginning of the Second. With its mix of politics and melodrama, This Happy Breed is a quintessential British domestic drama, featuring subtly expressive Technicolor cinematography by Ronald Neame and a remarkable supporting cast including John Mills, Stanley Holloway (My Fair Lady), and Kay Walsh (The Horse’s Mouth)
1.37:1 aspect ratio
Blithe Spirit Blithe Spirit, David Lean’s delightful film version of Noel Coward’s theater sensation (onstage, it broke London box-office records before hitting Broadway), stars Rex Harrison (Unfaithfully Yours) as a novelist who cheekily invites a medium (The Importance of Being Earnest’s Margaret Rutherford) to his house to conduct a séance, hoping the experience will inspire a book he’s working on. Things go decidedly not as planned when she summons the spirit of his dead first wife (Kay Hammond), a severe inconvenience for his current one (Constance Cummings). Employing Oscar-winning special effects to spruce up Coward’s theatrical farce, Blithe Spirit is a sprightly supernatural comedy with winning performances.
1.37:1 aspect ratio
Brief Encounter After a chance meeting on a train platform, a married doctor (The Third Man’s Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (This Happy Breed’s Celia Johnson) enter into a muted but passionate, ultimately doomed, love affair. With its evocatively fog-enshrouded setting, swooning Rachmaninoff score, and pair of remarkable performances (Johnson was nominated for an Oscar for her role), David Lean’s film of Noel Coward’s play Still Life deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance, and has influenced many a cinematic brief encounter since its release.
Black & white
1.37:1 aspect ratio
Top Customer Reviews
Briefly, all four films are extraordinary examples of propaganda at its best. Lean and Coward were both fervently patriotic, and England was the underdog at the time in a war. Lean was just beginning his astonishing career; Coward had just finished a dozen or so years of incredible success on the stage, but considerably less success, or even attempts, at a film career. In 1941, Germany bombed London for 57 consecutive evenings.
Coward wrote and Lean directed these films, with Coward playing the lead for In Which We Serve. Coward also produced, wrote the screenplay, composed the score, and officially codirected, though he handed the reigns to Lean in his directorial debut.
Coward was entertaining the troops during the shooting of the other three films, yet his mark is clearly visible in each films. The cameraman for the quartet was Ronald Neame, perhaps less a household name, yet later the director such gems as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, I Could Go on Singing and The Horse's Mouth.Read more ›
All four films, two of which are in Technicolor, have been magnificently remastered. The colors are brilliant and balanced; the black-and-white images sharp and solid.
I'm not going to use much space talking about the individual movies, since anybody who decides to purchase this collection will, undoubtedly, be well familiar with them.
IN WHICH WE SERVE (1942) was co-directed by Coward and Lean and deals with a ship of the Royal Navy, sunk in the Mediterranean during the early days of World War II. This event occurs at the start of the picture, thus most of the narrative is told via flashback as the survivors cling to a life raft, being strafed by German planes while they await rescue.
Coward plays the ship's captain, and we follow his story, as well as the histories of several crew members. Among the cast in this stirring film, nominated for a Best Picture Oscar,are John Mills, Bernard Miles, Celia Johnson, Kay Walsh, Michael Wilding and Richard Attenborough.
THIS HAPPY BREED (1944) is the story of an average middle class British family seen over a period of twenty years, from the end of The Great War to just before the beginning of World War II. It is a tale of the vicissitudes of life.
The Technicolor film stars Robert Newton, Celia Johnson, John Mills, Kay Walsh and Stanley Holloway.Read more ›
This is hands down Criterion's best blu ray set and worthy to be in every film lover's collection.
Set like this makes me a big fan of the blu ray format. Thanks again to Criterion for giving us film lover's a great collection. Another great blu ray set from you guys!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you've enjoyed "Brief Encounter," you will love this box set. I'm very happy to have it in my video library. Excellently done!Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
This collection is absolutely essential for fans of either Noel Coward or David Lean. The restoration work is pristine. You will never see sharper prints of these films. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Ken Starrett
I so enjoyed each of these movies and recommend them alongside other Lean-directed greats such as Great Expectations and Oliver Twist. A master visual storyteller!Published 13 months ago by marmel
What more can be said of Noel Coward, through the eyes of another Master (David Lean):
I'm mad about the boy
And I know it's stupid to be mad about the boy
I'm so... Read more
One of those collections that every serious film buff should have in their library. Beautiful, touching, and thought provoking at so many levels. These films are masterpieces.Published 14 months ago by FLimner
All the great movies from my personal favourite THIS HAPPY BREED to BLITHE SPIRIT and BRIEF ENCOUNTER true classics thank you David Lean as for blu ray transfer excellent.Published 16 months ago by Martyn Down
Yes, yes, yes. Very good set. Considering the age of the movies they are beautifully presented on these DVDs. LOVE this set. Worth every penny!Published 18 months ago by England's own.
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