There have been many versions of Oliver Twist, and new ones continue to appear, but the best thus far is David Lean ’s 1948 release, which manages to stay reasonably faithful to the original novel while running only 116 minutes.
Lean had ‘done’ Dickens two years previously with his rather scary Great Expectations , and with Oliver Twist he again chose to bring out the menace more than the charm: Alec Guinness is far from sympathetic as Fagin, and Robert Newton downright frightening as Bill Sikes – both of them were, however, at that time better known for comedic roles. In rather grotesque make-up including a hooked false-nose, Guinness caused some controversy with his portrayal of Fagin, some calling it anti-Semitic.
The two child-leads both went on to greater and different things in future: Anthony Newley who played The Artful Dodger as singer and writer; John Howard Davies, a vulnerable but somehow cold Oliver, producing classic sitcoms like Fawlty Towers , Mr Bean and The Good Life . As ever with old movies it’s fun and worthwhile looking out for others in smaller roles who did better for themselves later on: here you’ll spot Hattie Jacques and Diana Dors ; both as it were became much bigger stars.
Current top 10
3: The Railway Children
4: The Italian Job
5: Life of Brian
7: The Third Man
8: The 39 Steps
9: The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
10: Local Hero