Friday, April 9, 2021

Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard have a “Brief Encounter”

Brief Encounter (1945) is a British romantic film directed by David Lean and starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. The screenplay was written by Noel Coward which was based on his play Still Life (1936).

Laura Jesson (Johnson) and Dr. Alec Harvey (Howard) are two strangers who meet by chance at a train in England. The two, both married to other people, begin to meet and develop a relationship that goes deeper than friendship. How will these two reconcile their growing love for each other when they’re both attached to other people?

Brief Encounter was only the fourth film that Lean directed. It was also the first time he was nominated for Best Director by the Motion Picture Academy. Lean won two Best Director Academy Awards for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1958) and Lawrence of Arabia (1963). He was nominated for Best Director a total of seven times from a total output of 17 films.

Celia Johnson and Tevor Howard

David Lean (1908 - 1991) was an English film director, producer, screenwriter, and editor. He is considered one of the greatest and most influential directors of all time. Lean started out working in silent films where he worked his way up from teaboy to film editor. He made the transition to talking pictures and in directed his first feature In Which We Serve in 1942 which was made in collaboration with Noel Coward. Lean collaborated with Coward on This Happy Breed (1944), Blithe Spirit (1945), and Brief Encounter (1945) widely considered one of the greatest British films ever made. Today Lean is best known in America for his epic productions of films like The Bride on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984).

Celia Johnson (1908 - 1982) was an English actress who was a star on the stage, film, and television. She was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in Brief Encounter. Other films Johnson starred in include This Happy Breed (1944) and Captain's Paradise (1953). Later in her career, Johnson won a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969).

Brief Encounter trivia:

  • The film was shot during the winning days of World War II.
  • This was Trevor Howard’s first major film role.
  • Billy Wilder says he got the idea for his film The Apartment (1960) from a pivotal scene in this film.
  • The film was banned in Ireland on its initial release.
  • Celia Johnson was married to Peter Fleming, the elder brother of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond.

To watch the film on YouTube click the link below.

Why watch this movie?

This was director David Lean’s first Best Director Academy Award nomination.

The film is considered one of the best British films of all time.

Lean’s film focuses more on the story than “star power” or a glamorous setting.

It influenced future director Robert Altman.

To join us for a discussion of the film on April 13, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time on Zoom. To join the discussion click here. Once you RSVP you’ll receive an email and invitation for the Zoom meeting.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Why do you think this film has the reputation for being one of the best films of all time?
  2. What did you think of the characterizations of Johnson and Howard? Were they likable?
  3. Did anything in the film surprise you?
  4. Was the ending satisfying? Did it end the way you had anticipated?

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