Blu-ray, DVD Release: David Lean Directs Noël Coward

Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: March 27, 2012
Price: DVD $79.95, Blu-ray $99.95
Studio: Criterion

Brief Encounter movie scene

Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson embark on a Brief Encounter.

In the 1940s, playwright Noël Coward (Design for Living) and filmmaker David Lean (Doctor Zhivago) worked together in one of cinema’s greatest writer-director collaborations, celebrated in the four-film Blu-ray and DVD collection David Lean Directs Noël Coward.

Beginning with the 1942 wartime military drama movie In Which We Serve, Coward and Lean embarked on a series of literate, socially engaged and undeniably entertaining movies that ranged from domestic epic (This Happy Breed) to whimsical comedy (Blithe Spirit) to poignant romance (Brief Encounter).

Here’s a brief run-down on each of the classic British films in the David Lean Directs Noël Coward DVD and Blu-ray collection, all of which created a lasting testament to Coward’s legacy and introduced Lean’s talents to the world:

In Which We Serve (1942)
This action film tells the tale of a group of Royal Navy sailors (Bernard Miles, John Mills and Coward himself) fighting the Germans in the Mediterranean. Coward and Lean co-directed the large-scale movie.

This Happy Breed (1944)
An epic chronicle of a working-class family in the London suburbs over the course of two decades, This Happy Breed stars Robert Newton (Oliver Twist) and Celia Johnson (Brief Encounter) as 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.

Blithe Spirit (1945)
Lean’s film version of Noël Coward’s theater sensation (on stage, it broke London box-office records before it hit Broadway) stars Rex Harrison (My Fair Lady) as a novelist who cheekily invites a medium (Margaret Rutherford, On the Double) to his house to conduct a séance, hoping the experience will inspire a book he’s working on.

Brief Encounter (1945)
In this movie, a married doctor (Trevor Howard, The Third Man) and a suburban housewife (Celia Johnson,This Happy Breed) have a chance meeting on a train platform and enter into a muted but passionate and ultimately doomed love affair.

The Blu-ray and DVD collections (each containing four discs) include the following features:

  • new high-definition digital transfers of the BFI National Archive’s 2008 restorations, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray editions
  • audio commentary on Brief Encounter by film historian Bruce Eder
  • new interviews with Noël Coward scholar Barry Day on all of the films
  • interview with cinematographer-screenwriter-producer Ronald Neame from 2010
  • short documentaries from 2000 on the making of In Which We Serve and Brief Encounter
  • David Lean: A Self Portrait, a 1971 television documentary on Lean’s career
  • episode of the British television series The Southbank Show from 1992 on the life and career of Coward
  • audio recording of a 1969 conversation between Richard Attenborough and Coward at London’s National Film Theatre
  • trailers
  • booklet featuring essays by Ian Christie, Terrence Rafferty, Farran Nehne, Geoffrey O’Brien and Kevin Brownlow
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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.