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Brief Encounter (1946, Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard)

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David Lean’s Oscar-nominated, Cannes-winning classic Brief Encounter stars Celia Johnson as Laura Jesson, a middle-aged, middle-class suburban housewife who makes weekly trips to the nearest town to change library books, do a little shopping and take in a film. One day, by chance, in the station buffet, she encounters Dr Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard), who helps remove a cinder from her eye.

As the weeks go by, their chance encounters become more regular and formalised and a relationship grows that becomes love. But both, constrained by their marriages, realise that their passion can never be consummated and, in one of cinema’s most dramatic moments, he tells her he is leaving for Africa and boards his train, leaving her knowing she will never see him again.

The film is largely told in flashback, as Laura and Alec’s farewell is interrupted by her garrulous friend Dolly Messiter (Everley Gregg). Later, back at home with her staid husband Fred (Cyril Raymond), Laura tells him of the ‘affair’ and the story proper begins. The couple’s encounters are largely confined to the station buffet, where their reserve is superbly counterpointed by the banter between Myrtle (Joyce Carey), who runs the buffet, and rail worker Albert (Stanley Holloway), whom Lean pointedly makes clear come from a different class.

This was the fourth collaboration between Lean and Coward ( In Which We Serve , This Happy Breed and Blithe Spirit the preceding films) and was nominated for three Oscars, with Lean becoming the first British director to be nominated. Camforth Station, where the film was shot, was recently restored with the buffet being returned to its original glory.

production details
UK / 86 minutes / 1946

Director: David Lean
Writers: Noel Coward, David Lean, Anthony Havelock-Allan

cast
Celia Johnson as Laura Jesson
Trevor Howard as Dr. Alec Harvey
Stanley Holloway as Albert Godby
Joyce Carey as Myrtle Bagot
Cyril Raymond as Fred Jesson
Everley Gregg as Dolly Messiter
Marjorie Mars as Mary Norton
Margaret Barton as Tea Room Assistant Beryl Walters
Wilfred Babbage as Policeman at War Memorial (uncredited)
Wallace Bosco as Doctor After Bobbie’s Accident (uncredited)
Sydney Bromley as Johnnie, the Second Soldier (uncredited)
Noël Coward as Train Station Announcer (uncredited)
Valentine Dyall as Alec’s Friend Stephen Lynn (uncredited)
Avis Scott as Kardomah Waitress (uncredited)
Dennis Harkin as Beryl’s Man Stanley (uncredited)
Irene Handl as The Cellist and Organist (uncredited)
Alfie Bass as Waiter at the Royal (uncredited)

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