The Browning Version (1951 film)

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The Browning Version
294 box 348x490.jpg
Redgrave on the cover of
The Criterion Collection DVD release of The Browning Version
Directed by Anthony Asquith
Written by Terence Rattigan
Produced byTeddy Baird
Earl St. John
Starring Michael Redgrave
Jean Kent
Nigel Patrick
Cinematography Desmond Dickinson
Edited by John D. Guthridge
Music by Arnold Bax
Kenneth Essex (both uncredited stock music)
Distributed by General Film Distributors (UK)
Universal-International (USA)
Release date
15 March 1951
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Browning Version is a 1951 British drama film based on the 1948 play of the same name by Terence Rattigan. It was directed by Anthony Asquith and starred Michael Redgrave. In 1994, a remake was made starring Albert Finney.



Andrew Crocker-Harris is an ageing Classics master at an English public school, and is forced into retirement by his increasing ill health. The film, in common with the original stage play, follows the schoolmaster's final two days in his post, as he comes to terms with his sense of failure as a teacher, a sense of weakness exacerbated by his wife's infidelity and the realisation that he is despised by both pupils and staff of the school.

The emotional turning point for the cold Crocker-Harris is his pupil Taplow's unexpected parting gift, Robert Browning's translation of the Agamemnon , which he has inscribed with the Greek phrase that translates as "God from afar looks graciously upon a gentle master".

Differences between play and film

Rattigan extends the screenplay far from his own one-act play, which ends on Crocker-Harris's tearful reaction to Taplow's gift. Therefore, the play ends well before Crocker-Harris's farewell speech to the school; the film shows the speech, in which he discards his notes and admits his failings, to be received with enthusiastic applause and cheers by the boys. The film ends with a conversation between Crocker-Harris and Taplow, and the suggestion that Crocker-Harris will complete his translation of the Agamemnon.



Rattigan and Asquith encountered a lack of enthusiasm from producers to turn the play into a film until they met Earl St John at Rank.

"I started out as manager of a small out-of-town cinema, and I viewed films from the out-of-London angle", said St John. "This experience made me realise that the ordinary people in the remotest places in the country were entitled to see the works of the best modern British playwrights." [1]

Eric Portman originated the role on stage but turned down the film role. [2] Margaret Lockwood was originally meant to play the role of Millie but turned down the part. Jean Kent played it instead. [3] (Kent often stepped into roles originally envisioned for Lockwood. [4] )

The film was shot at Pinewood Studios in 1950 and generally released in April, 1951. The school exteriors were filmed on location at Sherborne School in Sherborne, Dorset.

The Greek text that appears on the blackboard in Crocker-Harris's classroom is the Agamemnon lines 414–9:

πόθῳ δ᾽ ὑπερποντίας
φάσμα δόξει δόμων ἀνάσσειν.
εὐμόρφων δὲ κολοσσῶν
ἔχθεται χάρις ἀνδρί:
ὀμμάτων δ᾽ ἐν ἀχηνίαις
ἔρρει πᾶσ᾽ Ἀφροδίτα.

Apparently a description of Menelaus's despair after his abandonment by Helen, the lines were translated by Robert Browning thus:

"And, through desire of one across the main,
A ghost will seem within the house to reign.
And hateful to the husband is the grace
Of well-shaped statues: from—in place of eyes
Those blanks—all Aphrodite dies."


The film was popular at the British box office. [5]



See also

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  1. "FILMS REVIEWED Another "Mr. Chips"". The Argus . Melbourne. 28 April 1951. p. 15. Retrieved 31 October 2015 via National Library of Australia.
  2. "They help a mouse to become a man". Sunday Times (Perth) . No. 2742. Western Australia. 17 September 1950. p. 19 (Sporting Section). Retrieved 11 September 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  3. "Star's snap decision to play opposite unknown redhead". Sunday Times (Perth) . No. 2719. Western Australia. 9 April 1950. p. 12. Retrieved 10 April 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  4. Vagg, Stephen (29 January 2020). "Why Stars Stop Being Stars: Margaret Lockwood". Filmink.
  5. Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32, no. 3. p. 258.
  6. 1 2 "Festival de Cannes: The Browning Version". Retrieved 11 January 2009.
  7. "1st Berlin International Film Festival: Prize Winners". Retrieved 21 December 2009.